So, whenever Evan has needed to have pants hemmed, I have usually volunteered to do it. But I always put it off to the last minute. In fact, for the most recent pair I hemmed, "last minute" was exactly four hours before he needed to wear them.
I have heard of moms hemming pants with masking tape at the last minute. I am always a little tempted to go scrounge in the garage for the roll of 2" tape and give it a try but, so far, I have resisted. I came darned close on this most recent pair though.
You see, I actually hemmed the first leg pretty quickly ... got it done in about ten minutes in fact ... and decided to turn it back right-side out before I started the other leg when I discovered that I had never turned it inside-out in the first place. I hemmed the first leg on the outside of his pants. My first thought was "No one will ever notice." I realized that was going to be a hard sell for Lisa and Evan, though, so I proceeded to tear out the sewing I'd done, and turn the leg inside-out. Then the masking tape idea came to me ...
Could I simply tape the pant legs into place and "get by"? But then my memories of junior high hemmed pants flooded back and I realized I couldn't do that.
So, this was the first time I hemmed a pair of pants leg by leg ... by leg.
It is said, though, that sometimes along with great genius comes certain eccentricity. Uncle Lou, as we call him, has been gifted in that area as well.
One day when I was pretty young, he was trying to explain to me the differences between a teepee and a wigwam. The differences are many but not major. I know now that the differences involve the materials they are made of, the tribes who made them, and the exact construction methods. But I didn't understand it fully at the time when I was about five years old. Uncle Lou worked very hard to help me understand the differences between the two, even to the point of contorting his body into different shapes to help me visualize the differences. He was really stressing the differences, and, dare I say, stressing out over them a bit.
It was then that I looked at him and said "Calm down, Uncle Lou. You're two tents!"
As I watched him and his buddy mess around tonight, I reflected on God's goodness and thanked Him for this child. I thanked Him for the fact that Evan does quite well with other kids.
It's a nice place to visit but, still, when you're there, you are stuck on an island in the middle of the Detroit River -- no getting around that fact.
Anyway, BASF's hospitality is incredible. It's a great place for meetings.
God doesn't promise us all puppy dogs, rainbows and butterflies on this earth. But that begs the question, when you are pursuing Him, where do you find your strength and your ability to go on in the face of hardship? What happens when the One in whom you place your trust seems to lead you to even greater uncertainty and trouble?
Do you find your hope and strength in the faces of the hurting and destitute? Do you find it in the stories of injustice that abound in this broken world? Do you find your strength in the stories of others who, also in their pursuit of going deeper into God, have found themselves at places they would never have chosen on their own? Do you find your strength and hope in Jesus' hands, feet, broken brow, and pierced side? Do you find it in the triumph of those who paved the way and blazed the trail before us? Do you find it in His Word? In your own increasing humility?
It's tough when you're walking a path that leads to a place you know not. Jesus walked that path but how easy is it to find your strength in an earthly life that is two thousand years removed from yourself? Or do you see His life in the life of others .... in the life of yourself?
If you're following hard after God and yet finding yourself struggling, know that I am praying for you at this moment. Hopefully somewhere if you review this post, you will find a glimmer of hope, an ounce of strength, to help you on your journey for today.
When I first sat down, I noticed a young man sitting by himself at a table for 10. I thought that was odd.
But, when he left and another single person came and sat in his place at the big table, I decided maybe it wasn't odd.
I must be missing something.
Saul faces the reality of his past in this passage. It has caught up with him. It is at this moment that he reaches that ultimate point of brokenness, falling to the ground in front of our God.
I was talking with a friend yesterday about brokenness. Many of us hit that point in a dramatic culmination of events. In others of us, God works more quietly and behind the scenes. But, still, He can bring us to that point where we have to make a choice ... will we truly follow Him or will we continue to follow the ways of our humanity?
While I have given my heart to God, sometimes I wonder ... have I yet hit the point where He will bring me to a truly defining moment of His way or mine? So far, the two have merged fairly well but I have a hunch that at some point I will hit that point of having to make that crucial decision ... and His way may take me to places either physically or in my soul or both ... that are far, far diverged from my way.
Please open your Bible and read: Matthew 4:18-20.
The man who stepped forward to preach at Pentecost was flawed and impetuous. He had disagreed with Jesus and even denied knowing Him. But Peter developed into a man whose impact for the kingdom surpassed his impulsiveness.
When studying Peter's life, believers often focus on his negative actions - the doubt that nearly drowned him when he walked on water, and his aforementioned rebuke and denial of Jesus. But Peter is also an example of triumphant living. An uneducated fisherman who likely had few other skills, Peter put down his nets and followed Jesus the instant he was asked.
He was the first to acknowledge Christ as the Son of God. (Matthew 16:16) And after the Lord's resurrection, Peter's spontaneous nature led him to leap into the water and swim for shore when he noticed his Savior waiting there. (John 21:7) The disciple's devotion cannot be questioned.
Peter is an inspiration for us today. God does not choose servants who are solid rocks with no cracks or crevices. Instead, He selects people who have weaknesses, failures, and a need to be forgiven repeatedly.
