In fact, there is even a correlation between the two. Human lives are abused and thrown away so that more material goods or other pleasures of this world can be obtained.
But I also think about the pain of those who drive this industry and the pain of those who support it. Pains of addiction, horrible pasts of their own, utter hopelessness to the point of where they find their joy at the expense of others. It's a harder pain to be sympathetic with than the pain of the victims but it is pain nonetheless.
I asked someone here last night about campaigns I have read about which used billboards to shame and put fear into the clients of the sex trade. Sadly, they told me that they do not work. Tijuana has a huge AIDS epidemic, they explained to me. If that is not going to scare the johns away, then certainly a billboard won't.
As we approached this trip, we asked God to bring us to our own points of pain and brokenness so that our hearts might be shaped in ways that will allow us to understand the coomplexity and despair of things here. We're getting there I believe.
However, being a few minutes late really wasn’t going to be a big deal. In fact, Dan knows me well enough to pretty much expect it. But, there was something bigger pushing me. Lightning was filling the sky. As the lightning bolts struck, they illumined the entire sky. It was not the kind of lightning that occurs in in big zig zag cracks through the sky but instead the kind that, for brief moments, turns the darkness into day, allowing you to see the entire sky.
And, when this lightning struck, I was treated to a view of some of this world’ ugliest. Dark menacing clouds came into view as the light illumined them.
I wanted to get to Dan and Erin’s before the rain hit. I knew that they would have bags to store away in the back of my car. I was going to feel pretty stupid if I arrived in the middle of a downpour when, if I’d been there on time, all would have been dry and clear. As it turned out, I arrived just as a few huge drops were starting to fall. We got a little damp carrying their bags out but it could have been much worse.
So we drove on to the airport. We went through a shower but all was well.
At the airport, we met the rest of our group – Lisa H, Beth, Pam, Ed, and Seth. We all pretty much arrived at the same time. We got checked in without incident. Well, I take that back. Ed was detained a few minutes at security. (They undoubtedly were profiling people because he does look a little suspicious, don’t you think?)
Once we got back to the gate, we sat down to wait for our flight. It was still dark out but, as we sat there, the sun began to come up. We could not miss a beautiful red-orange sunrise cutting through the dark clouds. We could see it out a window where Lisa was sitting talking on her phone, silhouetted by this beautiful backdrop. (Giving last minute instructions to Chris I hope!) As the light outside entirely overtook the darkness, the world was made right.
(Lisa later told me that this was the first time she remembered going on a major trip without Chris in a long time. She is doing just fine. And I think that secretly she wants to kick up her heels and shout "Wow! For once that preacher man isn't following me around!" Heehee)
As I write this, we’re on the second leg of our journey, flying from Chicago to San Diego. During our layover in Chicago, we all seemed to gradually awaken to the bright day and to the reality of the next several days that lie ahead of us.
God treated us to quite a show this morning with the light taking over the darkness, initially in bursts but later in a glorious sunrise. We do not mean to be preupmtuous but we know God’s power is strong. If He can, in any way, use us to bring bursts of hope and light to the darkness of the sex trade and human enslavement … if we can bring encouragement to those we meet who are already fighting this darkness … if He can develop a plan that we can be a part of to eventually bring a beautiful sunrise on this situation in Tijuana … well, we want to be those vessels.
Thank you, God, for your power, for your light, and for your burden to make that light overtake the darkness.
Who is this God? He was the beginning of all things. He created us out of love. That love still abounds, despite the darkness that creeps into this world. He sent His son to reconcile Himself with that darkness, to provide the Light out. We are to have the same love that God has.
We are His servants. We rejoice in what He offers us. We serve out of gratitude. We proclaim His Love and dominion. He gives us unending power when we serve for Him.
These notes I wrote from Colossians 1 seem very relevant as we head to Mexico. May God give us His power and His wisdom to be able to bring some light into very dark areas because He, and we, love the people there so very much.
If this is a fight that you want me to be in, hold me in a state of humility and brokenness and allow this trip to permanently mark my heart with images and words ... images and words that no longer allow me to ignore the injustice of enslavement without being convicted that, by ignoring what I know, I am just as guilty as the perpetrators.
Bring my heart to where it needs to be in order that I will be your servant, my Lord.
I love you ... I want to serve you and those you love. Amen
Stand under one mantle, all with the same goal.
Know that God is with us. Be content and not anxious because our true life is not here but with our heavenly Father whose Kingdom will be realized.
I shared a couple of weeks ago that I had made the decision to go to Tijuana on a Missions Trip through our church. We are leaving on Sunday.
