May 26, 2015

Okay so… outside of spiritual realities, you and I are a big walking, talking, chemical/electrical reaction. And of course those reactions are controlled by our own personal computer called the Brain. What makes us unique then, outside of our physical appearance, is the gray matter enveloped in our heads. I don’t claim to have any idea how all of the sequences in our brains develop, I just know they do. And I know that all of our brains work differently. That’s what makes us… us. So I want to share a little bit of my brain with you. You can stop reading now if that sounds scary.

Here we go:
Ellen has been telling me for years that I have A.D.D. I’m not really so sure abou…
wait a minute I think I heard someone outside in the hallway…
nope, as I was saying, the sermon on Sunday is one of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5 entitled…
I wonder what we’re going to have for dinner tonight…
I miss my kids with them being all over the…
This whole A.D.D. thing bothers me. I don’t like the notion that I should live my life with an excuse for not being able to concentrate for…
Spaghetti… maybe with meat balls…
I’m sure glad Ben got the weed wacker fixed on Saturday
“faithfulness”…. Galatians 5:22…
David is moving to Indianapolis IN this weekend… excited for him but…
Isn’t that where the Colts play…
So if it’s easier to throw a ball with less air and the NFL wants to increase offense… why not just…
Maybe chicken salad…
My knee hurts…
There are baby sparrows outside my window…
That reminds me… I will be away much too much this Summer… I need to…
Are there hard boiled eggs in chicken salad?
Anyway, back to what I was saying before about fixing Ben’s car…
We are going to start Stephen Ministries in the Fall… I’m really excited about that…
Speaking of excited… Ben and Alissa are both getting married in the Fall… that should be fairly easy right?
It was easier to fix the washing machine yesterday than I thought it would be.
Speaking of things being easy… not golf…
I wonder where Rebekah is right now?
Michael and Bev Harrar will be here next week when we look at Galatians 5:22… “gentleness”…
I wonder how long those sparrows will make noise before they are old enough to fly away?
Speaking of flying… I’m afraid of heights…
I think the A.D.D. is a little bit overdone…
I made steak yesterday… it was overdone…
Should we have salad with the spaghetti?
Okay… enough of that…
Ha… A.D.D. my foot!

In Ephesians chapter 1 we are confronted by some amazing verses:
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

The simple truth is this. God knew us from before the creation of the world. After all, how could we be “chosen” by God if we were not known by God? I could be wrong but I think this meant God knew “us” as individuals, as human beings, who we would become, how our brains would work. Think about that. God knew you before you knew you. And if you are one of “Christ’s ones” then you, with all your foibles and imperfections have been adopted into God’s family. Even if your brain works in ways at times that are not so… pleasing to God, or efficient… you were still chosen. And get this… with God’s full knowledge of your weirdness.

Frankly, my chemical and electrical reactions often frustrate me. The gray matter does things I don’t like or want to do. And that in itself is a mystery. But for some reason God loves me anyway and wants me sitting at the heavenly table with the family. I rejoice in that. I pray that you rejoice in it as well.



Kids today

May 22, 2015

I don’t really know for sure the answer to the following questions but they are interesting to mull over. Have young people always thought that they know better than older people? Have they always been immature? Have they always been more radical? Have they always thought that youth would never leave them? Have they never known that becoming “old” is right around the corner?

I’m ashamed to say that I remember some of the confrontations between myself and my father when I was in my mid teens. I’m embarrassed because of the naiveté of youth and the fact that I was part of that just like most young people are. I vividly recall a few arguments I had with my dad over whether the U.S. should have dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan. Imagine a 15 year old who wasn’t even shaving yet trying to tell an adult who lived through the horrors of WW 2 what should or should not have happened. I should add that this has no bearing on what you may or may not think about Hiroshima or Nagasaki and the events of 1945, it has everything to do with the thoughtlessness and frankly egocentrism of youth. I mean I’m pretty sure that when I was 15, I was right about everything. Mark Twain said something like, “When a boy turns 12, seal him in a barrel and feed him through the hole in the side. When he turns 16… close up the hole.” I’m sure there were occasions when my dad was ready to get out the barrel.