The Lord looks for believers who are teachable, willing to repent, and prepared to surrender to God's greater will - folks who are a lot like Peter.
Too many Christians have already decided how much the Lord can do with them, based on education, personality, or talent. But God isn't interested in qualifications. He seeks willing followers who echo Isaiah's call, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) That's triumphant living.
Questions: Have you perceived God calling you to do something recently? If so, how can you know whether it is His will for you? (See the link to our online study at the top of this devotional!)
So, we were at WalMart on Memorial Day evening. Grocery shopping. There were very few people there. (Did anyone else notice how few people seemed to be out and about this past weekend?) We were in the long aisle down the side that runs along the meat coolers. Lisa and Evan were heading over to pick out a nice package of bacon. I glanced down the length of the aisle and, several rows away, caught a view of something quite unusual.
I saw a woman, about my age and really by all accounts a very "normal" looking person, with her shirt pulled up from the bottom so that she could adjust her brassiere or the contents thereof. It was like something we've all seen our Aunt Esthers do on a hot summer day in the kitchen. (Oh, you say you haven't seen that? Hmmmm. That's interesting. It may explain a lot about me.)
Anyway, Topless WalMart Lady looked up as she was in the midst of this and our eyes met. She hurriedly put herself back together. For the rest of the shopping trip, I was trying to avoid seeing her and I think she was doing the same with me.
Until we met at the strawberry display where my wife was commenting on the size of the strawberries. There, with Topless WalMart Lady standing nearby, Lisa (who had not seen what I had witnessed earlier) was saying "Have you ever seen such big ones?"
Can you say "Awk-ward"?
"He has a voice that cannot be constrained by notes."
It wasn't long before a WalMart produce department worker (someone I went to high school with in fact) came over and approached the gentleman. Being the nosy but subtle type I am, I proceeded over to look at the vine grown tomatoes which were across the aisle from the honeydew melons. The tomatoes looked tasty and I'd be able to hear their conversation from there. The worker said "Sir, is that a service dog?"
The man looked at her and replied, "What do you mean?"
"Is that a seeing eye dog?"
"No, it isn't. She's just my dog. Her name is Bessie."
"Well, I am afraid I will have to ask you to take Bessie back out to your car. There are no pets allowed in the store except service dogs," my classmate said.
The man acted a bit miffed but kept picking up honeydews and showing them to the dog, more hurriedly now. "Just a second," he said.
"Sir, you really can't have your dog in here around the produce. It's not sanitary."
"But she helps me pick out my melons. Her nose can tell when they're just ripe enough but not too ripe. I will take her back out to the car in a second."
About this time, Lisa and Evan came and found me. Of course, this whole situation with the man and the dog was pretty funny for me.
So, the only thing that could come out of my mouth when I saw Lisa was:
"Look, it's a Melon Collie, baby!"
(My apologies to any cat lovers out there. I AM JUST JOKING! They actually taste best when stir-fried with Soy Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce.)
They did tell me something sort of new this time with the allergy testing. They told me that I am allergic to dogs. I have always known this but it is the first time testing confirmed it. From practical experience, I have found that large shedding dogs stir up my allergies. That is the reason my family has always had small, non-shedding dogs.
How many dogs have you had in your life? I think I have blogged about mine before but I have now had four dogs in my life at various points. Two when I still lived with my parents and two since Lisa and I have been married.
The first dog Lisa and I had was a Maltese-Pomeranian mix named Chelsea. She weighed about six pounds and she was a beautiful dog. Until a hormonal problem caused her to lose all her fur. (Turns out she took after my side of the family.) Then she was rather pathetic looking. She looked like one of those horrible hairless Chinese crested dogs or whatever they are.
She was an extremely smart little dog. I am pretty sure she understood the entire English language as well as several Mandarin dialects. We had to take to spelling things around her and eventually she even figured that out. She scored a 32 composite on her ACT and a 2360 on her SAT. She missed a perfect SAT score by just 40points and that was because she didn't have opposable thumbs so holding a pencil to fill in the little circles was a challenge for her and she wasn't able to get the entire test completed in the time allowed.
But, along with being brilliant, Chelsea was also pretty neurotic. Getting her to eat was often a challenge and everything had to be done in specific routine. Unfamiliar noises or vibrations would terrify her. She also had some health problems. Two of her knees had to have surgery. And, when she was in pain, she played it for all it was worth.
Our current dog is the four-pound poodle I have written about before. Her name is Abby and, yes, this is the dog I sat on once. Her eyes, I am sure, grew very large as she saw my rather imposing back side close in on her.
Anyway, Abby is showing her age these days. She's always seemed like a puppy but in recent months, she walks a little slower, jumps a little less high, sleeps a lot more, doesn't like to get up in the mornings, and doesn't seem to hear as well as she used to. I hope she's around for a good many more years but she will be 12 this fall. She's been an incredible dog. Always very healthy, very loyal, and very loving. She's not the smartest dog in the world but sometimes I don't think dogs have to be smart to be incredible companions.
Abby is pretty much attached to Lisa whenever Lisa is at home. She is most of the time by her side or on her lap. And Lisa is very attached to her. I have a follow-up appointment next week with the allergy doctor. I hope he doesn't make too big of a deal about the dog allergy. I'd sure hate for Lisa to have to get rid of me.