What I did not share with you is that this is not a typical missions "work" trip. We will be staying at the orphanage our church supports (I fear there will be many sleepless children forced to listen to my snoring) and we will undoubtedly have time for some fun with the kids and perhaps some other service projects but here's the rest of the scoop on our trip:
This trip is the brainchild of our senior pastor's soon-to-be-17-year-old son. He is an amazing guy. He has been to Tijuana on past trips and God has really touched his heart with the issues of prostitution and human trafficking that go on there. He has assembled a team of us to go down and learn about these issues ... and to see if we can dream together in developing an ongoing ministry that either fights the core issues, brings comfort to those involved, or perhaps both.
So, I am looking forward to the trip. I enjoy researching and analyzing things and gaining deeper understanding.
Please pray for our trip if you would. Pray for those who are the victims of human trafficking and prostitution. Pray for those we will be meeting with. Pray that our own hearts will continue to be shaped and softened by these issues, so that we can carry a good message back home when we return. Pray for our safety (needless to say, those making money off of enslaved individuals will not welcome us if they figure out what we're there to learn about). Pray that we will reach wherever God wants us to reach in regards to all of this, both by a personal reaching deeper into Him and by reaching further out in His love.
Pray that the kids at the orphanage, as well as my fellow sojourners, will sleep well despite my snoring.
Well, today is a very special day -- my girlfriend's birthday. I won't give details but it is one of those sort of "milestone" birthdays. It doesn't end in "0" but maybe a number somewhere midway between "0" and "10".
Anyway, what a blessing it is to have her as my wife. You know, the years seem to fly by. But that is the way it is when you spend them with someone you are flipping head over heels in love with. And, despite the years flying by, you look forward to the future, too.
So, Happy Birthday, my love!
I commented to him that the cross necklace was nice. He received the compliment well so I asked him "What does that necklace -- the cross -- mean to you?"
Almost without thinking, he instantly replied "My Lord and Savior".
That was very neat but it also got me to thinking. Christians use the phrase "My Lord and Savior" pretty regularly.
But, for me at least, using the phrase is not necessarily the same as really thinking about the phrase. How often do I really, really think about this phrase -- "My Lord and Savior"?
I think that most often I want to flip the statement -- "My Savior and Lord" -- because it occurs to me that I like the "Savior" part of it. That is pretty cool to have a Savior. That is truly a friend with benefits. But having a "Lord"? well, that is a bit more difficult.
I confess that all too often I like to be Lord over my own life. I think I am learning a lot right now in this area and, after it all plays out a bit, I will share it here at a future time. But these are real lessons for me.
As anyone knows who has tried to walk this path, it's not easy to really give someone else Lordship over your life -- to be a slave to them. Paul did it. Mother Theresa. Billy Graham. And look at the impact they all three have had. And there are many more as well, including many of the wonderful people I know personally.
For me, I am glad that this thing is a journey ... because it takes a lot of time and work.
Who (or what) has Lordship over your life?
Tonight, though, I got to see a movie. A friend and I went to see Get Smart. It was nothing spectacular but I did enjoy it.
I never watched the Get Smart television series very much. I was pretty young when it was on -- a mere babe in arms in fact (HA!) -- and it never made a lot of sense to me. This movie made a little more sense to me.
Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway were great. I loved seeing Alan Arkin -- one of my favorite comic actors of all time. The cameo by Bill Murray was, well, quirky. And James Caan made an interesting president.
The script was okay. Could have been funnier. The actors did well with what they had to work with. There were a lot of dry spells in the script but the actors keot us engaged.
If you are of a younger generation and do not remember the TV series, I really doubt you will enjoy the movie. But if you remember the TV show, the movie will bring some good laughs and memories of times gone by.
All other things will start to fall away when we truly make God our goal.
It makes me think of the things I am holding onto tightly, and don't want to let go of. How do those things separate me from God?
What all does it mean to you?
It's quick and easy to think of "humbling oneself" in the form of serving others. And, when we think of that, we think of physical acts of serving others -- doing things to help them. Putting their comfort before our own.
And that's all good. Lots of stories of Jesus modeling that for us.
But one story that's always interested me is when Jesus met the woman at the well. Instead of getting His own water and even serving her water, He asked her to serve Him.
Did you ever think about that? It hardly seems like a good example of living a life of humility and service.
Her response was fairly mild but could have been "Ha! Me get water for you, you holier-than-thou Jew? I am just a Samaritan ... get your own water!"
Jesus knew though that He had a bigger way to serve her than just drawing a cup of water for her. He recognized fertile soil in her and used His request for a cup of water to draw her into conversation -- conversation that could change her life.
Rather than just serve her in a physical way, Jesus served her in the greatest way possible -- by engaging her and discipling her ... to have a Kingdom impact on her life.
I can take some lessons from that. It is important to serve others in physical ways. I don't mean to denigrate that idea. But serving others by doing things for them is a pretty easy thing to do.
It is much more difficult to lay oneself open and look to invest oneself in another person ... to serve them not just with a physical cup of water but to serve them with something that will have an eternal impact.
