Itching ears

itching ears“Itching ears” – whenever I read that expression in Scriptures it piques my curiosity. It is an interesting metaphor. When our physical ears itch, we have an immediate, and almost instinctive desire to reach up and scratch that itch. Itching ears quickly draw our attention, yet rarely is an itching ear a serious health crisis.

This morning I read and reflected about this statement that Paul used in his instructions to his protégé, the young man Timothy.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.     II Timothy 4:3-4

In this context, “itching ears” is used as a metaphor for a desire or distraction to listen to the latest fad, the latest exciting gossip, or the latest political controversy. In the past decade or so, Social media has exploited our penchant for this type of “information”. Social media provides the ideal forum to promote people’s desire to “accumulate teachers to suit their own passions.” The headlines are designed to evoke curiosity and emotion, and not necessarily the truth. Here are a few from my social feeds this morning, written specifically to raise emotion and tickle the ear:

  • “President signs executive order to slash regulations”
  • “America is on path to becoming what Germany was in 1867”
  • “Colossal crowds take to the streets”

Today’s headlines are designed to evoke curiosity and an emotional response. The short quick reads that social media provide present a narrow view of the issues and rarely provide a broad, educated perspective.

Americans have become mentally lazy. We don’t do the homework necessary to understand an issue fully. We make quick decisions based on what “sounds” attractive. We have a poor understanding of history, and thus readily repeat the mistakes of the past through narrow, self-focused thinking.

As a nation, we need the TRUTH. Unfortunately relativism and its insidious companion “progressive-ism” have predominated our thinking as a people for several generations. Our education system has supported and promoted this wrong thinking as public and collegiate education has turned to what is “politically correct” and a revisionist history. The authority of the Bible is denied.

We need to return to an absolute and true authority.  The Apostle Paul further instructed Timothy:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.    II Timothy 3:16

The Bible is the ultimate authority on TRUTH. In a world ever prone to the pursuit of myths and fantasy and fallacy, the Bible is the one true, time-tested reference point that all Christians must use to evaluate and interpret the world. It is the ultimate and absolute source for men and women to be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The greatest need in the Church today is for people of faith to understand and live out what the Scriptures say. Believers must live and speak God’s Word – both in season and out of season. We must reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience, grace, and compassion.

The way to best treat the world’s penchant for “itching ears” is not by scratching the itch, but instead to provide the healing salve of God’s Word through His son, Jesus Christ.

What do you think? Is there someone who you can share the Good News of TRUTH to today?

White as snow

Photo courtesy of Pamela Logan

It is a cold, crisp morning here in Colorado. The temperature has dropped over night, and a very pretty, velvety layer of powdered snow lies across the land. The sun shines, which illuminates the whole mountainside making everything twinkle with beauty.

In this setting, I reflected on the concept of forgiveness and being forgiving, a concept that is central to a life that follows Christ.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord :though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.               Isaiah 1:18

I am constantly sinning. I do wrong each and every day, and more likely each moment. I sin in deed frequently, but more often and more insidious are my thoughts. My mind often strays. I am selfish. I am prideful, and I may make decisions primarily for my own benefit, comfort, and edification. I wrong my fellow man and ultimately God.

We are all like this. We all sin and fall short, against God and against our fellow man.

How to we repair the damage? How do we make amends?  How do we heal and restore broken relationships do to our sin?

This morning I read Step 5 from the Twelve Steps used by addiction recovery groups. Step 5 states:

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

The healing from our sins and wrong doing involves three beings. The first is obvious; we need to reach out to God, confess our sins, and receive His cleansing. Next, we have to deal honestly with ourselves – to admit we have problems, that we are individually flawed, and that there is a better life ahead if we turn away from our wrong behavior and accept God’s plan (sometimes this is the hardest – admitting to ourselves we have a problem). Third, and in my opinion the most important, we must admit to other people our weakness and flaws and sins.

Admitting our wrongs to others is essential. It is necessary for healing. Forgiveness is easily and readily obtainable in the vertical direction. God wants to pour out forgiveness and reconciliation to His people. This is why He sent His one and only Son.

Father Richard Rohr describes the need for apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation quite well in a little book titled: Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps.

Only mutual apology, healing, and forgiveness offer a sustainable future for humanity. Otherwise we are controlled by the past, individually and corporately. We all need to apologize, and we all need to forgive or this human project will surely self-destruct.

