A few personal, thought provoking, fun, brilliant insights

August 26, 2016

As some of you know I golf. Notice I didn’t say, “I’m a golfer.”  That implies things that are just not true.  Things like saying on a regular basis, “Honey, I’m going to the range to hit a bucket of balls.” Or, “Hey kids, get me golf balls and gloves for Christmas.”  Or even, “Ellen, I have 5 hours to do nothing so I’m going to go play golf ALL BY MYSELF.”  Um… I don’t think so.  Mostly it has to do with who I’m playing with that makes the game fun.  Hitting little white golf balls with friends and folks from the church is great.  If I had the opportunity to play with… say… Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton and… um… Satan… I would pass.  I guess I fall into the “average” range.  For you non golfers that means (at least to me), if I golf in the low 90’s for 18 holes I feel pretty good about myself.  Which by extension means that if I golf in the low 80’s I’m ecstatic!  Over 9 holes a low 40 score is really cool… below 40… well… honestly I’m not sure about that yet.  This past week I golfed an 85 for 18 holes.  I was thrilled.  I have to say however, that the clown mouth hole was difficult and the windmill with the little zig zag water hazards was next to impossible!  I’ll keep you posted.

Question: Should worship ever be “fun?”  Conversely, if something in church is “fun,” is it worship?

Ellen and I found out a week or so ago that we are going to be grandparents for the first time. Two thoughts:  First, we saw one of those sonogram pictures.  (I really wanted to spell it “sauna-gram” since the developing baby will be floating in warm fluid for the next several months but…).  Anyway, it looks like Christina (my daughter-in-law) will be giving birth to a kidney bean.  Second thought: so much for any disposable income I might have even dreamed of having.

Question: In the context of worship, what does “reverent” mean or look like?

Serious question: Is there anything on television that falls under the category of “wholesome”?  You know “Little House on the Prairie”-like?

Naturally the answer to the last question has everything to do with what our definition of “wholesome” is. And that’s really the issue, isn’t it?

I’m in a weekly book study with two of my young adult children (Rebekah and Benjamin). The topics are either “Christian development” or “youth ministry.”  We just started a book by a women who did a study on “what kids know about Jesus.”  (Her research also included adults, to some degree).  How much kids (including “church kids”) know about Jesus is predictable and appalling.  How little adults know on the other hand is downright depressing.  How do we call Someone our “Lord” when we know next to nothing about them?  Yeah I don’t know either.

If you had your choice, would worship be: reverent, inspirational, entertaining, reminiscent, challenging, liturgical, or “worship should be like it was when I was younger. After all… if I had to sit through it so should ‘they’!”  (Believe it or not, I have actually had that last statement said to me by folks!)

I really like it when sermons are: “short but boring.”  “Long but entertaining.”

I turned 62 last week. It feels very much like… um… 61.

You know… the great thing about being in my 60’s… not only do I forget why I entered rooms… my joints hurt at the same time. COOL!

Answer the following question. The three things about Jesus I find most compelling are….

If you were to chart the direction of your Christian growth what would it look like? 1.  A path to the netherworld.  2.  A jet taking off.  3.  The stock market.

If I had to choose sermons would be: “Short but pointless.”  “Long but relevant.”

I think people should worship God corporately _______ times per year.

This question is for those who have children and grandchildren. On a scale of 1-10 how much concern do you have for your children’s and grandchildren’s spiritual well-being?  What is your strategy for teaching them about Jesus?

I worship God corporately _______ times per year.

Is faith one of those personal things that we should never talk about… even to our kids?

I wish I had a picture of every car I have ever owned. No particular reason, but they would fill an album.

If our children know nothing about Jesus… who’s responsible for that?

Back to golf… I’m right handed and I wear an XL glove… just sayin.

FYI… John the Baptist speaking about Jesus – John 3:30 30 He must become greater; I must become less.

AMEN!!!!

God’s will

August 23, 2016

This is a little bit personal and even vulnerable but…

I was praying the other day. My prayer was something like this, “Lord, show me who you want me to be. Show me what your expectations are for me. Tell me what your hopes and desires are for me. Who am I supposed to be in my last few years of professional ministry?” I have prayed similar prayers in the past. Frankly, I have been unable to discern a clear answer, but I got one this time! It was so decisive and unmistakable it startled me. As a matter of fact it’s a little embarrassing that I’m so slow.

Don’t expect me to articulate well the thoughts and feelings that ran through my mind and my soul. It’s sort of like trying to describe an odd dream to someone. You know what I mean? You can never fully explain what happened in a way that makes sense. In my head things were much clearer than they will be here. But the basic gist of Jesus’ answer was this, “Who are you supposed to be? What are you supposed to be? Be like Me, that’s what! (Note verses below) Then you will be the person I want you to be. And frankly I grow weary with prayers that are all about you. ‘What is my will for you?’ ‘What do I want you to do?’ ‘What will I do for you?’ ‘Will I do this or that for you?’ Do you see how it’s always about you? That’s a problem.”

It is a problem! I find that it is easy to turn my thoughts and my desires toward myself. Oh, surely I can rationalize them and make them seem like they are also God’s concern as well… but frankly, I fear they often are not. I do what seems best (often for me) and call it God’s will. That’s a problem.

