Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grady, Goober and The Night Before Christmas


‘Twas the night before Christmas, and Santa was crazy.

He’d left all his reindeer with Goober and Grady

He said just to keep them all happy and safe,

And they did, ‘til someone left open the gate.

When Santa came by to load up the sleigh,

Goober told him they’d all run away.

Grady said, “Santa, you don’t need not to worry.”

And off like a flash they went in a hurry.

“We’ll find some replacements for what we’ve done lost,

And I bet we can do it without any cost.”

So down to the river they went in a snap

And hoped that by midnight they’d find in their trap

Eight tiny reindeer stacked neatly as logs

But to their amazement were dumb feral hogs.

“Eight of them buggars,” Goober was happy to say.

Exactly what Santa would need for his sleigh.”

So back to the house they hauled off their prize

Then harnessed them up according to size.

“The fat ones should be back here in the rear,

 And let’s put the small ones further up there.”

The hogs were all squealing and making a fuss

Then Santa yelled out “Stop all this ruckus!

Now Earl, and now Floyd, and Leon and Claude

On Gertrude and Agnus and Wanda and Maude,

Get up and get going, let’s head to the skies.”


They grunted and groaned but nothing would rise.



Down the dirt road they drug the red sleigh,


Kicking up dust and rocks on the way.


Then Goober yelled out, “I think you’re too heavy.

Throw something out or you won’t clear the levy.”

To lighten the load, Santa threw off his sash,

But the weight was too much and they started to crash.

Grady and Goober just stood asking why.

But everyone knows that pigs can’t fly.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Compared to You...


We rarely give our best. Best requires effort beyond what anyone else would expect from us, even beyond what we expect from ourselves. All we expect from ourselves is to be better than bad. Bad is the unacceptable performance. Anything better than bad is good enough.

Problem is: the line we’ve drawn to indicate where bad begins isn’t fixed and is quite blurry. We’ve made it that way so we can always find a favorable point to make our comparisons. I may not be a good singer but as long as I find someone who is worse, then by comparison I’m better. If I’m better, then at least I’m not bad. I may not be good looking, but if I find someone less good looking then I am, I’m better. If I’m better, then at least I’m not bad.

Behavior is where we make the most comparisons. Forget for a minute that God has a standard of holiness held up to our lives, a standard that requires our best. Since I rarely give my best, I choose to ignore the standard and find another way to rate my life, usually other people. If I find someone whose actions are distasteful to me, then I have a great place to set the bar for my behavior. The things they are doing are things I wouldn’t do. And since I don’t do them, I’m better than they are.

If I do hold up God’s standard, I will typically place other’s behavior next to mine. If they are doing a worse job of it than I am, I’m better. If I’m better, then at least I’m not bad, so I must be okay.

I’m able to justify everything about my life through comparison to others. I don’t have to shoot for the best, just shoot for better than them. And even if I can’t find a way to be better than someone else, I can always accuse them of dishonesty or hypocrisy. One way or the other I’ll find a way to label myself as better. And if I’m better, then at least I’m not bad.

2CO 10:12 For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Glad I’m Not God

If carrying all the responsibility of being God wasn’t hard enough, how about answering prayer? Take today: it’s raining. We need rain. We’re in a drought. How many people pray regularly for it to rain? But many don’t like to work in the rain. Many, like me, are home unable to work because of the rain. How many of them prayed it wouldn’t rain? What’s God to do? How does He choose which prayers to respond to and which ones to disregard?

Or, football games. You’ve got Christians on both teams praying to win. You’ve got fans in the stands or in front of a TV praying to win. Who gets God’s favor?

Or, a person with great dreams begging God for success? God’s got to look at much more than desire to determine if what they are asking is best. What if my idea of success ruins another person’s life? Or, gets in the way of future plans God has for me? Or, turns me into the kind of person I don’t want to be? What if my plans aren’t God’s plans?

Isaiah wrote: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

That’s why I don’t always get what I ask for. My thoughts don’t come up to the level of God’s thoughts and my ways are far inferior to His ways. Not only do I not have the perspective He has, I don’t know what’s best in every situation. He does.

If I throw up to Him a list of preferences and desires, He sorts through them with greater patience and understanding than I used to create them. Much of my praying is impulsive. I have no idea what I’m really asking for. Fortunately God isn’t obligated to me to do what I ask. He loves me too much. He is obligated to do what’s best. That’s His promise—working things out for good—accomplishing good as He determines it.

I may pray for someone’s healing when God’s ready to take them home. I may ask for comfort when discomfort will accomplish a greater purpose. I may beg for mercy when justice is God’s intention. Not that it’s wrong to ask, only wrong to assume God is being unfaithful if His answer doesn’t match what we asked for.

So, when it comes to praying, I’ll continue to ask but I trust God will answer, not according to what I’m asking for, but according to what He knows is best.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You Need to Use a Template


When I’m woodworking and need to duplicate several pieces, I often make a template. It represents the standard that I wish to use as a pattern for how each piece should look. It makes reproduction a whole lot easier.
 

Occasionally I need a piece to fit into a particular space. Instead of risking messing up that piece, I’ll get a scrap board and work it down to the right size. It then becomes my template.


Cutting crown molding can get confusing. You have to think upside down and backwards. To minimize the brain drain I’ve made templates of inside and outside cuts so all I have to do is match my blade to how I need the cut to go. They are my templates.
 

Templates are not essential but very useful when you need to hold to a standard.
 

When I read Scripture, I find quite a few commands that bring me to a certain response. That response is a standard God has set for how my life needs to be lived. But more than just tell me how to act, He has provided me with examples of men and women who have lived out the response He is expecting. They aren’t the standard but rather are a template to which I might adjust my actions.
 