I actually did not help with the heavy clean up though Lisa and I have been busy with washing bedding and linens, re-hanging curtains, and getting furniture back in order.
All the time hating raccoons. I am sure that some day God will be explain to me how raccoons were good and how man sort of messed things up with stuff we did like putting houses and boats where they wanted to live but, until then, I am just not seeing it.
Anyway, it was great to get away with Lisa and Evan for the weekend. I doubt we have time or budget for a major trip this summer so, as always, I cherish our times together at the lake where priorities and thought processes seem to just naturally change.
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
This scripture just reminds me of what a long, long, long way I have to go. Yes, I realize it is a journey but I do long so to reach this sort of destination in my own spiritual formation. To totally humble my "self" ... to put others always before me ... to follow God wherever He leads me ... to be one that Jesus and Paul and many others who have gone before us can look at and say "that is why I did what I did." To shine like a bright star in a dark, dark world.
Of the people you know, who best embodies this sort of Kingdom living?
Folks who are in addiction recovery look at things one day at a time ... just making it through each 24 hour period without relapse.
My addiction is to my "self" and to my own humanity. Doing things "my" way instead of God's way. Trying to lead instead of follow. Not putting others consistently before myself.
Can I commit to a Kingdom life a week at a time? A day at a time? An hour at a time?
As Paul points out later in Chapter 2, it is only through the encouragement of Christian community that we really have any hope of recovering from our "selves".
Last week, though, I had two customers at work ask me to do things which are illegal that would benefit them. One was a foreign account and the other was a domestic customer. I am really troubled by that.
In both cases, I respectfully replied that I really am rather fond of my family and have no desire to go away for 10 to 15 years.
These are tough times though, make no mistake about it. Our world is changing rapidly and will never again be quite the same for us or our families.
I remember how, a few weeks before we got married, we were out shopping for a bed that would be later delivered to our new home -- our apartment. I had never shopped for a bed before. I'd always been "given" a bed, with no opportunity really to pick out my own mattress and box springs.
Shopping for a bed is sort of an unusual experience because you pretty much have to lay down on them in order to know whether you like them. So, here we are at the furniture store, the clerk standing over us (like he was fearing we might shoplift a queen-sized mattress), and trying out different beds.
Then I said it ... one of the worst bad jokes of my life.
"Gosh, honey, we're not even married yet and here I am bed-hopping already!"
Like I said, the woman ought to be sainted for having put up with my bad jokes all these years. We have our 20th anniversary this fall. It's not like she didn't know what she was getting into though. We dated for over seven years before we got married.
Warning: I would give this post a PG-13 rating.
So, I suppose that humbling moments are good for a person. Humbling moments can come in all shapes and sizes. Mine tend to come in the shape and size of "ewww ... that's weird."
Okay, ready ... here goes ...
I have had some strange pimple-like thing on my posterior and, you guessed it, it picked a pretty weird spot to locate itself. One of those "hard to reach" spots.
I haven't quite known what to do with it but, this morning, I decided that a bandaid was in order. So, to the cupboard I went, looking for the perfect shape and size. They make a lot of different bandaids these days and we have a pretty good sampling of them. I wanted one that would seal well on all sides rather than "gap" in the middle. The gap could cause chafing. And I did not want chafing.
So I chose the perfect bandaid. It just happened to have Bob the Builder on it. I thought that it was a little funny going around with Bob on my bum but it seemed like the right thing to do. Lisa and I had a laugh about it when I shared this fact with her.
I figured my exposure of this secret would end there.
But, today was a warm, humid day in Ohio. And I was wearing shorts. And some friends came over. One was helping me carry some things into the garage when, on one trip, I looked down and could only gasp. There he was -- Bob the Builder, sticky side up, in all his glory. Yes, I was wearing underwear. How he escaped, I do not know but he did.
So I hatched the perfect plan. I was carrying things toward the garage when I saw Bob. I quickly decided that my return trip to the car would give me the perfect opportunity to reach down inconspicuously and grab Bob. My friend, who was helping carry things, was behind me at the time but his hands were full and I figured he would never see Bob, provided my plan could be executed with flawless precision.
Only one problem -- when I returned to the car, Bob was no longer there. Crud!
I knew there was only one place he could be -- on the bottom of my friend's new Ecco sandals he was proudly wearing. Crud! (or something like that) He really never had seen Bob. I was certain what Bob's demise had been. But, I had to be sure. Doing so
was going to require drastic measures so, in true Bob the Builder fashion, I thought to myself "Can we fix it? Yes we can!"
I did the only thing I could do. I immediately said "Say, those are nice sandals. Can I see the bottom of them?"
He complied by lifting up his foot so I could see the bottom of his sandal and, from his perspective, he could not see it. There on the bottom of his sandal was exactly what --or rather who -- I expected: Bob the Builder. Complete with his drill and that big smile.
I was fortunate my friend lifted that foot first. It would have been difficult to explain why I wanted to see the bottom of both shoes.