To the right is a picture of basically what my bald head looks like today. Minus the stem, of course.
Every Spring I do this ... I go out without sunscreen and lose track of the time. I'll be paying for this for the next several days.
According to the dictionary, "faith" has a lot of meanings:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
—Idiom9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.
The word "faithful" also has its share of meanings:
1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty: a faithful worker.
2. true to one's word, promises, vows, etc.
3. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant: faithful friends.
4. reliable, trusted, or believed.
5. adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate: a faithful account; a faithful copy.
6. Obsolete. full of faith; believing.
–noun 7. the faithful, a. the believers, esp. members of a Christian church or adherents of Islam.
b. the body of loyal members of any party or group.
It has been a major jump in my thinking but I had a friend point out to me once that the real story of "faith" is not our faith in God but rather His never-ending faithfulness to us. No matter what we do, no matter where we go, no matter how much we try to shut Him out, God remains faithful to us.
I agree with my friend -- that is indeed the real story of faith.
I had one funny thing happen though. A friend and co-worker borrowed it and used it in the Baltimore, Maryland area. I then took it to Birmingham, Alabama. When I arrived in Birmingham, I got into my rental car and hooked up the GPS. I call her "Trudy," by the way because she is normally so true to me. I punched in to take me to the nearest Panera Bread Company because it was mid-afternoon and I was hungry. She said there was one about seven miles away. Great!
But then, as I started driving, Trudy said it was going to take me about 12 hours to get there. That sounded like a long time to wait for lunch. That was going to be a very slow seven miles.
That was when I figured out that I had not given her adequate time to sync with the satellites. She was giving me instructions to drive to Baltimore!
Anyway -- how about for you?
I was truthful. I do not have a clue who spoke at my high school graduation. Well, I take that back, I do remember the two students who spoke. Maneesha Lal and Amy Hoffman. Or was it Amy Hoffman and Maneesha Lal? Anyway, they were valedictorian and salutatorian. I remember that because I was third in my class. There's no fancy name for the person who is third in their class. It's a simple word for the person who is third -- "Loser".
Anyway, I recall them speaking but I do not have a clue who the guest speaker was, nor what anyone said.
At my college graduation, students did not speak. They did not recognize the top students at my college. Something about not wanting to promote competition. I was okay with that because I was third in that class, too. (Loser.)
However, one of my profs spoke. Mary Ann Sullivan. She spoke on making each day better than the day before. She referred to Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" lyrics. It was very cool. And I remember it.
The other speaker was Elton Trueblood. I remember he was very old. Something like 85 at the time. I confess -- it was hot in the gym, I wanted out of there, and I didn't listen to a word he said. I regret that now.
So, how about you? Do you remember the speakers or what was said at your graduation(s)?
The news left us in shock. We didn't know what to think. Everyone who knew Brett thought the world of him. He was a musician and Sunday School teacher. He was strong in his faith and had a passion for sharing it with others. They had a wonderful, loving family.
As we started to tune in the news, it was obvious that the police were still trying to piece things together. The killer had fled and they didn't know where he was. He had left his wife at Brett's house. He had gone to Brett's house after calling Brett and telling him that he was in some kind of trouble. Brett had prepared a place for them to kneel and pray at his home when the killer shot him in the back.
Then other details started to come in. Three girls had been found dead in the killer's house. Two 16-year-olds and a 14-year-old. Another girl was badly injured but alive.
On the lam, the killer was spotted in Kentucky and, later as I recall, Michigan. There was talk that he was holed up with relatives in the hills and hollers of Kentucky and perhaps could never be found. They were supposedly protecting him.
Meanwhile, all kinds of rumors were spreading. The killer, while he did attend Brett's church on occasion, spoke often of satanic cults, even indicating that he'd been in one at one time and now the other members were out to get him.
As the police predicted, the killer did return to the scene of the crime when five days later he showed up back in town and caused some havoc by shooting and injuring a man and then taking hostages at a local gas station before later giving them up safely and being arrested.
He plead guilty so few details about the case ever came out. The ones that did come out were less than G-rated so I will not post them here. He was sentenced to life in prison.
It was a tragic, stupid loss of four lives.
So, why am I mentioning this now? Brett's son, Joel, graduated Friday night from Christian Academy. The oldest of their three children, Joel was just nine when his dad was killed. Evan's age. Joel was co-valedictorian of his class. He has his dad's musical talent and gift for sharing. A great young man. Both Joel and his mom spoke at graduation. Inspiring speeches about perseverance and trusting God, falling into His arms. They've been there. Truly.
You can now see where God has been and is all over this horrible tragedy. I was convinced at the time that the killer's story would some day be a made-for-tv movie, probably with Rick Schroeder playing him. Fortunately that never happened. But the power of God as he has healed this family and led to Joel being co-valedictorian of his graduating class? Now that is story worthy of writing.
Anyway, it occurred to me that it has been awhile since I have had anything funny on my blog. (At least I think that is the case, by the way. Not that I'm paranoid or anything. Stop looking at me, by the way!)