If I need to test my faith, I might place my actions next to Abraham’s. Have I abandoned my trust to God as strongly as he did? If I need to test my obedience, I might place my actions next to Moses. Am I committed to follow God at all costs? If I need to test my worship, I might place my actions next to David. Do I wear my devotion like a linen ephod as I dance before Him? If I need to test my proximity to God’s intentions, I might place my actions next to the Prodigal Son. Am I wandering or resting at home with the Father? If I need to test my vision, I might place my actions next to Paul. Am I intent on following God through the doors He has opened? If I need to test my heart, I might place my actions next to John, Mark, Ruth, Samuel, Saul, Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, Abednigo, Rahab, Deborah, Samson, Mary, Martha, Nichodemus, Mary Magdaline, or a hundred other templates God placed in the story to help us flesh out what it means to walk with Him.


I don’t have to make up the agenda. I don’t have to recreate the wheel each time I need a circle. I need to read the story with an open heart to see how God worked with people throughout the book. Since He’s the same God and works in the same way, maybe I can learn from their lives how to bring my life closer to the pattern He expects from His children.


Who is your template?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Damage Control

My truck is in the shop today because it failed its smog inspection. From what I’ve been told, there is a leak in the system somewhere and it’s sucking air from where it shouldn’t be. If that wasn’t bad enough, it has caused two other components to fail. Apparently they were fine until the hole appeared. They are secondary issues caused by the primary issue. In other words, they are collateral damage.
I learned that expression during the first Gulf War. When a bomb would hit its target, often it created a sphere of damage that affected surrounding people, places or things. They referred to it as collateral damage. Unintentional destruction caused during the process of hitting a specific target.
Now in the big picture collateral damage is still damage and whether it was intended or not things have been destroyed. If someone is firing a gun at random and I happen to get hit, I am no less hurt than if the guy aimed it at me. I’ve still been shot.
Much of the misery in our lives is collateral damage. It’s the stuff we never see coming, the stuff we get caught up in that wasn’t targeted at us but hit us anyway. Someone is sick or someone has a tantrum or someone commits a crime or someone runs a red light or someone dies, may have little to do with me directly but indirectly it affects my life. I have been collected into the net being dragged behind else’s life.
How might understanding that help me? It should encourage me to not take those actions affecting me personally. Once I take something personally, I suddenly enter temptation. I begin to doubt God’s faithfulness, or assess blame, or feel violation, or seek revenge. How dare this happen to me…as though I of all people should escape life’s mishaps. By taking something personally, I begin to absorb the event instead of package that event and hand it to God.
If I absorb what’s happened I immediately lose perspective. My fight or flight instincts take over and I begin to act according to how I feel. In that moment I have become ineffective in dealing with what’s going on. Suddenly I forget I am a Child of God and have been woven into the promises of God, grafted into the family tree of blessing and engraved into God’s hand.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if I was the target or standing close by. If I will immediately trust God I will stop the damage from continuing to spread into other areas of my life. That’s called damage control.
In other words, had I been able to stop the leak when it was first discovered, I’d probably have saved myself the extra bucks it’s going to take to fix my truck and the pain that’s going to cause in the pocketbook.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It’s Not the Critic Who Counts [Quote]

Copied from Michael Hyatt's Blog...


It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.””



Theodore Roosevelt
Citizenship in a Republic
(Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stop!


Stopping at the right place is important. If my son and daughter-in-law hadn’t stopped when they name my grandson Jude he would have been called Revelation. That would have been an unusual name to live with.

When something is lost and then found, we often say it was in the last place we looked. Why would we continue looking once we found it? Stopping our search at that point was appropriate.

Typically, we continue looking when we think there might be something better. You find a shirt you like and carry it around with you while you keep looking for something else. You surf through the channels while watching one show to see if there is something else on of greater interest. You have one child then keep having more to see if you can do better. (Well, maybe not on that one.)

But we’re always looking to see what else might be coming along. People that win the lottery usually keep playing to see if they can win more. They can’t just stop the search and be content.

The issue is thinking what we need is still yet to come.

Paul said we need to learn contentment. Believing that at any and every moment we have what we need. It’s a declaration of sufficiency. I may not have all I want but I have all it takes.

When he wrote “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he was establishing the base line of what makes life work for him. Whatever I am called on to do, whether that be financially, physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually, I can do it because the strength necessary is already provided.

I never have to feel impoverished. I always have enough.

That being the case, looking beyond the Lord for our strength means we have continued looking after we had found the answer. Quit looking. You’ve arrived.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Moving Belief into Trust


The emphasis of faith changes once we are saved. Initially we need faith to believe—to buy into what we understand to be true. To willingly call upon the name of the Lord and enter into relationship with God through Him I must believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.

Once that is realized, our faith shifts into trust. We’ve already declared our belief in God and all He said in His Word, now we must rely upon Him for the outcome of our lives.

For many the road stops at the beginning. They declare with fiery fury how much they believe but the content of their character, the display of their difference, the ergonomics of their exercise indicates they are far removed from living in a dependency-based relationship with their Savior.

Paul uses a unique tense in describing salvation. It is past, present and future all at the same time. I was. I am. I will be. It looks back. It looks within. It looks forward. Each has the same intensity of the other. What I have been, I am. What I am, I will be. What I will be, I always was.

The power of getting saved is the power of being saved. The statement of belief in the beginning carried the promise of entrusting my life to Him. I may not have known how to do that or all it would mean, but it was there. Why would I want into something and prefer not to live according to the practice of what I am committing to?

Trusting God is our vital connection to all He has provided for the godly life He has called us to. It is our honest understanding of His commitment to us and our response to Him.

Without trust, I am nothing more than a believing atheist. I accept He is there but I live as though He isn’t.

I declare my trust in Him today. I will walk relying upon Him. I will run and not become weary that I am running alone. I will sing because I feel His accompaniment. I will dance because I know the joy of His presence.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What an incredible God!

Copied from Churchleadership.com...