So, I admired the sole of his sandal, bending over to get a good look ... and quickly grabbing Bob, tucking him inconspicuously into my pocket.
Can we fix it? Yes we can!
Celebrate the body of Christ, both giving and receiving encouragement.
Pray for our fellow Christians, realizing that we all fall under the same mantle, and that we all share common goals.
If folks want to be critical of you, that's okay. Just as long as they are working to build the Kingdom, the same as you. There may be differences in opinion as to how that is done but the end result must be our focus.
We are all to be bound to Christ. The more pain we feel in this world, to a large degree, the more bound to and more boisterous we will be for our Savior.
We must die to our selves if we are going to live for Him.
Keep fighting the fight. Adversity will come our way. Paul had more than his share so he speaks from experience. Keep fighting; in the end we will all stand together.
I still don't understand it though. I specialize in raccoons not skunks. Everyone knows that.
My girlfriend read it first and then encouraged me to read it. I have to admit, it's been an enjoyable read. He has a writing style that, for me, is very readable and natural.
And Chapter 6 really forced me to examine some of my ingrained notions of who God is ... it really forced me to turn some of those over, upright them, and flip them in the air to examine them as they came twirling down.
I will post more later but if you're looking for a good early summer read, this may very well be it.
Okay, before all my friends start to organize a program to be at my side 24-7 (I love you all but maybe not that much -- heehee), let me clarify something. I do not say this in an "I am going to jump off of a cliff" sort of way. I am more commenting on just how fleeting our time in this world is and how I long to see God's Kingdom realized.
Of course, I know that in that comment is the "point" of this life -- to play a role in the growing and creation of His Kingdom. And, wow, what an honor that is. God doesn't really need me to build His Kingdom. He doesn't need any of us but yet He gives us exactly that opportunity. Very cool. And scary. And humbling.
In this world as we know it, I think we get fleeting glimpses of what His Kingdom revealed will be like. I think we see glimpses of it when we're serving others, loving others, involved in authentic Christian community, and even when we're being served. Obviously, God has rightfully chosen to leave us with great mystery as to what His Kingdom will look like but don't you think we see glimpses of it in these things?
While I long and ache for His Kingdom, at the same time I do not feel worthy. I still feel dirty. Now I know that redemption and salvation come from faith and His grace but, still, I feel so unworthy. Yet, again, I long to see what will be there for us beyond this world that we know today. This world where we increasingly see people feeling like there is no point in going on. Where we increasingly see people struggle. Where we see injustices that make us shake and shudder. I want to see beyond that.
Well, fact is, in our serving ... in our living out the work that is to be done which will eventually help in bringing His Kingdom to light, there is that hope, there is that ability for us to see beyond the confines of this world. We can see beyond by comforting others and by allowing them to see what God offers us. As we ourselves reach out, we help others to reach new places as well ... we can help them to reach God's Kingdom, allowing it to be realized in the huge and glorious way that He has planned for us.
Anyway, my friend mentioned that he likes cases that have a lot of compartments in them. That got me to thinking ... increasingly younger generations do seem to have more compartments they carry around. It started with cargo pants and then book bags and backpacks and suitcases. Now they have a nook or a cranny for just about anything.
And, when you think about it, things like Facebook and MySpace also allow for compartmentalization.
I am not sure it's all a good thing. Keeping things hidden does not mean they don't exist.
I think I will stick with my generation -- we just throw all our crap onto the table in a big pile for others to enjoy, admire, pity, laugh at, or cry with.
It was odd tough -- there were big signs for the restroom and it was one of those layouts where both the men's and women's restrooms were off off a small hallway adjacent to the main hallway. As we walked by and glanced down this hallway all we could see was the sign the for women's restroom so we continued down the hall, a but confused. We tried to get an airport worker to help us but she just gave is this odd look of fear and no help. For Pete's sake, all we wanted was to know where the men's restroom was. I mean, we both look rather manly even though perhaps there are women in Oregon who look more manly. (Just kidding .... maybe.)
So, we had no choice but to turn around and, on our way back toward baggage claim, we saw the earlier mentioned hallway and this time we could see the sign for "Men" so we proceeded in. I was able to complete my business faster than my co-worker could so I headed back out to walk around the main hallway. When I did this, though, I looked to my right down the hallway we had earlier traversed and you will not believe what I saw!
A TSA security guy and huge signs stating to not proceed beyond this point as it was a passenger exit area and a secure point.
I look around because this was the hallway we had walked down earlier and I swear that the TSA person and those huge signs had not been there before. I may not always be as observant as I should be but I would have seen things like that.
So, I went back into the restroom and my co-worker soon completed his business. I suggested that he look to his right as we come out of the restroom and let me know if he notices anything of interest. Of course he saw the TSA guy (complete with tight TSA pants with the metal zipper tangs holding on for dear life) and the signs ... he was also convinced they were not there earlier.