So, the pressure is on. I need to find something funny to post ... quickly. I am working on a couple of posts right now (neither of which is funny, by the way -- at least not to me.)
The guest speaker was my friend Chuck Price. I had the privilege of introducing him. Chuck has spent 37 years with Campus Crusade for Christ Ministries, currently serving them as a Vice President.
In his talk, he brought up the question of where do we turn when times are difficult. I really enjoyed hearing him speak of this because I see it as a critical step of spiritual formation. Know that, in his life, Chuck has faced his share of challenges, allowed him to speak with authority on this subject.
When times get tough and worry, fear, and anxiety run high, where do I run for comfort? Unfortunately, all too often, I run to two things which do not help the situation at all: food and withdrawal. Other folks may run to anger, depression, or other addictions and destructive behaviors.
Of course, it's easy to say "run to God" as the alternative to this and ultimately that is indeed true. I do think that the ability to resist destructive things and instead go to the one who loves us and wants to lead us is a critical formative step. But part of where He will lead us is to figure out what is at the root of our anxieties, and help us get into places where we're less inclined to run to the destructive behavior -- where life simply doesn't weigh as heavily on us once we understand why we are the way we are.
Anyway, thought provoking stuff.
And my best wishes to graduates everywhere.
I would have loved to have seen Carly Smithson win but that's just me.
I have to confess ... I always think of sex trafficking as occurring "over there" in Malaysia and other places. But it's right here in our back yard, too.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, really. Any time you have a culture that puts emphasis on money and power, you will have abuses including exploitation of the less fortunate. It is a wonder this isn't a much bigger problem here in the states than it is. Of course, it is so underground that probably no one has any idea just how big of a problem it is.
This is, I am sure, linked in some ways to the Tijuana prostitution issue I wrote about a week or so ago.
I know ... I know. Real cheery subjects. Sorry.
We skipped church Sunday morning. I know, I know. Not a good thing. And I have heard it was quite a morning. I had read Chris's sermon a couple of times and it was excellent. But we needed a little downtime as a family. We drove up and had lunch at the new Panera Bread in Lima. Very nice place -- some new colors and interior things for a Panera. Also a little more space between tables.
I went to Country Rock Church last night. I really enjoyed it last night. The band was good and there were lots of good folks there. Saw someone I haven't seen or talked to in probably 20 years. There were about 80 people there and I would say that nearly half were people I did not know. That is a good thing.
I am starting to feel some better. I have been miserable for several weeks. I think the antibiotic I am on now is helping some. I am pretty sure I had some sort of odd systemic infection going on. I am not sure I have had enough antibiotics yet, though, and I am about to run out.
Now, it's off to a new week.
During the week before He was crucified, Jesus was asked many questions by the religious leaders. However, their questions were never asked for the purpose of education or to satisfy their true curiosity, they were asked with the intent of finding fault; "The Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Him in His words" (Matthew 22:15). Jesus answered each of their questions, but then He warned the crowds about the hypocrisy of those who were trying to trap Him.
"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues."
The phylactery was a small box containing scripture, worn on the forehead or arm to fulfill the command of God as given through Moses; "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads" (Deuteronomy 11:18).
The Pharisees strictly followed God's commands, but they also followed many self-created rules and "enhanced" God's commands to make themselves feel more righteous. Jesus never rebuked them for following rules, but He greatly questioned the motivation of their heart. The Pharisees had forgotten that the purpose of everything they did was to worship God and glorify His name. Instead, they began to focus on their outward appearance as they sought to look holy and obtain the approval of others: "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self indulgence" (Matthew 23:25).
This problem was definitely not new. Over 700 years earlier, God's children had lost their heart for worship: "These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men"
Unfortunately, this problem is still with us today. We've created a list of rules and religious activities which somehow define our relationship with God. We define our "Godliness" by our church attendance, our acts of service, or even our time spent reading His Word. But all these good and worthwhile actions do not define our relationship - they do not define our love. Our love is, and always has been, defined by the condition of our heart; "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). All our actions simply flow as an outward expression of the condition of our heart.
EVERYTHING we do must be motivated by a desire to praise and honor our Heavenly Father. Our religious acts mean absolutely nothing if not accompanied by a heart full of love and thanksgiving. Let's become true worshipers who express our love for God in all we do and say! Let's never allow our lives to be driven by the look of holiness.
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him. (Psalm 125:5-6 NIV)
What are the things in life that make you cry? Maybe you’re not a crier but what are the things that make your soul really hurt?
One of the last times I remember crying was a few years ago as I watched my wonderful mother in law suffer and die from pancreatic cancer. That was a horribly painful time but it was also an incredibly powerful time as my mother in law, my father in law, my wife, and myself all found incredible comfort and strength from God to see us through those tough months. Yes, it was painful but now a few years later I look back and I see quite a beautiful story that has God all over it.
When you think back on the tough times in your life, do you not now see God in those times? Do you see how he was carrying you, comforting you?
And, when you see someone else hurting in a similar situation, don’t you feel a special empathy for them, don’t you have things to share with them, because of that story God wrote on your heart?
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him.