When we are easily offended, forgiveness becomes difficult. However, a gracious and forgiving spirit is the perfect antidote for one who readily takes offense at the actions and words of others.

We all need daily cleansing. We all need to wash clean our past of wrong doing, as well as the daily missteps that we take. This the essence and purpose of forgiveness. It helps restore relationship. It helps us reach peace and contentment. Dr. Dough Weiss of the Heart to Heart Counseling Center describes it as “emotional constipation”. We hold grudges and offenses inside of us. We don’t daily seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Eventually this build up becomes overwhelming. Things don’t flow well – our days our filled with strife and conflict. However, if we daily seek forgiveness and reconciliation and connection with our loved ones, our relationships work and flow properly. We are able to grow and strengthen become we have clean emotional slates.

Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.      James 5:16

What do you think? Is there someone who you have a gripe with? What can you do today to seek forgiveness and offer grace?

Taking offense

offended

While driving down the highway in the right lane with several cars around me, all traveling the posted speed limit, a pick-up truck is seen to my right trying to merge from an on-ramp. There is nothing that I can do safely to help him. Eventually he speeds up and (unsafely) cuts in front of me with a loud horn honk and hand gesture out the window. Obviously the other driver is upset about the situation, but how do I respond?

Do I take offense? Do I have the right to get angry or upset about what the other driver has done? With respect to the rules of the road, I was in the right. Is my ego wounded? Do I speed up and honk and gesture at this other driver? Or, do I look at the situation from his perspective and try to be forgiving? Perhaps this driver had a bad day, lost his job, or just had a fight with his wife. I don’t know, but I choose to offer grace.

It is quite easy to take offense at other people’s behavior. Why do we do it?

Counselor Cory Schortzman at Transformed Hearts Counseling Center works with men and women struggling with addiction. Cory has addressed the issue of being addicted to “taking offense” and that it is a pernicious trait that ruins close relationships. He describes this condition:

Over the years, I have learned that there is even a deeper addiction that not only the addict struggles with but also the partner; addicted to being offended. In fact, I believe it to be the core of any, if not all, addictions, especially for those struggling with (intimacy and emotional) anorexia. As we have learned, the anorexic likes to accuse, blame, and criticize; because as long as they believe others have hurt them, then they do not have to change, but everyone else does.

When one believes and feels (real or imagined) that they have been offended, there is a great payoff, as they believe they do not need to change. They are right and others are wrong.

Most of us are self-centered. We naturally want to protect and defend ourselves. We have been looking out for “Number 1” for our whole lives. Becoming offended is a natural defense mechanism. It deflects our own faults and short-comings by pointing the finger and blaming the other guy. However, this is not what Christ taught us through his words and example.

I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.               Matthew 5:39-40

Jesus sets a very high standard for his followers. If someone offends us (either intentionally or inadvertently) even to the point of injuring us, we are to not seek revenge, but rather we are to assist them and bless them in any way that is within our power. Getting angry or even is not part of the right living that Jesus calls each believer to.

This is a difficult teaching, but is an essential part of the Gospel. God forgave us first, we too are called to forgive our brothers and those who seek our harm.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.                 Colossians 3:12-14

In today’s chaotic world of protests, litigation, and ever rampant evildoing, it is time for Christians to take a stand. I have previously written about convictions, and we should stand by our convictions. However, we need always to show grace, love, and compassion to those who may offend us or even those who seek our harm. It is the example that Christ gave us.

What do you think? Are you easily offended? Is there a way for you to offer more grace in your daily intersections with the people of this world?

Mediocrity

mediocrity

When I was working through the Twelve Step program, one of the lessons I accomplished required me to list and analyze my character flaws. One that I identified (amongst many others) was what I termed as “mediocrity”. I felt that I did not always strive for the best or give a task my 100% best effort. At the time I considered this a character defect, but as I have matured and thought about this, “mediocre” is not necessarily a bad or undesirable attribute.

The dictionary defines mediocre as: “of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance” But more interesting is the dictionary’s explanation of this word’s origin. The word originates from a Latin word, mediocris,  meaning “halfway up a mountain”. I like that definition, halfway up the mountain. Sometimes that is the right place to be.