Is the “independence” of youth in our day “different,” or “worse,” or “better”… or what? Do you know what I mean? Some say that “things are no different than they have always been. Kids are kids.” Does something in your gut say to you that that might not be quite right? Mine does. Not that the basic principle is different, but the destructive tendencies of young people seem to have grown out of control. Does a week go by now without some report of a young person killing another person? And I don’t think saying there is more news coverage now, really addresses the issue. I do think that things related to youth are “worse” than they have ever been in human history. I know that I am painting with a broad brush but…

I don’t know how to speak about this without using the phrase that I grew weary of as a kid: “When I was young…” Seriously, when I was young we were certainly disrespectful of adults on occasion, but there were actual consequences for that disrespect. I absolutely was all about myself too often, but I would have been told in no uncertain terms about my “attitude.” It was pretty clear to me as a young person that the world for sure did not revolve around me. Without question I spoke to my parents in ways that I should not have… well only on those occasions when I was looking for a slap across the face. (Whoops did I just say that? Oh my! Corporal punishment… how old fashioned can I be! Let me clarify and say I am not an advocate of “everything can be corrected by ‘beating’ kids more.” My problem is not so much with methods of discipline. My problem is more with NO DISCIPLINE.)

The truth is, the mess we find ourselves in as a culture with our kids has taken decades to develop. It will not go away easily… if ever. And maybe the biggest problem is this; we adults are just plain selfish. And our kids are selfish. And their kids will be selfish. When the Bible talks about “loving others” it means a “self sacrificial” kind of love, i.e., “not selfish.” We’re not good at that. And we don’t want to be good at it. Discipline of our kids is hard. It takes effort. We don’t have the energy or the inclination. So we allow ourselves and our kids to be enslaved by the culture. If you’re saying, “No I don’t,” how naïve you are! If your kids leave the house, or watch television in your house, they are subject to the whims of billion dollar industries that are designed to influence them… and they do.

So what do we do? Frankly I’m not really sure. But I would suggest this. If you are a parent I would encourage you (with your spouse if applicable) to sit down this evening and make a list of the values you want to develop in your children. They will not adopt your values and certainly not Godly values on their own. Nor will they just “pick them up” from you. Some intentionality is required. After struggling through your list, begin to ask this question: What needs to happen in order for them to adopt these values? It could be that radical changes are necessary. See, this is where the difficult part comes in that we just don’t want to know about. Might it mean doing things that you just don’t want to have to deal with? Maybe.

This is all very distressing isn’t it? Sorry. How about I leave you with a funny story from the Bible? It’s a story found in 2 Kings 2 and it’s about the prophet Elisha. He was traveling from one town to another and a group of kids begin to tease and heckle him and basically act in a disrespectful way. Well, how about you read it…

Elisha Is Jeered
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

Oh my gosh… what a knee slapper! 42 kids mauled by bears because of their disrespect. Oh wait… maybe that isn’t so funny.

Theology of Place

May 15, 2015

I actually wrote a rumination earlier in the week but Ellen told me it was too… depressing… for the week after Mothers Day. So, always being in agreement with my wife, here’s this week’s edition.

I teach the adult Sunday School class at our church. It’s not as well attended as I would like but I suppose that is the case more often than not. For some reason adults think they are no longer in need of “learning” about the faith. What a tragic mistake that is! I suppose it could also be because the teacher is dreadful??? NAH! Anyway, since we don’t meet in the summer, and we have a special event this coming Sunday, last week was our final class until September. It was sort of a “So, what do you want to talk about today?” kind of class.