A group of American Christians in the nineteenth century planned to visit London for a week. Their friends, excited for the opportunity, encouraged them to go hear two of London’s famous preachers and bring back a report. On Sunday morning after their arrival, the Americans attended Joseph Parker’s church. They discovered that his reputation for eloquent oratory was well deserved. One exclaimed after the service, “I do declare, it must be said, for there is no doubt, that Joseph Parker is the greatest preacher that ever there was!”

The group wanted to return in the evening to hear Parker again, but they remembered that their friends would ask them about another preacher named Charles Spurgeon. So on Sunday evening, they attended the Metropolitan Tabernacle, where Spurgeon was preaching. The group was not prepared for what they heard, and as they departed, one of them again spoke up, “I do declare, it must be said, for there is no doubt, that Jesus Christ is the greatest Savior that ever there was!”

Here is the goal of our preaching and singing together on Sunday mornings: That we proclaim Jesus Christ, our glorious Savior and all he has done for us, and urge everyone to respond to him appropriately. When people leave our churches, may they not say, “What moving worship, what a great worship band, what an incredible preacher, or what a cool building,” but may they say, “What an incredible God!”  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fill Me, Lord, Again


The lake keeps going down. Every day the shore line gets further away from the bank. A dried-up lake is depressing. It’s unnatural. Or is it?

The goal of a drought is to dry things up. What’s natural is that the places where water used to be will lose what they have unless more water is added. Evaporation is a continuous action of water being drawn back into the atmosphere. Typically that water is replenished by rain runoff but without rain, since evaporation doesn’t stop, what little you had will soon be taken away. The lake will go down.

Peter found a corollary in people who live in a drought. They are like waterless streams. We call waterless streams ditches. Out west they call them washes. Dry as a bone unless it rains. Because they aren’t taking in, they’re going to run out.

These drought-laden people live with no understanding of what it means to be filled and overflowing. They look at God as they might at clouds and only long for Him to make things better, to help block out the misery of the scorching sun. Far from their hopes are the cleansing and replenishing rains that can actually bless their lives.

What they need is God’s reign in their lives—the filling influence of His Spirit within them to overflow and outflow with power for life. It is the natural expectation for believers. We’re supposed to be full. Paul’s words were: be in a constant state of being continuously filled with the Spirit of God.  How? Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Get closer to the “spicket” and keep asking Him to turn the handle. To know where the water comes out and avoid getting near it is ridiculous.

I look at the lake and wish for what was.  But by faith I anticipate what will be. This drought won’t last forever. The rains will come. The lake will fill. Refreshing times will come again.

I look at my life and dream of what is possible. I settle myself underneath the source of God’s filling and ask Him to let it flow. Reign on me, Lord. Fill my life with the joy of who You are and all you want to do. Fill me till I want no more…at least until next time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Act of Balancing Our Lives


It is much easier to trust God when everything is going well than it is when the bottom is falling out. Confidence rides high when it’s not forced to prove itself. Words assuring ourselves and others we are living by faith and prepared for whatever may come are but fluffy meringue when the test comes. They are but “clouds without rain.” Puffs of promise with no ability to quench a thirsty moment.
 

In reality, trust is designed to operate as designed. That design is that whenever we lose peace, trust compensates to bring us back into balance.
 

Like a rock precariously sitting on a pencil point precipice, it remains there because it’s balanced. To remain balanced, whenever something overloads one side, something must be added to the opposite side. Too much on one side without compensating means the rock will fall down.
 

There is a balance in our lives called peace. It is an intended tension between forces trying to take us down and those providing our support. Like the dynamic between gravity and lift that lets a plane fly. One force pulling down the other pushing up. During the moment of flight they balance one another then the greater force wins out—lift. When lift does it’s work, gravity must give way to it.
 

Trust is like walking spiritually. It is a balancing act plus movement. I cannot walk leaning away from where I’m going, nor go straight while tilting to the side. Following Jesus requires us to walk as He did. That walking carried Him upright, purposeful and in absolute peace that the Father would be faithful to Him and through Him.
 

If I am without peace, I am not trusting. If I am trusting, I have peace. If my life is out of balance, I have gone with the weight that is pressing me down not the One seeking to lift me up.
 

I choose to walk strong and upright today!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fellowship with God


I taught on Fellowship with God last night at church, based on Amos’s words, “How can two walk together unless they agree.” I’ve heard fellowship defined in so many ways it’s lost its power in our lives. Fellowship is our lives until the journey’s over.



The conditions of the walk are set by God. He has told us we must walk by faith: a foundational position of beliefs and actions.



God, who dwells in pure light, and in Him is no darkness or shadow or gray area, cannot fellowship with darkness. He told us we can’t either. So, there are behavioral conditions to fellowship. David writes, “Who may ascend to the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”



My faith establishes my identity and my heart guides me to the behavioral standard.



John said, “If we say we have fellowship with Him and have sin floating around in our lives, we lie.” We cannot have fellowship with Him and embrace sin at the same time. John calls it unrighteousness—anything in my life that comes between me and God.



If I have let something come between us, I have violated the principle of how two may walk together. I am no longer in agreement with God. He is a jealous God who loves us with a jealousy that resents anything interfering with our fellowship. Even the opinions of others.



If I allow anything or anyone to take precedence in my life over the priority of God, an attitude, an action, a loyalty, a hurt, a memory, I am no longer able to walk in agreement with God. I have submitted to the temptation rather than to God.



If we find anything between us, John says we can confess that invader as sin and God will forgive us that sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Unrighteousness is anything I have let get between me and God—anything. By confession, God removes the hindrance and we are again able to walk in fellowship together.