So, I am still trying to figure it all out but it appears as though my chance to be on CNN was once again narrowly missed.
I awoke an hour later to hear arguing going on amongst the passengers not only behind me on the plane but also in front of me. Their arguments seemed to both have something to do with dissatisfaction in regards to where they were seated.
I never did figure out exactly what was going on in either case but as I sat there I developed this fear that perhaps both the person in front of me and the person in back of me were intent on getting away from the snoring bald guy in 29D. I stayed awake the rest of the flight.
Our life in these mortal bodies will always fall short of God's
standard. From the moment sin entered the world, we've been unable to
satisfy God's requirement of perfection. But, knowing our weakness, God
gave His Son as a sacrifice to make perfect those who believe; "By one
sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy"
(Hebrews 10:14). Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus makes us perfect forever
- this is the gracious gift of Salvation; "it is by grace you have been
saved, through faith" (Ephesians 2:8).
The grace of God makes us perfect the moment we are saved; but, for the
rest of our days on this earth, we are in the process of "being made
holy." This is why Paul, who freely writes about the gift of grace, can
also exhort us to a life free of sin; "Do not let sin reign in your mortal
body so that you obey its evil desires" (Romans 6:12). Paul understood
that, though we have become "perfect forever," we have also been called to
a high standard of holiness. He therefore refers to his life after
Salvation as a race to be won; "Forgetting what is behind and straining
toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which
God has called me" (Philippians 3:12-14).
The picture of a well-conditioned athlete straining toward the finish line
can be a wonderful motivator. However, when we press and strain toward the
wrong goal - or with our own strength - we will soon become fatigued and
discouraged. We are in a race, but we must allow Jesus to establish the
goal as well as the route to be run. The goal of a Christian life must
always be to produce fruit that glorifies God; "This is to My Father's
glory, that you bear much fruit" (John 15:8). And the route of fruit
production must ALWAYS be through the vine of Christ.
"No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither
can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the
branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from Me you can do nothing."
We are called to produce fruit by living a life of holiness and bringing
glory and honor to God in all we do. However, fruit can only grow if we
remain intimately attached to the vine - a branch cannot produce anything
by itself! In our own strength we cannot produce holiness or ANYTHING
esteemed by God. But when we allow the life of the vine to flow through
our veins, we WILL produce a bounty of fruit.
Let's attach firmly to the vine of Jesus Christ and allow Him to flow
though every area of our life. Let's live each day in the holy presence of
God and produce baskets of fruit for His glory and honor. Let's run to win
the race as we press and strain toward the vine.
So, finally, at the age of 44, I got my bling!
A couple of weeks ago, I had to have a molar capped. The dentist gave me the option of a tooth-color porcelain cap or a gold cap. The gold cap was about $25 more but he said that, particularly for a molar, it would be far more durable.
So, I've got my bling now, baby. And, I figure that if I ever find myself stranded in a foreign country with no money, I can rip that sucker out and sell it!
I'm looking at grills now.
Back to my post about the toilet that can flush 29 golf balls. How about cross-marketing to share leads between this company and local gastroenterologists?
Now, I am informed of the latest and greatest entry into the "Will It ...?" world ... and finally one that has personal meaning to all of us ...
"Will It Flush 29 Golf Balls?"
Yes, manufacturers of toilets now often "rate" the flushing capacity of their porcelain best with how many golf balls they can handle with just one flush.
A couple of years ago, my company invested in a couple of toilets that supposedly could flush 15 golf balls. We have never put them to that literal test though I am sure we have given them a run for their money a time or two. The thing that really surprised us was that these toilets, despite their amazing capabilities, are still rather low volume when it comes to water. In fact, when they are in their "resting" mode between flushes, there is very little water visible in the bowl at all.
And 15 golf ball capacity has served us well.
But now I hear that one manufacturer is touting 29 golf ball capacity.
And, for the first time in my life, I am flush with flush envy.
I am still not a fan of inaction particularly when it is borne out of complacency or fear but I am starting to realize that we need to let God lead ... keep Him before us ... don't try to make Him chase us.
..."Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today...." - Exodus 14:13
The Israelites had just left 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They had fled to the desert, but they had come to a dead end at the Red Sea. Word reached them that Pharaoh had changed his mind. He was sending his troops to recapture the Israelites. They cried out to their leader Moses, complaining that he had brought them that far only to die in the desert.
Learning when to move and when to stand is the greatest challenge for a workplace believer. We are trained for action. We are not trained to sit idly and wait. We are trained to solve problems, not wait for them to resolve themselves. However, God says there are times to wait. We are to wait until He says go. If we go before He says go, we likely will make our situation worse. If the Israelites had attempted to cross the Red Sea before it parted, they would have drowned. If they had fled north to try to avoid the Egyptians, God would not have moved in a miraculous way. God cannot work on our behalf if we continually try to solve our problem when He has instructed us to stand still. Standing still is sometimes the greatest action we can do, although it is the most difficult thing to do in the Christian walk.