What I see here is a call to carry out those God stories – those difficult times of tears – and sow them into the world by sharing them. And, if we do that, we will return with songs of joy and a great harvest.
But how do you get close enough to someone that they want to hear your story and they’ll accept your story? Today’s culture doesn’t just naturally give us a lot of spaces for that kind of sharing. But yet today’s culture gives us more opportunities for relationships and interaction with others than ever before. We have lots of relationships but they tend to not go real deep.
We talk about the Great Commission -- go and make disciples of all the nations. We do that by building relationships with people and investing into them. Even sowing in tears in order to help them along their journeys and guide them through dark times.
As I look at trying to do a more intentional job of investing myself in others, I have spent some time looking at the various types of relationships I have with other people. Some are very superficial – nothing deep is being shared either way. These tend to be very perfunctory “strictly business” types of relationships. Some are very surface level – a little bit of sharing but not too much. I may know a bit about their family or where they are in life today but that’s about it. But a few are deep, sharing relationships. The ones where the other person and I truly help each other through life and even on our faith journeys. Those deep relationships came only when I opened myself up. When I exercised my freedom in Christ for the purpose of being authentic, raw, and real with others.
Sometimes, on rare occasions, it is easy to get to that level of depth with someone. You ever have one of those friends with whom you just really clicked from the moment you met? You were both able to be open and honest and sharing? Sometimes we luck into those relationships.
But it doesn’t usually happen that way. Normally we have all kinds of roadblocks that prevent us from really getting to a deeper level. When I think of some of those roadblocks, I think of ego and pride. I am better than them and I am not about to show any weakness. I think of fears. I don’t want them to know the real me … I don’t want them to see my tears, my pain, my problems. I think of not living in the present. I’m too busy to be bothered by someone else … all of these things are roadblocks that prevent us from entering into deep relationships with others.
And, while we have our roadblocks up, they are no different, they have theirs up too. You ever keep following the road even after there’s a sign saying Bridge Out Ahead … and eventually you come to the bridge and there’s one final sign right before it and you see that the bridge really is out and you look across and see the back side of the bridge out sign on the other side of the road? There’s no way you’re getting over there and no way a car from the other side is coming over to you? Sometimes the roadblocks we put up in relationships do that, don’t they?
So, if we’re truly supposed to be a Spiritual Leader for others – if we’re truly suppose to help them get off of their own agendas and get on to God’s agenda, how do we take down those roadblocks – not only our own but theirs, too?
How do we do that? It may be one thing to think about how we do that with others inside the walls of this church but how do we do it with co-workers, with neighbors, or with people we meet out in public?
Let’s look at some ways…
1) Spend genuine time with people. Live in the present. I struggle with this. My mind is usually going a million places at once so it’s very easy for me to have a conversation with someone and only about 10% of me is really into the conversation. Just ask my poor wife. That’s no way to build deep relationships though. I have to stay in the present every second.
2) Empathetic listening. Ask people questions when they are sharing … don’t we all have an Aunt Edna or someone in our life who is terrible at this. We mention that we’re going through a tough time and, without even listening, she begins to tell us about some horrible thing that happened to her back in 1942. When we listen with empathy, we keep the conversation about the other person … we don’t try to switch it back to ourself.
3) Do what we say we’re going to do. If that person is going to trust you with big things like sharing their fears, their problems, or even their soul, they have to be able to trust you to do little things like show up on time or return the garden hoe they loaned us.
4) Accept people where they are. Don’t immediately start to hammer away and try to change them. That doesn’t build deeper relationships; it alienates people.
5) Be vulnerable. Share your hopes and dreams. Share your fears and worries. This isn’t easy but remember that your freedom is in Christ, not what others think of us. Be open and vulnerable and then let God do with that what He wishes.
By doing things like this, we build relationships where we can share our God stories. Where we can sow in tears if it is a story of a difficult time in our life. By openly and honestly sharing our own stories, we don’t have to be a salesperson for Christ but instead more of a tour guide.
The Bible talks about sowing broadly. Building these sorts of deep relationships with as many others as possible will truly give us the opportunity to sow broadly … and allow God to reap a bountiful harvest.
This is all very real, human stuff. Stuff we have all felt before.
But in a flash, David realize that his freedom was in God, not vindication on earth. Vindication on earth would only lead to more slavery to human emotions.
So, he chose the other path.
And God blessed him with freedom.
I know I’d read that passage a hundred times. But I’d never seen it. Maybe I’d passed over it in the excitement of the resurrection.
But I won’t miss it again. It’s highlighted in yellow and underlined in red. You might want to do the same. Look in Mark, chapter 16. Read the first five verses about the women’s surprise when they find the stone moved to the side. Then feast on that beautiful phrase spoken by the angel, “He is not here, he is risen,” but don’t pause for too long. Go a bit further. Get your pencil ready and enjoy this jewel in the seventh verse (here it comes). The verse reads like this: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.
Did you see it? Read it again. (This time I italicized the words.)
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.”
Now tell me if that’s not a hidden treasure.
What a line. It’s as if all of heaven had watched Peter fall—and it’s as if all of heaven wanted to help him back up again. “Be sure and tell Peter that he’s not left out. Tell him that one failure doesn’t make a flop.”