Walking in fellowship declares I am right with God. If I am not right with God I am unable to walk in fellowship with Him. What a miserable Christian experience to have a relationship with God but no fellowship! Let’s get the junk out of the way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Facing Fears


I watched a stirring and emotionally compelling movie last night—The Four Feathers: the story of a British officer (played by Keith Ledger) who resigned his commission instead of going to war. His friends, including his fiancĂ©, each give him a white feather indicating their opinion that he is a coward. He spends the rest of the movie proving them wrong by going into the battle zone and rescuing each of his friends. When he does, he returns the feather.



Included as a voice of truth was a large African man who told him protecting him was God’s mission. When the officer explained why he was in the Sudan and showed him the feathers suggesting his cowardice he admitted his fear. The man said that fear is natural but being there proves he is not a coward.



A General during WWII said courage means going on in spite of your fears. Willingness to go on doesn’t prove we aren’t afraid, only that we aren’t cowards.



God knew we’d have fear—some appropriate, most presumptuous—referred to as worry, anxiety and cares.  His answer—give it to Me. We aren’t designed to carry that weight. He is. “Cast your cares upon Me for I care for you,” He said. “Don’t be anxious, I know how to take care of you.”



Paul’s words were, “Don’t be anxious but in everything…pray.” The promise was, if we would trust in God’s faithfulness, His peace would overwhelm us and we could face what we fear.



I’m glad we don’t have to prove our bravery with Him. I can admit my fears and trust. That’s a whole lot easier than faking strength. I don’t have to cower in a corner, letting fear stop me whether I face a battle, friends or a fiancĂ©.



“When I am weak, then He is strong!”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Falling Satellites and False Expectations


If we have such sophisticated weaponry that we can knock a flea off a bunker fifteen feet in the ground, why can’t we know with certainty where the NASA satellite hit the earth? Not that it really matters but it bothers me that something we would seem to be able to do, we can’t do.



It was the size of a bus, six tons of nuts and bolts and other stuff. We can map the garbage in space down to the size of a grapefruit but we can’t follow a bus as it tumbles out of the sky?



Don’t those guys ever watch TV or go to the movies. Stuff like that and even more difficult is done all the time. If they can do it on the screen you’d think they could do it for real.



Our expectations sometimes come from how we feed our mind with data from shows. A wife watches watch a couple in a romantic comedy and thinks that’s normal and ought to be how my husband treats me. Or the guy watches a make-out scene and thinks why doesn’t my wife ever show me that kind of passion?



The answer is more obvious than you might think. They’re following a script, not making it up as they go along. He doesn’t really feel that way about her, he’s just acting. She’s just doing what’s expected in order to get her paycheck at the end of the week.



Most people haven’t a clue when it comes to what to do next in life. They’re just happy if they get through the moment. They’re not spending time thinking about how to make their partner’s life better or how to express love more clearly or what their spouse needs from them. Expecting them to is a ticket to disappointment.



NASA can’t find a bus in the sky because nobody ever put it on the list of priorities. We develop false expectations because no one ever told us our examples are fake.



If there’s a hole in your love bucket, you might want to ask yourself if you have false expectations. Then you might want to talk to your spouse and see what you can do to make things more real. Like:



            What do I do to makes you realize I love you?

            What do I do that makes you think I don’t love you?

If I could add one ingredient into our marriage that might spice things up, what would it be?



Have fun.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Have we messed up the idea of church?


Typically it’s the third generation of a product that takes on change. Second generation stays similar to the original but it’s the third that gets tweaked to make it “better” than the original. Better may be more nearly defined as more desirable, more personally pleasing or more uniquely compatible with current tastes.


Back in the day, we couldn’t wait for the revealing of the new cars each year. With great anticipation we’d wait until the day the showroom was filled with the new models. Often cars were radically different from one year to the next. After a while costs entered the picture and they started keeping the same style alive for three to five to now even ten years. It’s nearly impossible today for uninformed consumers to tell the difference in this year’s model and last year’s.


The church goes through a similar process of change. It latches onto a style and holds it for decades until someone introduces a new approach and the bandwagon fills rapidly. Traditions suddenly become old and obsolete as new ideas crowd out “the way we’ve always done it.”


Church as we knew it only a couple of decades ago is nothing like the church today. And the church today is so far removed from the early church there is very little remaining of what was the original model. It has been tweaked to the point that it has become all about us and very little about the Lord who established it.


Originally, the church was a collection of Believers who came together to solidify their faith and flesh out of their understanding of who God was and what living underneath His Lordship meant. To do this they needed the strength of worship, the power of instruction and the support of fellowship. Going to church was an unknown. They were the church. And wherever they gathered church happened. They lived church throughout the week and came together regularly to reinforce the growth and changes in their lives that came from personal discovery of the purposes God had for them.


It is unlikely they brought their unsaved friends to this assembly. It wasn’t about them either. It was designed to give Christians a collected experience connecting with God that would encourage, correct and reshape them for how God wanted them to live in the world. It was through this assembly they found courage and a message to carry to their unsaved friends to help lead them to salvation and then incorporate them into the fellowship. You don’t think the reason they first called believers Christians at Antioch was because they went to the church house together, do you?

Today, we’re creating an image, a style, a showcase to demonstrate we’re cutting edge. We’re so focused on our presentation that we rarely look at content. We evaluate what goes on during the service but never question how what we’re doing is making a difference during the week. We pride ourselves in the belief that we know how to do church. But what is being accomplished in our displays of creativity and presentation of talent? What goals are we trying to reach? Why are we even doing church?


It would be helpful if church leaders would re-read the Book instead of the books on how to do church. That they would take us back to the essentials of worship, prayer, testimony, teaching, fellowship and communion with God. Help me get in touch with Him so I can better sense His direction during my week. Don’t fill my schedule so full of activities you want me to participate in that I can’t seek out and do God’s will. Don’t busy my life to such an extent I can’t minister to my own family and friends. Help me feel His conviction not your guilt.

The Church is an extension of the life of Jesus, a collection of Believers combining their lives to demonstrate on a larger scale the goodness of God. Somehow we need to reclaim the fact that it was His design not ours. What we’ve turned it into says much more about us than Him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Get Out of My Shoes!