Of course, we think it is a great accomplishment when we reach a mountain top experience. We applaud those who reach the top of their respective fields: the businessman who becomes CEO, the swimmer who wins many Olympic gold medals, the sailor who reaches the rank of Admiral. However, what about the people who work steady and maybe even a bit slowly, and never reach the top? Is there experience less valuable? Why don’t we applaud those in the middle of the pack?

Statistically speaking, in a normal distribution of outcomes for a group of people, the results will typically fall along a Bell curve. The most outcomes (68%) fall in the middle. Not everyone reaches the top 1%, actually very few do.

I am learning that it is quite fine to be in the middle of the pack, to be average. I don’t mind being halfway up the mountain. In many instances, it is quite beautiful. I have reached the top of several of Colorado’s 14,000 feet tall mountains. The view from the top is fantastic, however, the tops of all these mountains are devoid of trees and greenery – just big rocks at the top. However, below timberline, halfway up these mountains, the scenery is fabulous and full of life and color. In my opinion, the top of the mountain is not always best.

A blogger recently wrote about this same subject, titled What if all I want is a mediocre life? I agree with her perspective and recommend you read the full article here. Krista writes:

What if I embrace my limitations and stop railing against them? Make peace with who I am and what I need and honor your right to do the same. Accept that all I really want is a small, slow, simple life. A mediocre life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life. I think it is enough.

If I am content where I am at and where God has placed me, and if I am then  considered “mediocre” because of it, than I can accept my situation and remain grateful. If I reach the mountaintop and yet I am not content, then there is no peace and I need to make adjustments.

I do not want to be so busy and caught up in striving to reach the mountaintops of the world (success, accomplishments, accolades, admiration, acknowledgement).  I prefer to live a slow, simple life where I can focus on close, deep, and meaningful relationships.  I will take contentment over “worldly” success any day.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.               I Timothy 6:6-7

What do you think? How can you be most contentment with where you are right now? Is mediocrity consistent with Christian teaching and the “Protestant” work ethic?

Convictions

conviction

Other than its for its legal definition, the word “conviction” is seldom used in daily conversation.  I am referring to this definition of conviction: “a firmly held opinion or belief”. 

We all have convictions of some sort.  Some are sound, some frivolous.  I am convinced the Mets will win the World Series or It is my strong conviction that the President’s policy is wrong.  It is good to have convictions, we need them to help us navigate the multitude of decisions we face each day.  For example, I am convinced that the recently fashionable “man bun” is not very appealing.  Thus my mornings are made infinitely easier by that conviction, since I have removed the man bun as a choice when deciding what to do with my hair each morning.

Although essential to our lives, convictions can also be detrimental if held despite refuting evidence.  For example, during World War I, two generals had charge of the massive British Army fighting on the Western Front in the trenches protecting France. Both Field Marshals John French and Field Marshal Douglas Haig held strong convictions that cavalry charges (officers on horses with swords and lances) would win a decisive break-through and thus win the war.  They both held this conviction despite clear evidence to the contrary: new technology had changed the shape of warfare.  The machine gun in a reinforced, concrete bunker was decisive.  Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives because these two generals would not compromise their conviction in the cavalry charge.

As Christians, we are called to possess strong convictions.  We need to hold on to what we believe is true.  Our faith must be assured.  This is achieved through growth, sanctification, and experience.  Three Biblical characters stand out as men who had strong convictions, even in the face of death.

The Book of Daniel mentions three companions in exile with Daniel: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar commanded all people to bow down and worship a giant golden statue he had erected in his own conceit.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused.  They would only worship the One True God.  As the guards stood by to throw these three men into the fiery furnace, their convictions remained strong and they defied the King and replied:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our god whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.   Daniel 3:17-18

This is conviction.  In the face of certain torture and death these three men remained true to their belief in God.  They were convinced that it was better to face death than to compromise their standards.  How did they do it?  How did these young men in a foreign land have the courage and conviction to stand against a powerful earthly king?  I believe that there are three primary factors that built their convictions and that can build ours as well.

Training.  We are called to learn God’s ways.  We need to understand and hide his Word in our hearts.  We need to practice faith each day in all sorts of challenging situations.  By understanding who God is and how He has cared for and protected His people, we will begin to develop our own convictions.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Other believers.  We need other people to help us grow our convictions, and point out when we are not seeing things correctly.  We need them to stand alongside us during the challenging situations of life, so that our faith and trust grow stronger.