We ended up looking at my favorite Psalm. Psalm 77 to be exact. You may or may not know that there are different genres of Psalms. There are thanksgiving Psalms, praise Psalms, royal Psalms, etc. The most prominent of the 150 in the collection are called “lament Psalms.” Essentially they are songs or poems about someone or a group of “someones” who have had some sort of tragedy (usually unspecified) and consequently they are going through a difficult time. They are often wondering where God is in the midst of their struggles. Sometimes they have trouble sleeping, praying and they even wonder if they might die. Does that sound familiar to any of you? Today we might diagnose depression. And it is possible that depression is the context for these Psalms. Look at these few verses:

I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.

The question is… how does the author of this Psalm deal with his distress? What does he do about the fact that God seems far away… and maybe no longer cares?

Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?

Basically the author decides to reminisce. He chooses to remember back to a time when God was undeniable and his power was unmistakable.

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

There are places in my life, both physical and emotional, where I can go and find comfort. From a spiritual perspective there are places where I can retreat where I know that God is real, loving and cares about me. Sometimes it requires me to remember back; to recall a time when God was so present I could almost reach out and touch Him.

Do you have a place like that in your life: a place where God is very real; a place where you can go to have your faith restored; a place to go when things seem hopeless?   I really hope you do. None of us are able to walk this faith without help and places of comfort and solace. If you don’t have a place… make one.


99 Days

May 5, 2015

Any idea what Hyperthymesia or HSMA is? I didn’t expect you would. I had to look it up.  HSMA stands for “highly superior autobiographical memory It is a rare “condition, gift, ability” whereby an individual can recall the personal events of each day of their lives. Give them a date and they can tell you where they were and what they were doing. There are only a handful of people in our country (less than 20, I believe) who have been diagnosed with this extraordinary “talent.” One is actress Mary Lou Henner. You might remember her from her role on the TV series “Taxi” which ran from 1978-1983.

I saw Miss Henner on a television show some time ago along with several other people with HSMA. To say it was fascinating and kind of freaky is an understatement! Imagine being able to recall the events of EVERY day of your life!  All of us have certain dates that stick in our minds. We can remember them as if they were yesterday. Usually they are associated with a significant event; the death of a loved one; a happy event like a wedding or the birth of a child; maybe a day when we received unwanted news; a graduation? I don’t know how many dates we can recall… but EVERY DAY? That seems impossible. And yet… I saw people do it.

Think about your life for a moment. If the average person lives to be 80… they will have seen 29,200 days. If 100 of those days stands out to us that means we can recall .0125 percent of the days of our lives.  That’s about 1/100th of one percent. (I think…) That means you can recall about 3 of 1000 days. (Please someone who has something other than a seminary degree, check my math.) That also means that approximately 99 out of 100 days are less than extraordinary… or maybe even mundane.

Here is the truth of our lives… it’s the 99 days that really tells who we are. They indicate our heart, character, and integrity. No doubt, significant events or crises can reveal part of our character, but it’s the day after day living that exposes our mettle. Not unlike those who show up for church on Easter and Christmas, right? What does that tell about their devotion to corporate worship? Very little… the other 50 weeks of the year are the “tells.” But let’s not go there… at least not right now.

Below are a few verses concerning the “days of our lives.”

Psalm 39:4

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.

Psalm 39:5

You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.

This is a tough one:

Psalm 90:9-11

All our days pass away under your wrath;     we finish our years with a moan. 10 Our days may come to seventy years,     or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,     for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 11 If only we knew the power of your anger!     Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. 

Psalm 102:11

My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

Psalm 139:16

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Ecclesiastes 2:16

For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Ephesians 5:15-17

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

It would be naïve for me to encourage you to remember each day. That just can’t and won’t happen. But it is possible to remember that each day is important. Each day gives the opportunity to honor God in who we are and in what we do. It’s great if you can “step to the plate” during a crisis, but it tells little of who you are. Live each day for God. Honor and glorify his name in ALL you do. Not in the sporadic moments when we “feel” compelled to give Him some credit. It’s the 99 days that will indicate who you are In Christ.