I’ll be the first to admit I have a limited knowledge of my laptop. I look at the keyboard and there are buttons that I have no idea what they do. Like all these F keys. I know just enough to let me do what I’m doing right now—type out words on a screen. I know the buttons that fix what I’ve said wrong and let me delete or move or correct. But this ctrl and alt…I have no clue. Neither am I curious enough to press one of them to find out. I have this abiding fear of unknown buttons.
My just-turned-three year old granddaughter, on the other hand, is fearless. She’ll take her grandmother’s I-pad and maneuver through it like she designed the software. She’ll find her icons, sort through them and select the game she wants to occupy herself with. When she’s done, she’ll go back to the main menu and start all over. I can’t do that.

It doesn’t make me inferior to a three year old, only less capable. I could probably learn all this, in time, but it seems unfair that she somehow knows how to do something without being taught.
Everything I can do, somebody, somewhere, can do better. I can live with that. There are many things I do that others can’t. I can live with that, too.  

When it comes down to living my life, I’m the best one for that job. Nobody can be me better than I can. Some have tried but failed miserably.
Living our lives is the first obligation we are born with. That is hard enough without trying to live someone else’s as well.

At the red light the other day, someone was impatient that the car in front didn’t turn right on red. Which, by the way, is an option, not a requirement. The car behind loudly stated the fact that the person in front wasn’t driving like the person behind would be driving if he were in the car up front. My thoughts: quit trying to drive two cars at the same time and just take care of the one you’re in.
Lot’s of people try to drive other people’s lives: you ought to…you need to…would you…could you. They see something they want done and think the other person ought to have the assignment of getting it done. Or they find a list of shouldn’ts that they want you to take out of your life. Is that their role or do they have the spiritual gift of supervisor? They are neither my momma nor my Holy Spirit.

In Colossians, Paul says, Whatever you do, do your work heartily for the Lord, not for men. My motivation must come from a higher calling to serve and honor the Lord. To do so, I must be free to obey Him. Placing anyone else equal to or higher than Him is sin.
Trying to run other people’s lives or having them run ours only frustrates us. We must be free to believe God and free to obey Him. Those are paramount.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Joy's Curtain Draws


Joy’s curtain draws upon the scene, the richest moment now concealed

From eyes that strain for what it means to only see by what we feel.


We grope along familiar walls now absent of our common marks

That show we’ve traveled down these halls, once adorned but now are stark.


Can faith sustain the mortal need to light the path on which we walk?

Can faltering steps that now proceed carry us on or make us balk?


The burden in our quaking souls cries out for help from raging fear

That tightens its constricting hold and whispers doubt within our ear.


“You cannot journey without sight,” it tells us and we must agree.

Our eyes are blind without the light but hope remains and will not flee.


But shall we take our faithful torch, hold it high and in its glow

Fondle through by what we touch, assured by self the way we go. 


We dare not strike the match of pride, ignite the flame of passion.

Desires of self will only hide the true illumination.


Will we trust our feeble spark that shadows as it blurs,

And fails to push away the dark with poorly aimed flickers?


Will we attempt to slowly move and pray we do not crumble?

Want our pathway cleared and smooth, and hope we do not stumble?


Or will we call on God divine whose promises are strong?

And will we stand before Him blind, singing Heaven’s song?


As faith embraces Holy Light and arguments are done,

With darkness all around as night, we see, we walk, we run.


For now our vision is made clear, our hidden pathways known.

For now we travel without fear, our look is up not down.


God, our Light, has shown on us the joy His promise makes.

So we of breath and earthly dust can live and give Him praise.


Then the blind can surely see what eyes within reveal

That God, our guide, who reigns in me makes the passage real.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good Fortune? No, Good God!


I’m wrestling with how much credit we give ourselves for things God is doing in our lives.

A mouse clung onto the bushy nest of hair on top of the elephant’s head. The path they were on led to a bridge that rumbled when the elephant’s feet stomped across. The mouse looked back and said, “We really shook that old bridge up, huh?”

It’s amusing how, when we ask God for help or declare our trust in Him, that we discount His involvement in what happens next.

A lady was praying for a parking place, making round after round in the parking lot at the mall, begging God for a space near the front. Finally a car backed out. “Never mind, Lord, there’s one now.”

Do we forget we asked or did we ask without expecting? If we forgot, was the request genuine? If we didn’t expect, did we ask without faith? Does forgetting or not expecting release us from acknowledgment?

We consider folks lucky when good happens. Being in the right place at the right time is a fortunate coincidence. But what if we actually had asked for what happened or what if we had submitted our circumstances to God? It is our responsibility to connect the good that comes with the God who blesses. Or is it alright to ask but too spiritual to thank Him? Are we so unsure of His actions we’d rather believe in luck than in the hand of God?

Faith requires us to ask, trust, and rely on God in the spirit of gratitude. We offer our petitions on a platter of thanksgiving. We anticipate His goodness. We thank Him in advance for what He’s going to do and whenever or wherever we see the hand of God we give Him praise.

My favorite verse is “My God will accomplish what concerns me.” (Ps 138:8) If I believe that to be true, then I must expect His activity in my life. Whether I have asked for it or am trusting in it as a privilege of belonging to Him, I have to count on Him working His good out in my behalf.