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12

The Holy Spirit.  God will give us power and strength to stand according to our convictions.  The spiritual will guide our thoughts and convict us to do what is right.  God has promised to walk beside us even in the worst situations of our lives.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;  when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  Isaiah 43: 3-4

As Christians we need to live by strong convictions.  Our convictions will guide our every decision.  When the storm and opposition come, we need to be ready to stand firm, despite the pain that might result, because we are convinced that our God is able to deliver us.

What do you think?  How can you strengthen your convictions in light of the chaos and opposition that is building around us?  How can Christians stand together in a world that is getting darker each day?  

Breaking my food addiction

addiction

Last week I started a new regime of eating, called the Whole30 Program. Now I am not big on New Year’s resolutions or goal setting each year, but after way too much indulgence with regard to eating and drinking through the holidays, I was ready to commit to something different with respect to my relationship with and attitude towards food.

Whole30 is a “short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy craving and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, and heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” The program has been used by tens of thousands since 2009, and appealed to me for several reasons.

First, there is no calorie counting or quantity limitations. I don’t need to reduce my calories, I really just need to make better choices in what I eat.

Second, the program is short duration. It is a 30 day program. I can do 30 days, and hopefully I will obtain new habits that will keep for the rest of my life.

Third, it doesn’t require special, organic, GMO-free, free-range, or grown by Tibetan monk food that is expensive and hard to find. Most of the plan’s “compliant” food is readily available at my local, national grocery chain.

Fourth, it permits meat and coffee, two items I am not prepared to give up, yet.

Yes, there are limitations or “no-no’s”. Here are some of the major restrictions:

  • No added sugar (no sucrose, glucose, corn sweetener or artificial sweeteners)
  • No grains (no wheat, corn, rice, barley, etc)
  • No alcohol (perhaps the most challenging part of the program)
  • No dairy, except eggs (no milk, no cheese, etc)
  • No legumes, except green beans and snow peas (no beans, no soy, no peanuts)

I eat three “regular” meals a day and snack on nuts. Breakfast is comprised of eggs cooked in olive oil, a steamed green vegetable, a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, and coffee with almond milk. Lunch is a large salad with lots of greens, avocado, and some protein, such as beef, chicken or pork. For dinner I have had shrimp/fish, steak, pork, and chicken with vegetables and potatoes. I eat one plate full and am quite satisfied at the end of the meal, with no desire for seconds (which used to be routine for me).

As of this writing, I am on Day 8 of the program, and I am feeling very well. I experienced some “hang-over” effects with a mild headache and bloating on the first few days. As expected, my body was adjusting to the lack of “ready carbs” which it was accustomed to (ie I was breaking the addiction). Since Day 4 I have felt well. I have plenty of energy, and most importantly I don’t have major cravings. (However, after my wife ate a piece of chocolate, I did have the urge to kiss her).

What I am learning this past week is that I had become “addicted” to certain foods. I enjoyed a bowl of ice cream each night or an extra dinner roll or too many salty potato chips or just a piece of bread because I felt hungry.  I rarely passed up any cookies.

This program is allowing me to step away from my “habitual and addictive” foods by shifting my diet to healthy, unprocessed, and few ingredient foods. It has opened my eyes to be more observant to what I am putting in my mouth. Hopefully this will also heighten an awareness of what I am putting into my mind through media, internet, TV, and reading. What goes into my mind and heart is infinitely (and eternally) more important that what goes into my mouth.

Jesus said: “A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”      Matthew 15: 11

At the end of 30 days, I will slowly introduce some of the foods that were banned to see how my body responds to them. It is possible that I have low level allergic reactions to certain foods, but since I have been living with them for decades, I have grown accustomed to them. The Whole 30 reset will help me pinpoint which foods cause me the most problems.

I will report more at the conclusion of the program, but I am very optimistic at this junction. Click on the link to read more about The Whole30 Program.

Objectification

objectification

Recently a few friends and I discussed the concept of objectification. Objectification is treating a person … as an object or thing.