Stand still when He says stand and see the deliverance of the Lord.
I have written about this before ... back when I was in college I was the quintessential button down Ronald Reagan Alex P Keaton conservative Republican. And I was Todd E Miller. A good friend of mine keeps saying that one of these days they are going to call and make me return my Alex P Keaton necktie. He may be right. Or he may be crazy. (In his case, he may be both actually.)
Anyway, when I was in college most of the guys wore tennis shoes, sweatpants, and t- shirts or sweatshirts to class. I didn't own any sweats. I wore Topsiders (does anyone even know what I mean by that?), Levi's, and a button down shirt. Every day.
I prided myself on going to sales at Lazarus (now Macy's) to buy my clothes. I never bought clothes that weren't on sale and I am guessing all in all that I spent less on clothes than did the guys wearing sweats.
I pretty much do that same thing today as far as seeking out bargains. In the past few days I have bought four shirts and a pair of swim trunks for a grand total of ... $37.
Not much has changed ... except one thing.
Now I truly worry that the clothes I buy are being produced by slave labor.
There goes my Alex P Keaton tie...
Being a dad is an amazing and scary thing.
It bothers me that we have seen it cheapened so much over recent years ... you know that TV dads are a pet peeve of mine ... but there's a more serious issue involved ...
I am not sure where to start with this.
It's easy for dads to mess up their kids I think. From being too forceful and even abusive to ignoring their kids and leaving parenting up to the mom.
But then there's more than that. The big story in the 80s and 90s was "deadbeat dads" -- dads who, after a divorce, didn't pay child support nor play an active role in their childrens' lives.
But that has gotten worse. Now, from stories I have read, there is an increasing trend when a child is born out of wedlock for the dad to just disappear ... and the mom doesn't care nor expect anything different. The child was born out of a quick hook-up and no one expected any ties on the dad's part if conception did occur.
That is scary stuff I cannot begin to understand.
Being a dad is serious business. If you're going to be a father, commit to being a dad and doing your best to do it right.
Like I said, hats off today to those active dads and also to those who play the role of dad in someone's life!
Click Here: Strange Culture
1) Writing is my way of processing things in my own head and, oftentimes, of letting go of them.
2) Someone may read this and have some good input for me.
3) Someone may read this and in some way be helped by it.
I have struggled most of my adult life with just getting "down in the dumps" from time to time. I would not begin to say that what I experience is anywhere near the horrid depths of darkness experienced by those with clinical depression, but it's still no fun.
My blues come and go. It's interesting to note that my first real experience was about the same time I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. That has always intrigued me. Depression is considered to be a symptom of fibro. To me, it's sort of a chicken and the egg thing though. Am I down as part of my fibro or am I down because I am tired of being in pain all the time. Interesting, eh?
Anyway ... maybe about 12 years ago, my blues hit the point where I inquired with my doctor about antidepressants. This was about the time that Prozac and some of the other drugs were hitting it big. He put me on Paxil. I went back to him after a month and reported that I was feeling much better in terms of my depression. So, we agreed that I would stay on it.
Then, about two weeks later, things changed. I started having real vivid, intense and unpleasant dreams. And I started feeling more than ever like I was in a fog -- like I wasn't "all there". So, I stopped taking Paxil and never really looked back. About that time, my doctor changed so no one ever asked me about it.
Fast forward to this past winter. Again, I was feeling pretty blue. Not as bad as I remember 12 years ago but still not the greatest. I also have been feeling pretty bad with fibro symptoms. Again, the chicken and the egg thing between the fibro and the depression. So, I talked to my doctor and he prescribed Effexor which is an antidepressant but is also used a lot to treat fibro.
Same story as with Paxil ... at the end of a month, I felt pretty good. And the fibro was better. We decided I'd stay on the same dosage of Effexor. Then, about two weeks later (just recently), the dreams set in. Real vivid, intense dreams, often about childhood experiences that I really would prefer to not re-live without the help of a trained therapist. And then a fibro flare set in. And then I felt like I was in a fog ... very little energy ... and my creativity (which normally is reasonably high), fell dramatically. It took a toll on my blogging, my family life, and my work.
So, I have stopped taking Effexor. I realize I have some issues from my childhood that I need to process. I really can't process them in an open forum like my blog. I have talked to close friends about them but they are not necessarily trained to ask those "tell me more" sort of questions that really help one work through such things.
One of these days, I need to invest in a therapist. But, until then, antidepressants are not for me I have decided.
There you have it ... just keepin' it real.