Then, whenever He has done something good in me or through me, I simply smile, knowing who’s the elephant and who’s the mouse.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Of Course He's Heavy He’s My Sumo

Einstein gave us the Theory of Relativity. Using his theory I have determined beauty is relative. Sumo wrestlers are not what we might consider beautiful. I don’t think they are intended to be. Attractiveness is not a necessary characteristic of their sport. But then that’s just an outward perspective. Hollywood is full of people considered beautiful. Probably it's what helps them do what they do, but then again, that’s simply an outward perspective, too.
Here’s the problem: when we stop with the outside we never really know how beautiful the whole package really is. We make assumptions but those assumptions are often wrong.  Unless there is a code connecting the outside and inside people often discount the inside to emphasize the outside.
Sumo wrestlers are revered in Japan. They have a code that dictates both their outward and inward lives. Their appearance is part of that code—fat, nearly naked and long hair—but their life regiment reflects their inner commitment to being a Sumo. It takes both parts to make the whole.
Hollywood's code seems much different. There, they bank on someone based on how they look on film. But off camera some of those same people show a much darker and less attractive side of who they really are on the inside. How do those dissimilar parts make up their whole? Do they have a code?
Paul asked God to preserve our spirit, soul and body completely. That must indicate He has an interest in the whole. If Paul thought God was only interested in how we look on the outside linking our spirit and soul to our body would seem out of place, inappropriate, and an unnecessary burden. Same if it were the spirit or soul only He was interested in and not the outward appearance. We're a total package. All three, together, demonstrate who we are. 
You actually can judge a Sumo by his size, because, since he is a Sumo and is to be living by the code, his outward appearance is a reflection of the total commitment of his life. Wearing the name Sumo is more than an accessory, it’s the life. For Sumos and for Christians, what shows up on the outside represents the bigger picture of what's on the inside as well.

Unless, of course, Einstein was talking about kinfolk...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Moment is Just a Moment

Ever felt yourself melt down to a puddle on the floor? It happens when we get so disappointed we don’t see much future in going on. It happens when we set our expectations too soon.
 
 
I’m as prone as anyone to want instant gratification, instant success, instant pudding. I was a great sprinter, not so great in marathons.
 
 
As a result I tend to evaluate things before their time. Our lives can be chopped up into segments, some of those segments are better than others. If I evaluate my life at the wrong segment I can come up with the wrong opinion as to how things are going.
 
 
If I make a road trip out West and have a flat in one of those segments and then evaluate the trip based upon that segment, the whole trip is a bummer. But if I look at the trip as a total experience, that flat becomes insignificant. It’s just a blip.
 
 
I could just be having a bad day. Those happen, you know. If I evaluate my life based upon that day, my whole existence is in the toilet. That’s why I can’t expect every moment to be the single criteria by which I judge the worth of what I’m doing. I need more data.
 
 
Raising kids, taking a job, beginning a project, living a life all have great and not so great moments. But taken as a whole, they are amazing adventures.
 
 
The bad times of our lives are relatively brief when we consider the over-all. The problem comes when we get hung up on one segment and can’t move past it. We’re letting one flat tire ruin a very good life.
 
 
The best approach is to pace ourselves, live each segment fully and keep an eye on the goal.

Monday, September 12, 2011

You Just Can't Surprise God

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 20:11

I have loved this verse from the first time I realized it applied to me as well as to Israel. That beyond all that is going on, all that I can see, God is at work accomplishing what concerns me. In recent days, I have wondered when those plans were put into place?

If God is working out his plan today, say, when did He begin that plan? Are there other issues that needed to be readied for the plans of today to occur? I know when I’m building something there are steps to the process. What I need to do next must follow what I did before. To be able to do what I’m doing today may have taken several hours or days to prepare for.

So, when did God engage the process of today’s plan for my life?

Joseph was destined by God to save the nation (or actually the family) of Israel from starvation. It took years to set up. It took a dysfunctional relationship with his brothers, a plot to kill him, a modification of that plot to sell him to some Ishmaelites, a transfer of ownership of him as a slave to Potifer, a false accusation by Potifer’s wife to have him imprisoned, a meeting with the baker and cup bearer while in prison demonstrating an ability to interpret dreams, being forgotten in prison until Pharaoh had a dream, brought out to interpret the dream, then made second only to Pharaoh in order to prepare for the drought and subsequent famine.

At what point was God engaged in working out His plans in Joseph’s life? Did He just watch and one day say, “Oh, good, I was wondering how I’d be able to work that problem out.”

According to Joseph, God had been working out the plan of that day throughout his whole life. And even though his brothers had been engaged in evil against him, God was using their evil desires to work out His ultimate concerns for the nation.

God’s activity in our lives today is connected to His work yesterday, the day before, and so on, back to the beginning of our days.

David said, “You knew the extent of my days before there was even one of them to count.” God’s omniscience (all knowing) covers the complete spectrum of information about our lives—the beginning, the middle and the end. The plans He has for us have been in place the whole way. Nothing has taken Him by surprise. And according to Job, “Nothing can thwart Your plans.”

If God’s plans cannot be thwarted, then He is accomplishing things beyond what I can think or ask. He is in control. The step we are on right now is necessary. I don’t have to like it but I do have to trust Him. Someday, we’ll understand how everything fit together and agree with Joseph that “God was accomplishing His purpose in my life all along."

Friday, September 2, 2011

An Act of God? Really?

Woke up to the news that an earthquake hit off the coast of Alaska. Yesterday, a quake shook southern California. A week or so ago one rumbled through Virginia and Washington D.C. I have family in all of those places. My question is: are these random events or is someone out to get us?

In an earlier time, natural disasters were considered the work of the gods—punishment for a lack of appeasement. Even today, insurance forms and other contracts provide a loophole for obligations due to an “act of God.” It would seem some still believe in a God who whacks us with natural forms of destruction.

Of course God is able to make things happen. It’s part of His privilege of being Almighty. But with how the earth works, He doesn’t really have to go to the trouble. Stuff like this happens all the time.

Fault lines are all over the place. Earthquakes result from the plates shifting along these fault lines. They’ve been doing that from day one. Hurricanes happen when a low pressure system in the Atlantic or Gulf becomes rabid and takes on a life of its own. They happen every year. Wars begin when men or nations rise up against the ideals or institutions of others—either to take them away or defend their right to exist.