No wonder they call it the gospel of the second chance.
Not many second chances exist in the world today. Just ask the kid who didn’t make the little league team or the fellow who got the pink slip or the mother of three who got dumped for a “pretty little thing.”
Not many second chances. Nowadays it’s more like, “It’s now or never.” “Around here we don’t tolerate incompetence.” “Not much room at the top.” “Three strikes and you’re out.” “It’s a dog-eat-dog world!”
Jesus has a simple answer to our masochistic mania. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world?” he would say. “Then don’t live with the dogs.” That makes sense doesn’t it? Why let a bunch of other failures tell you how much of a failure you are?
Sure you can have a second chance.
Just ask Peter. The message came loud and clear from the celestial Throne Room through the divine courier. “Be sure and tell Peter that he gets to bat again.”
It’s not every day that you get a second chance. Peter must have known that. The next time he saw Jesus, he got so excited that he barely got his britches on before he jumped into the cold water of the Sea of Galilee. It was also enough, so they say, to cause this backwoods Galilean to carry the gospel of the second chance all the way to Rome where they killed him. If you’ve ever wondered what would cause a man to be willing to be crucified upside down, maybe now you know.
It’s not every day that you find someone who will give you a second chance—much less someone who will give you a second chance every day.
But in Jesus, Peter found both.
Have you ever thought about how, as humans, we always think we're smarter, stronger, more advanced, and more cultured than the generation that went before us? Technological progress is inevitable but, as far as human process, God has equipped us all the same throughout the generations I believe.
"...and all these blessings shall come on you and overtake you, if you will listen to the voice of YHWH your God." Deuteronomy 28:2
Overtake – There is no magic formula. In a world dominated by self-reliance and control, realizing that there is no magic formula is critically important. It’s so easy to be seduced into thinking that I can manipulate God into delivering His blessings when I want them. That’s the problem with the “name it and claim it” crowd. They believe that they control the heavenly rate of return. They don’t understand the Hebrew verb nasag (to overtake).
Take another look at this verse. It implies that the blessings are not under your command. God’s blessings are designed to overtake you when you are doing something else. In other words, blessings arrive at their own rate when you are being obedient to God’s voice in other matters. If you pursue the blessing, you focus on the wrong objective. You don’t control the speed of the approaching blessing. Your job is to stand in the path of the coming heavenly cargo. How do you do that? By obeying God’s voice in all the trivial things of living.
Does that mean that there is no place for self-interest? Not at all! It is always in my best interest to do God’s will. In fact, God wants me to do what is in my own self-interest, because when I do, I am aligned with His interests too. There would be no reason for God to tell me that He intends His blessings to overtake me unless He knew that I would be motivated by the result. Self-interest is perfectly scriptural. Of course, self-interest is not the same as selfish interest. The difference is this. Self-interest is being motivated by what is ultimately best for me. Since my ultimate best is to be in perfect harmony with my Maker, I submit to His instructions about what is the right thing to do. In other words, I can’t rely on my own perception of self-interest because I know that my perspective has been tainted with selfish interest, and selfish interest (even though it might appear to be the best way to achieve my goal) always moves me off the center of the target. Consequently, selfish interest causes God’s blessings to miss me.
Since I know that I can’t trust my own perceptions (remember that Proverb about not leaning on your own understanding), I have to rely on God to tell me how to act in my own self-interest. Don’t get confused. So often the reason that we rebel and resist is that we think God’s instructions are opposed to our self-interest. We hear the “deny yourself” sermons and we assume that God’s ways are tough and restrictive. What we fail to realize is that Jesus wants us to deny our selfish interest, the things that stand in opposition to God’s true instructions about the way to get in the center of the target. Selfish interest keeps me out of the bull’s eye. The paradox of selfish interest is that I think I am getting the most out of life when the truth is that I am standing outside the focus of God’s blessings.
Do you want your best possible life? Of course you do. Then put aside your own methodology for getting there. You don’t know what you’re doing anyway. You can’t see the biggest picture. Put yourself in the path of God’s blessings, not by seeking the blessing itself but by doing what God tells us to do in His instruction book for living. Then watch out! Blessings are likely to sneak up on you out of nowhere and run you down.
It's so easy to resist following God because it is difficult or new or uncomfortable. I struggle a lot with turning my all over to God. I have always been a relatively self-reliant person, figuring I could make it through any situation on my own. The idea of following someone else, someone I can't even see, is not easy. But, when I look back on my life these past few years and see the times that I know I have followed God's call, there is nothing I can regret. When I look back and see the times when I lived my life my way, those are the times when the regrets can be seen.
I think this contest is David A's to lose at this point. To not win, I think one of two things would have to happen: 1) He would have to have a miserable performance next week, forgetting lyrics or cracking a note or two; or 2) He would have to have a very "humdrum" performance and David C would have to have an incredible performance that truly shows his uniqueness as a performer.
Now, all that said, I certainly feel that David C is the more capable, the more polished, and the more versatile performer of the two at this point in time.
So, why does my prediction still go to David A? I think his softer, more ballad-y style has greater appeal to a broader spectrum of ages and people in the United States than does David C's edgier rock style.