As Christians, we all share a “calling” in terms of how we live our lives as a reflection of God’s love but Spiritual Leaders are those with a specific and defined CALL to order their entire lives around personal ministry – it is a pivotal and life changing decision. It can come early or late in life and it can be dramatic or occur over time. Their life identity centers on being spiritual leaders. They feel partnered with God in His mission and see their personal focus on the spiritual development of others. Personal ambition and goals become subservient to the call.
McNeal predicts that in the future here in the United States, living out the call will bring with it potential persecution and pain, just as it did for the early Christians and does for Christians in so many parts of the world today.
Quote from the book: “God’s call is always relevant to the times. He is not in the business of recruiting leaders to serve the past. He anticipates the need and then calls and equips leaders for each era.”
What does this all tell me? It’s crucial that we keep hearts that are soft to God’s call. Whether it is a dramatic and permanent change in our lives or perhaps just a re-focusing for a season, God is actively preparing and calling people to lay their lives down for the lives of others.
Then he talked about the different models of Christian leadership and referenced what he calls the “New” Apostolic Leadership Model. He lists several character traits for this type of leader. I found these all pretty fascinating because I think they really describe how, both individually and as a group, how our church operates. I felt that the goals and objectives and discussions of our recent vision team process really matched these traits.
McNeal admits that in this ever changing world, the character and content of our call can be difficult to ascertain. But he provides some roadmap for doing so.
He talks about taking inventory of your competencies and gifts – God has placed within us each certain things that we bring to the table to serve Him. Our Call will match those gifts, passions and abilities. If we’re called to reach children, then our gifts will show it, they will respond to us. If we’re called to teach and preach to adults, then they will respond to us. If we’re called to do more administrative things, then our efforts there will bring results. If we’re called to research and write, then we will find our greatest joy there.
What has God anointed in you? When do you feel most alive in ministry? That is probably your area of call to Spiritual Leadership. How is it being reflected in what you’re doing today? What is God calling you to do with this in the future?
"Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade -- and How We Can Fight It." The back cover of this book by David Batstone has some alarming statistics: "Human trafficking generates $31 billion annually and enslaves 27 million people around the globe, half of them children under the age of eighteen."
Not For Sale paints heart-wrenching pictures of abuse and bondage in today's world. Written in a unique format, the book looks at several areas of the world, including the United States, and juxtaposes stories of slavery with stories of abolitionists.
I highly recommend this book. You will not look at the world the same again after you read it.
Those of you who know me will hopefully see some humor in this. As for the rest of you, go hug a tree or something!
(Don't worry -- I am joiking about this book ... sort of.)
"A relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life." Proverbs 14:30 (LB)
Did you know that people who laugh live longer? It's true. Proverbs 14:30 says, "A relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life." (LB)
Humor is an amazing thing. It's a tension dissolver. It's an antidote to anxiety. It's just like a tranquilizer, but without any troublesome side-effects. And it's free! You don't even need a prescription.
Laughter is life's shock absorber. If you want to have less stress in your life, learn to laugh at your circumstances.
Someone once asked U.S. President Abraham Lincoln how he handled all the stresses of the Civil War. He said, "If it hadn't been for laughter, I could not have made it."
Many famous comedians grew up in poor neighborhoods with lots of problems. They coped with their troubles by learning to laugh and making others laugh.
So learn to laugh. If you can laugh at it, you can live with it. And besides, if you learn to laugh at your troubles, you'll never run out of anything to laugh at! Life is full of funny situations. The cowboy comedian Will Rogers once said, "I don't know any jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 2:4, "The One enthroned in heaven laughs." (NIV) Isn't that a great verse? God has a sense of humor. God laughs!
Have you ever seen the face of an orangutan? God thought that one up! That proves he has a sense of humor. Do you want to be more like God? Learn to laugh.
"[Faith] is not a well-fluffed nest, or a well-defended castle high on a hill. It is more like a rope bridge over a scenic gorge, sturdy but swinging back and forth, with plenty of light and plenty of air but precious little to hang on to except the stories you have heard…All you have to do is believe in the bridge more than you believe in the gorge…"
Click here for the story of Angel Arce Torres.
"Then Moses said to them, 'No one is to keep any of it until morning.'" - Exodus 16:19
Have you ever seen God do something really good in your life only to find that you have abused the blessing He gave you? Such was the case of the Israelites as they were traveling through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. God was providing for them in miraculous ways. Manna was provided each day as their bread. God gave Moses specific instructions as to how this manna was to be eaten. God said each one was to gather only what he needed for that day. No one was to keep it until the next morning.
"However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them" (Ex. 16:20). God was teaching the Israelites daily trust in His provision for them. He wanted them to trust Him one day at a time. If they tried to hoard, God put a self-destruct feature in the manna. Yet God also told them to gather two days' worth on the sixth day so that they would have manna to eat on the seventh day. Interestingly, this manna did not stink or have maggots.