If God sent the disaster, who’s He going after? Rarely does one person get the brunt of an earthquake’s fury. Hurricanes do widespread damage. Wars affect everyone. There are easier ways to take someone out.

God's actions are intended to help us honor Him as God. Natural disasters make us want to do just the opposite. But they have nothing to do with God’s ability to be God. His power, provisions and purposes remain in effect. Our world may be blown to the next county but the substance of our lives remains. All it takes to praise Him is breath. Got breath? Praise God.

But I’m still curious why there were earthquakes where I have family living. Hope they don’t come to visit.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Dog Yeller

Grady came out of the house and into the front yard. Goober was yelling at Jack, their old, lab. “Get the stick, Jack!” he shouted. Jack just sat there. “Jack! Get the stick!” Nothing.

“Goober, why are you yelling at Jack?” Grady asked.

“You ever heard of the dog whisperer?” Goober said. “He’s the guy that gets dogs to do whatever he wants.”

“Yeah, but you’re yelling, not whispering.”

“Well, I tried whispering, but Jack just sat there. Figured I’d try yelling.”

“Looks like you’re getting the same results. He’s still just sitting there. Maybe he’s confused by all the yelling. Here, let me throw the stick and you go after it so he’ll understand what to do.”

Grady grabbed a stick and threw it to the edge of the yard. Goober got on all fours and trounced after it, picked it up with his teeth and trotted back to Grady. Grady took the stick and threw it again. Goober headed out to fetch it.

About that time, Pastor Jerguson drove by and stopped. He looked at Goober and shook his head. He got out and went over to where Grady was standing. “Grady, what the heck is going on, now?”

“Well, Pastor J, Goober couldn’t get Jack to fetch this stick, so we’re showing him how to do it.”

“How’s it going so far?”

“Goober’s doing pretty good but Jack just sits there and watches. He’s either the dumbest dog ever invented or we are.”

Pastor J just shook his head, got back in his car and left. The answer was too obvious to state.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Cow With Lipstick is Still Just a Cow

Perspective is important. Perspective has the power to affect our lives. Through perspective, we can bend facts around our little fingers. With perspective, who needs absolute truth.

I’m looking at my grass, or what’s left of it. And, of course, the weeds. I’ve decided, since weeds are a shade of green, anything green will be called grass. Wallah, I no longer have a weed problem in my lawn.

I’m looking at my gut. Though medical science says it’s fat cells pooching my belly out, I’ve decided to call it muscle. Who needs a six-pack when you can just enjoy a whole case. Ergo, I no longer have a gut problem.

This is actually fun. Take whatever’s bugging you and change your perspective. Rename it something else and the problem goes away.

Little hairs growing out of the side of my ear I will call tentacles. Like Spiderman they will help me feel my way around in the dark. They now have a purpose and I rejoice in them.

Snoring is a sign I’m not dead. So by snoring, I am sending messages to Jan throughout the night that she can rest well, knowing I’m still with her.

Who needs truth when you can make up your own reality by simply changing what something is called, or redefining its purpose. I love perspective.

By my own might, I can recreate the world. I can supersede God’s commands. I can rewrite the Bible. All I need is a little creative perspective and I can change God.

Perspective is basically our take on what we are trying to understand. It’s our assessment, our coloring, our taint, our bent. Perspective is not interested in discovering what’s right, it simply wants a platform from which it may declare its opinion.

Curious thing truth. The Bible holds it up as a standard for the practice of living. It’s given much more attention by God than perspective is. In fact, never will you read: perspective will set you free, but you will find: truth will set you free.

Finding our perspective may be fun, but it comes with bondage. I wrap myself in a package of myself and walk around like some stupid mime trying to get out of a box of our own imagination. The freedom I thought I was expressing has enslaved me.

I prefer God’s approach to setting me free. I choose truth over perspective.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

I prefer slow pitch softball. Once the pitcher releases the ball you have about fifteen minutes to wait for it to get to you, decide where you want to hit it and swing away. Such leisure doesn’t come with baseball.

A major league fastball humming around 95 mph takes less than a second to leave the pitcher and reach home plate. In fact it’s less than half a second. That’s not a lot of time to deliberate. A hitter needs to know what he intends to do before the pitcher begins his wind-up then change that plan within the blink of an eye if the ball isn’t where he wants it to be. That’s why averages in the .300’s are remarkable.

I remember the coach saying, “Wait for your pitch.” In softball that’s no problem. You’ve got half the day for the ball to get there. You’ve figured out everything about it: how it’s spinning, when it will arrive, what brand it is, what you want to do with it. But to only have .4 seconds within which to make those discoveries, waiting on your pitch is asking a bit much.

For most of us, our brain can’t react within .4 seconds to get make a decision and get our bat swinging. The catcher’s already throwing the ball back by the time we finally swing through. How do you wait for what you can’t see?

God says repeatedly in Scripture to wait for Him. It implies He has things going on we just can’t see, and, if we wait, it will all be clear soon. Like calling 911. They don’t instantly appear. They usually have to drive a while to get there.

God can work instantly but often times out events with resources. We call them coincidences while in reality, God is simply making divine appointments. He is not surprised when we call out to Him and doesn’t have to travel to get there. But the answer to what we cry out for may be a not yet, simply because all the pieces aren’t in place yet.

The doctor that’s going to perform the surgery that saves your life may still be in medical school. The person that’s going to help you in your time of grief may have yet to move next door. The dog that’s going to smell the fire and wake you to escape your burning house may not even be born yet. The kid that’s going to help you understand God’s love is only a toddler.

And a hundred other things God will use to work out His intentions in your life may need time to get in place. But without doubt, God is faithful. They will be there when we need them.