But in the end it makes no difference what I think. Next week we will find out who will be the next American Idol.
I never before realized that David's posse was made up of "losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts." God brought the humbled to David rather than the powerful and self-absorbed.
This is great stuff.
You may all be surprised by the paradigm shift that something so simple as this could create.
She folds my underwear.
I honestly do not remember if, when I was younger and lived at home, my mom folded my underwear. But I do remember that, when I was out on my own as a bachelor in college and a couple of years after, underwear simply got stuffed into a drawer.
That all changed when I got married.
Lisa folds my underwear and puts it neatly into my drawer. I don't mean she just "sort of" folds it ... i mean it is really folded neatly and stored away until I need it.
I know it may seem odd that I look at that as being such a sign of her love and, no, I am not reducing my lovely wife to being there for household work like laundry, but there's something incredibly special if you ask me about someone who would actually fold my underwear for me.
Before I dig my hole too deep on this, I will add that she's incredible in so many ways. Caring, understanding, empathetic, spirit-filled ... a friend to many ... an incredible sense of humor and fun loving spirit ... hard working ... and a mom that any kid would be much blessed to have.
God blessed me richly with Lisa and I am forever grateful for that.
There's something incredible about having a spouse who you know will always be there for you ... who you truly look forward to growing old with ... and you never regret a moment that you're with her.
I love you, Lisa. I hope you had a great Mother's Day.
And thanks for folding my underwear.
Well, things took an uglier twist this week.
On Monday, I had a call from the person who looks after our lake house asking if someone had had a dog in the house. As she walked around the house and described what she was seeing, I knew that there was no dog involved. What she described could only be one thing.
Yes, a raccoon or perhaps multiple ones had gotten into the house and wrecked things badly, tearing up some things and soiling others.
Evidence showed that they had gained entry via the chimney.
I had to be out of town this week so I missed the festivities of catching a raccoon in the bathtub and then entering it into our raccoon relocation program. I also missed the smokebomb put in the fireplace, forcing another raccoon to pop out of the chimney, scamper across the roof, run down the television antenna tower ...
and get ...
(Okay, I made up that last part but I am guessing that is where it eventually went. These are very genteel raccoons we're dealing with. Wish I would have been there to smack it over the head with a shovel, followed by a quick dunk in the lake.)
I remember many years ago when I was probably in junior high, a local newspaper ran an article on prostitution. My mom saw me reading it and told me I didn't need to be reading that. I read it anyway. Probably for the wrong reasons.
But last week, I had a conversation with a 16-year-old young man, wise way beyond his years, about prostitution in Tijuana, Mexico ... and it has had me thinking ever since. He has a burden on his heart for the situation and, as he told me a bit about it, I wanted to know more. So, I've done some research.
Prostitution is legal in much of Mexico. There is a large "red light" district -- Zona Norte -- in Tijuana that is frequented largely by men coming across the border. There are an estimated 1200 working prostitutes in Tijuana.
They come in all ages, including many well under 18. Boys as well as the girls. Many, from what I can tell, work for themselves though some are associated with brothels and pimps.
The government requires sex workers to be registered though many are not. The ones who are registered have to go for monthly health checks.
It is estimated that as many as 50 percent of the sex workers in Tijuana are HIV positive or have another STD.
A couple of years ago, Tijuana city government tried to enact legislation to take the solicitation off of the streets, perhaps creating special hotel lobbies where clients and prostitutes could meet. (It has been tradition in Della Norte for the women to line the streets.) However, that failed when the sex workers basically stormed city hall in protest.
Many of the sex workers are involved in it because it is lucrative. They often have families to support. Many are single moms. They can earn far more per day than they could working a factory or other job for $1.50 per hour. Jobs like that are plentiful but they shun them for the sex trade. Some prostitutes are among the "better off" people in Tijuana from a financial standpoint from what I can tell.
Of course, some are held there by their pimps. Others have been sold into sex slavery by their families. Still others are held there by their own addictions. There is an obvious connection between the sex business and drug trafficking.
It's an interesting thing to think about. The problem is not "prostitution" but rather what drives folks to it. The problem is also the johns. If you didn't have clients, you wouldn't have prostitutes. Prostitutes in Tijuana ofen refer to themselves by a Spanish phrase which means "woman who sins". That reminds me, though, that it takes two to tango.
So, now you know what I have been thinking about. An intriguing societal issue if I have ever seen one. As always, no easy answers.
The young man I spoke with is hoping to find a way to reach out to those involved in this. I admire him for that. He knows that first he needs to really understand all of the issues. That is correct.
God's love can prevail.
Do you have any folks in your life who are warm one minute and cold the next? That can make relationship building horribly difficult.
How do you deal with those situations? You know you're called to love but yet your love is sometimes received well and sometimes not. Do you give up? Give them their space? Keep on loving (which may include giving them some space)?
And, in looking at the relationships between others, do you ever have the opportunity to be a Jonathan and stand in the gap between other people? That can be uncomfortable, too, can't it?
Yet, the more we all bathe all of our relationships in love which includes transparency and honesty, the more we can live in the community God intended.