The fascination with “finding ourselves” is an interesting topic. You know… like finding out who we are so we can better follow God. Discerning who we are so we can figure out what God is up to in our lives. Look at Mark 2 for a moment.  14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. It’s intriguing how Jesus summons. He doesn’t tell anyone to go find themselves. Or to figure out who they are. As a matter of fact he tells them something all together different in Luke 9: 59.  He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” “Follow me” seems to mean, “Follow me now and allow the less important things of this world to take care of themselves.” Um… who does that? Honestly, not many folks that I know.

We (I) do so much “navel gazing” (looking inward at ourselves all the time) in our world, that our hearts, minds and souls struggle to notice our surroundings. Yeah I know… I don’t like that accusation either. And we are so sophisticated at it that we can easily rationalize our psychological primping as something that God desires so he can use us more effectively. Good thing the Old Testament prophets didn’t waste their time doing that. They were lunatics; but, alas, lunatics who followed God; and crazy men who changed the world. You know… the kind we tend to avoid. But they were avoided back then as well. We too often stay away from those who speak for God. Too hard, too weird, too outside of our boxes. It is so much easier and more desirable to attach ourselves to the world’s wagon and go on our merry way. Well, maybe not for you, but for me it is. Not something I’m very proud of, nor do I know how I will explain that to the Lord. Thank goodness for forgiveness and grace.
I wonder… have you done anything in a while that another might mistake for the actions of Jesus? Know what I mean? Another person might say about you, “I think that’s what Jesus would have done.” It occurs to me that this question might be worth pondering.
Have a blessed day!
1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
John 13:13-17 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Ephesians 4:22-24 To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
Romans 8:28-29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
(There are many more verses like these.)

Better of Two Evils?

August 6, 2016
Ruminations
I’m not exactly sure where to start with this rumination. I have a number of things to share so if it seems out of sorts… well… it is.
First of all I did write a rumination last week but it was very political and very cynical so… I didn’t send it. I guess we have all had enough of that these days.
Second, Ellen is in New York at a camp with my two daughters. Young Life (a ministry primarily to unchurched High School students) has an outreach to teenage unwed mothers. They also offer a one week camp for these young women and their babies. Ellen, Rebekah and Alissa are watching little ones for a week. They are in their glory. All of that to say this… Ellen edits all of these ruminations and also posts them. Grammar is not my thing nor do I know how to post this so we shall see. If you get it then I guess I have figured it out.
Before dropping Ellen of in rural NY for the camp yesterday we spent a few days on vacation… two of those days in Philadelphia. It’s hard to believe but I have lived most of my life in Pittsburgh but have only visited Philly a couple of times and only once to actually “see” anything and that was the Franklin Institute. We had never toured the city or seen any of the historical sites such as Independence Hall or the Liberty Bell. I had no idea how I might react to either of these national treasures but both of us teared up standing in front of the bell. Appreciation for our nation’s history seems to grow on me as I get older. No doubt we leave much to be desired but that’s the cool part… we are free to work on the things “to be desired.”
In regard to political things… a friend shared a quote with me yesterday that is required reading for all Christians. I’m guessing most of us are familiar with C.S. Lewis. Lewis was probably the most prolific Christian writer of the 20th century and no doubt impacted the lives of millions of people around the globe. One of his landmark books is entitled “Mere Christianity.” A quote from Lewis:
“I feel a strong desire to tell you – and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me – which of these two errors is the worse [becoming an individualist or becoming a totalitarian]. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”
Does that sound familiar to anyone! I suspect we will see more and more of this quote in the next few months in Christian circles.
When I was a kid (6 or 7) my dad took me and my sisters to a drive in theater to see a scary movie called “The Mask.” (A remake of sorts featuring Jim Carey was made a few years ago.) I remember pulling into the drive in and them giving each of us cardboard glasses to wear when we were instructed to during the movie. It was an early 3-D and we were only to wear the glasses when the main character put on “the mask.” One lens was green and the other was red. It wasn’t like todays 3-D movies where things jump off of the screen. Naturally I was curious to see what the screen looked like without the glasses during the scenes we were required to wear them. It wasn’t much. Mostly the screen was blurry with red and green mashed together. You could sort of tell what was going on… it just wasn’t clear. Why do I mention this? Well I think we as believers need to look at our lives through Biblical/Jesus lenses. Do you know what I mean? Then not unlike the movie we will be able to have all of the blurriness of this world focused and made clearer. Not “fixed” mind you, just clearer. One of the things that will become easier to see is the wickedness that exists in creation. For those that see the world as a “good place getting better…” they are obviously looking through the lens of deception. For those trying to make a “Christian” argument for the lesser of two evils… um… at the end of the day they are still evil. I suspect we need to direct our energies toward something else. You can spend your time over the next three months debating which of two evils you want as our next president… or you can talk about Jesus. It’s up to you.
As some of you know I am want to frequent Chinese restaurants. I am always on the lookout for a “fortune” at the end of my meal. It has been years since I have had one. How is that you ask? Well the short if it is this… they no longer give “fortunes.” They give us “proverbs.” Fortunes tell the future. Proverbs comment on the truth of life. Well I actually got a proverb a few days ago that I really liked and I thought I would share it with you: “Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.” I sort of like that.
I hope you find these writings clear, short, easy and identifiable.
Blessings