Wait on the Lord. He’s never early, never late, always right on time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Soul Surfer: a random act of God

During a storm a few months ago, the alarm in our church went off, requiring one of our men to get out of bed and meet a deputy to verify no break-in had occurred. It hadn’t. The next day we discovered the code on our alarm indicated two office windows had been broken. They hadn’t. What had happened was a tree a hundred yards behind the building had been struck by lightening. The thunder that accompanied that strike rattled everything around, including those windows. The force was so great the windows thought they had been broken.
I’ve been rattled like that. Several years ago, I was caught in a thunderstorm while playing golf. A lightening strike hit so close you could taste the electricity in the air. Needless to say we made it back to the clubhouse in record time.
Lightening is a real danger with real consequences. Annually over 500 people in the United States are hit by lightening. Ten percent of them don’t survive.
Getting struck by lightening is the best example of the old expression: being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lightening isn’t looking for you. It’s not targeting you. It’s simply a natural response to electrodes colliding. Where it goes and what it hits is totally random.
A lot of what happens in life is random. Car accidents, falls, hitting your thumb with a hammer, catching a virus, cancer—things happen with no directed purpose. We’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then there are other things.
I watched Soul Surfer again last night. The story of Bethany Hamilton, a promising, teenage, professional surfer who had her arm bitten off by a shark. It is an amazing story of courage and faith. Sean McNamara did an incredible job bringing the story to film.
In the backstory she and her mom talk about them praying for a couple of weeks prior to that moment about how God might want to use her to His glory. And though a shark bite seems cruel and heartless, it was an event that God used to send her story and His love around the world. She said she would not go back and undo what happened because of how what happened to her has helped change lives.
I believe heavily in the sovereignty of God. With all knowledge, power and presence, He is without limitation. He has the right to use whatever means He chooses to accomplish what’s best in our lives.
I have no problem believing God answered Bethany’s prayer of willingness to be used, and even though it seems an extreme answer, it obviously fits the criteria through which God can be glorified.
I do not place every event in that same category. There is still random stuff going on. But even in the random stuff God is there to implement a plan as soon as the random stuff's dust settles. Intentional or random both come under God having plans for us. (Jer. 29)
There are those occasions through which God chooses the crisis to work His plans. On other occasions those crises are simply random moments in time. But in those random moments, though God is not causing what happens to happen, when it happens, He has a plan through which we might see His goodness working in our lives. For me that works. It forces me to look forward to the therefore, not backwards to regret.
To see it as a therefore makes me acknowledge something happened and believe that it came with a plan attached.
I have no problem believing Bethany’s story. In my faith, God remained faithful to her while having a shark bite off her arm. But if not, and it was random, God was still there, working out His plans for her that brought about His good in her life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Time to Chunk the Swimmies

Playing in the shallow end is fine unless you’re a diver. Divers need deeper water. If I’m going off the high board, I want there to be plenty of space below to absorb the force of my body piercing the surface. I need to be able to know that I’m not going to suddenly stick my head into the concrete at the bottom of the pool.

Now I’m not saying that splashing around isn’t fun. It’s just not as exciting as a purposeful freefall from three meters. You can enjoy lots of fun games in three or four feet of water, but none are going to increase your ability to swim. If fun is the goal, shallow is fine. If maturing your ability is the agenda, you gotta go deeper.

The shallow end has a good purpose. It’s where we can become introduced to the joy of the water. The risks are minimal, since, if we become distressed, all we have to do is stand up. Moving to the deeper end adds challenges and risk.

You don’t begin in the deep waters. You’re not equipped to handle it yet. If I’m beyond being able to touch bottom and I don’t know of another way to rescue myself than standing up, I’m probably going to drown. I need the shallows until my skills push me out to the deep.

The shallows are the elementary phase of life where I learn faith. But the goal of faith is to dive and go deep. I’ll never experience the ultimate intentions of faith splashing around with the babies. I’ve gotta decide to follow the urge to dive.

And for goodness sake, take off those swimmies!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

God Help Us!

Ever feel overwhelmed by life? When all you have to do is more than the amount of time you have to do it in? When things you thought were wrapped up become unraveled and need attention again? When you go to bed tired from the day, only to wake up tired in advance from the day you face? When you know for certain if the phone rings again you’ll scream and pull somebody’s hair out? Feeling overwhelmed is overwhelming.
Emma didn’t want her Granna to leave yesterday. She began saying no and then escalated to a full-blown emotional breakdown. There are times I wish it were that easy. Just let the emotions flow. Just let it out, let the world know that I’ve reached my limit. I’m not sure how that would help my schedule or weave back the unraveled ends or fill me with strength for the day, but it might reduce “overwhelmed” down to just “whelmed” for a few minutes.
I can live with whelmed. Whelmed says, “I’ve got much to do and the capabilities by which I can do it.” It means, if I place one foot in front of the other, I’ll get to where I need to go, if I turn this wrench a few more times I’ll have this nut tightened, if I strain a little more I’ll have this load lifted. Whelmed is the realm of being equal to the task.
So, how did I go from whelmed to overwhelmed? By not taking care of business as I go, letting stuff pile up. It comes when I take on more than I should, saying "yes" when the more appropriate word would have been "no". Making too many promises and then carrying the fear of letting everyone down. For me, it starts when I begin a new project before I’ve completed the old.
Great, now how do I go from overwhelmed back down to whelmed? Staying faithful to what’s important. In medical emergency treatment an assessment is taken to determine the level of injury and the urgency of treatment required. The higher the need, the faster the help. I can begin by prioritizing what I’ve committed to. Somebody may have to wait. In time, I’ll get it all done. That’s what time is for. I can get nothing done all at once.
The provision of God is to wait upon Him for strength. “God help me!” is a legitimate prayer for the overwhelmed. I don’t know how I need help, just that I need help. Once I’ve given Him my burden, He provides the extra “lift” I need to go on. I will mount up with wings like eagles, I will run and not become weary.
Let me lead us in prayer: “God help us! Amen.”