Oh well ... odd thoughts on this today, I know. I just have always been fascinated by David and Saul.
Last weekend there were about 50 people there, mainly familiar faces. I believe that there is a group of "regulars" at The Pub where our church holds Country Rock Church but most of them aren't there on Sunday evenings. Hopefully the word will get out and some of the folks who are "regulars" at The Pub will stop by on Sunday nights. Hopefully, too, we will be able to invite some others who maybe don't frequent The Pub and its usual environment to check out its Sunday evening transformation.
I heard that ABC News was at our normal church this morning and was to be at Country Rock this evening. I almost regret all the hoopla this has created. Maybe the hoopla will be inspirational to other churches but I almost would have preferred to see the hoopla be delayed until we had a good track record under our belt and some great God stories to share. That time will yet come, I am sure.
I think that, had we not used "Church" in the name, we would not have had near the hoopla nor near the naysaying. We're comfortable using "church" in the name because of the definition that we put on the word. However, most people do not have that definition. And one of the top rules of communication comes into play here -- perception is reality.
I heard there was a rumor going around that we were serving free booze at Country Rock. Wrong. Perception was not reality that time. But it was in the minds of those who believed it.
A very wise friend of mine told me that she had stumbled across some local folks who were contesting whether Country Rock is a good thing. This friend of mine is not a member of our church but her response was great: "Sidney First (our main church) has made it very clear for years that they are all about outreach. They do it very well and they would not have done this had they not felt God's call."
Amen to that.
(Country) Rock On.
In my opinion, Jason "Puppy Dogs, Rainbows, and Butterflies" Castro should not still be there but he is so we just have to deal with it.
So, my order is:
"Puppy Dogs, Rainbows, and Butterflies" Guy
I wish them all the best, even PDR&B Guy.
I'm the man with all I've ever wanted
All the toys and playing games
I am the one who pours your coffee, corner booth each Saturday
I am your daughter's favorite teacher
I am the leader of the band
I sit behind you in the bleachers
I am every man
I'm the coach of every winning team and still a loser in my mind
I am the soldier in the airport facing giants one more time
I am the woman shamed and haunted by the cry of unborn life
I'm every broken man, nervous child, lonely wife
Is there hope for every man
A solid place where we can stand
In this dry and weary land
Is there hope for every man
Is there love that never dies
Is there peace in troubled times
Someone help me understand
Is there hope for every man
Seems there's just so many roads to travel, it's hard to tell where they will lead
My life is scarred and my dreams unraveled
Now I'm scared to take the leap
If I could find someone to follow who knows my pain and feels the weight
The uncertainty of my tomorrow, the guilt and pain of yesterday
There is hope for every man
A solid place where we can stand
In this dry and weary land
There is hope for every man
There is Love that never dies
There is peace in troubled times
Will we help them understand?
Jesus is hope for every man
But then my "C" gene crept in. "C" as in "Clumsy". I plunged into the wall and doorframe leading to the kitchen. First I felt my legs and arms scraping against something. And then my right side hit something. And then my face and right temple crashed into the wall. I rolled backward and could do nothing but lay there.
I knew this wasn't good. I have been in the midst of a fibromyalgia flare for a couple of weeks so my pain receptors were already on edge.
Okay, I've been playing this out pretty dramatically. But it's all true.
At 2:30 a.m. I awoke with my right temple badly swollen so I went to the ER. The nurse acted like I was ridiculous for being there. But the doctor was more understanding. I have seen Chicago's Hope and Gray's Anatomy enough to know that temple injuries can be fatal. I didn't want to leave my family. Not now. My fifth grade teacher's father was killed by a blow to one of his temples. 35 years later, I still remember her talking about that. I also remember her talking about taking part in seances when she was in college. She was a little different.
So, they did a CT Scan of my head. No skull fracture and, might I add, the doctor said that my brain "looked great". That really gave me a swelled head. I don't know if my brain really looked better than the average person's brain does but she implied that it did. There's something about hearing that at 3:45 a.m. that makes you feel good.
Anyway, I am stiff and sore today and I have a headache. But I'm alive.
And I'm concerned I might have broken a floor joist where I fell because the floor seems to "pop" there now when I walk over it.
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." - 1 Corinthians 15:58
There is a paradigm shift going on among a remnant of workplace believers today. That paradigm shift is a focus on using our business and work life as a platform for ministry versus a platform solely for material success. There is a remnant of workplace believers throughout the world today who understand their birthright in the workplace is to reflect Christ fully in and through their work. It is reflected by a commitment to use their resources and skills to provide a product of excellence with the overall motive to affect people for Jesus Christ. The difference is that these individuals have an overriding ministry objective to their work.
When the apostle Paul tells us to fully work unto the Lord, he does not mean we must be working as missionaries in "full-time Christian effort." He understands that all of life is holy and sacred to God. If our motive is to serve God where we are, then our labor "in the Lord is not in vain."
As you begin your work today, ask God if you are working with the primary motive of reflecting His life and character through your work on this day. Let nothing move you from this motive being central to your activity. The Lord will reflect His power and leading in and through your life when this becomes your primary motive.