For many years I gathered manna in business out of fear of not having enough. One day, the Lord decided that manna should be destroyed in order for me to learn total trust in His provision. When we operate out of fear, we can expect the Lord to lovingly discipline us in order to help us learn to trust Him. There is a danger when we seek to "insure ourselves" against calamity. If your actions are born from fear, you can expect God to demonstrate His loving reproof so that you might not live in fear.
2) Please say a prayer for my girlfriend, Lisa, if you would. She's really up against it with allergy problems and an eye infection right now. I so want to see her feeling better soon!
I'm starting to think that walls are highly over-rated.
Two children, too young to even be outside alone, playing near the road.
Pre-teens wandering aimlessly side to side down the road on their bikes.
A shirtless and heavily tatted man standing in his yard talking on his cell phone appears to be very angry.
A young toddler near the road, a young woman between the road and the house, turning and shouting at an older woman standing by the house.
I don't really know any exact stories here but an overwhelming sense of hurt swept over me as I viewed these scenes one after the other after the other.
I sound horribly pessimistic but the pressures of life are mounting. High gas prices, increased food costs, balloon mortgages that cannot be met, homes that aren't selling, politicians who don't stand for anything because they want to stand for everything, a scarcity of jobs, wages and hours being cut.
It's not pretty out there. The end result of these pressures is often spoiled relationships, purposeless lives, wasted talent.
I've been thinking a lot about where one finds hope in a seemingly hopeless world, a world that saps energy and optimism rather than gives it.
Now, perhaps more than anytime before in my lifetime, we live in a world that needs to be living for something greater than man can provide.
Proving that hope to others is always a challenge. How do you prove hope to those who are void of it? How do you prove hope to those who have never seen it?
After I made the decision to go, though, something else occurred to me ... and I am being very vulnerable here ... and laying myself out pretty raw ... there was a time in my life when Mexico was the last place on earth I would have gone unless I absolutely had to. You see, I used to travel to Texas a lot and had some experiences with Hispanics that weren't that great. Those experiences created in me some prejudices which were very unfair and I know that. Over the years, I have softened and, I'd like to think, been transformed some. At least to the point that I didn't even think of old biases until after I'd made the decision to go.
But I have no doubt this will still be a story of God shaping my heart further.
And who knows ... there may even be a book in it. We'll see.
About 2600 years ago, God taught the prophet Jeremiah what it meant to be a sovereign God. He taught that His plan WOULD be fulfilled - one way or the other. Either His children would submit to His gentle guidance, or He would bring discipline to teach them the need for obedience.
Although God has the ability to directly give us understanding, His usual method is to teach us through His Word and then allow us to see the application and gain wisdom through our experiences. In order to give a clear understanding of His sovereignty, God told Jeremiah to go to the potter's house and wait for His message.
"So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the Word of the Lord came to me: 'Can I not do with you as this potter does?' declares the Lord. 'Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand.'"
Jeremiah understood that God was the Potter and had total control over the shape of the clay. How foolish it would be for the clay to complain or rebel; "Can the pot say of the potter, 'He knows nothing'?" (Isaiah 29:16). The Potter will continue to mold the clay. If the clay begins to harden in its unfinished state, the Potter loves the clay enough to crush it down, sprinkle it with water and begin anew.
The only way for us to become all that God desires is to yield and remain moldable. We have no ability to shape ourselves! The Potter is creating something eternally beautiful - we are being "conformed to the likeness of His Son" (Romans 8:29). Oh, if we could only trust that His shaping is so much better than anything we could ever create. How prideful to think we can do better!
There may be times when we have rough edges which must be removed. There may also be times when we need to be crushed down so the shaping process can start over. But we must trust the Potter and believe the results will be worth any pain or discomfort; "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
Our Heavenly Father is in complete (and loving) control. Let's daily be filled with His Spirit and commit our lives to His shaping process - a process which undoubtedly will last a lifetime! Let's remain moldable clay and yield to the shaping of the Potter's Hand.
I have had a flood of thoughts taking over me the past couple of weeks along these lines. You may remember my post last week about sitting at Panera's and seeing some people sit as individuals at a table for ten. After reading that post, my very wise friend, in a very gentle way, helped me to see that perhaps I had missed an opportunity to engage some folks in simple conversation and who knows where that might have led. It could have been fascinating and life-changing for me or perhaps even for the lone table sitters.
But instead I sat at my own table for two ... by myself.
Dang, I hate it when people teach me things! An old dog like me shouldn't have to learn new tricks! Or should I?
Of course, I know the answer to that and it is an exciting one.
I really am striving to stretch myself and be more of a "reacher" than a "receiver". I consider myself, even as an introvert, as being a fairly relational person ... but only when the other person reaches out to me first.
That isn't right.
We're living in difficult times ... and they seem to be getting more difficult all the time for many of us.
The Great Commission starts with "Go". I can't do that when I am sitting alone at my table for two at Panera.
He was carrying a string of decoys to put out.