Objectification dehumanizes a person, for whatever reason. If a man struggles with sexual addiction, he will tend to objectify women. For example, pornographic images depict the woman as two-dimensional, as a beautiful face and body meant only as an object of a man’s sexual desire, and not a real human with multiple dimensions: her own strengths, weaknesses, imperfections, and struggles.

There are many other examples of objectification throughout our history. A dictator or preeminently ambitious person will use other people to obtain their political power or financial wealth. They will do whatever it takes to step on others to achieve their goals of grabbing power and position. An extreme example in American history are the landowners of the pre-Civil War South who owned chattel slaves. Many treated their slaves as property or a personal possession and not as equally created humans. For a time in our history, this objectification was protected under the law of the land.

I have been studying the events that lead up to World War I in Europe. One thing that stands out is how brazenly arrogant British “society” was at the time. Most Britons thought that they were a superior society or race and as such they were uniquely qualified to rule the less civilized people of the world (also referred to as “savages”) through colonization. Such arrogance was a major contributor to the “Great War”. It was easy to objectify other nationalities or cultures or classes of people. As the war proceeded, many British writings of the time referred to the Germans as “barbarians”. One nationality of people objectifying another for their own selfish purposes. Adam Hochschild has written an excellent account of World War I title, To end all wars, that highlights both the social and political upheavals that contributed to that immense conflagration.

My point is that individuals, groups, and even whole nations can objectify other people. To do so is wrong. To classify and show prejudice to anyone because of national origin, gender, physical ability (or disability), skin color, or intelligence are all a form of objectification.

However, those who follow Christ must be different. We must realize that God created each person uniquely in His own image. Let me rephrase this point: Each human carries the image of God. Because of this, we are all conceived and born with inherent worth and value. We each have the capacity to receive God’s Holy Spirit within our soul. We all were designed that way. Thus, when we objectify or mistreat any person, we are rebelling against and mistreating something that God considers His “masterpiece”.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.       Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

As a follower of Christ (or to place a label, as “Christians”) our only classification or objectification of other people should be whether they believe in Christ or not. It doesn’t matter if they are black, white, red, African, Asian, Arabian, young, old, male or female. What matters is if they have placed their faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that there is no distinction of humans, other that the identify one has in Christ:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female for you are all on in Christ Jesus.     Galatians 3:28

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction.                      Romans 3:22

As Christians, we should not objectify any other person. Each person is a unique representation of God here on earth. Through his example, Christ has shown us how to show compassion and care for people of all walks of life, even those who we might consider different, or our “enemy”, or who may disagree with our point of view.

We all need Christ. It is the only distinction that matters for eternity.

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Falling upward

falling upward

It is winter here in Colorado, and there is plenty of ice on the sidewalks and roads.  It hasn’t melted for some time, and walking (which I love to do in any weather) can be a bit hazardous.  On occasion, I slip and fall.  Normally when we fall, we end up falling down.  This is because of the physical constant of gravity.  Gravity always pulls in the same direction: down.

However, speaking metaphorically, we also fall when the bad things of life happen.  In these inevitable situations, we fall (or someone near us falls which impacts our life).  We make an egregious error, we sin, we break something, we betray a trust, we contract a serious illness or disease, we lose a job, a marriage disintegrates, someone runs a red light and destroys our car.  The list goes on and on.

How we respond to these situations is truly what shapes our character. We can fall down and let the bad situation continue to have a negative impact on our life.  Or, we can fall up, and let that negative experience mature and grow us into a better person.

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, has written an excellent discourse titled, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.  In this insightful book, Rohr describes the tasks of the two major phases of life.  “He teaches us that those who have failed, or gone down, are the only ones who can really understand “up.” Those who have somehow fallen, and fallen well, are the only ones who can grow spiritually and not misuse ‘up.’”

Our lives our littered with mistakes.  How we rebuild and learn and grow after each mistake shapes our character.  Each incident is an opportunity for drawing closer to God.   Yes, we will have pain and suffering in our lives, but we do not have to allow pain and suffering define who we are.  We can fall up, broaden our understanding of ourselves and the world, and become better people in the process.

Just today I was discussing this concept with a friend.  I stated that it is hard for me to trust someone who has an “ideal” life, someone that appears to have made few mistakes or has experienced little pain and suffering.   It is suspicious.  It is abnormal. Adversity builds character.  Hardship sifts out the chaff from our life (the frivolous and unimportant) and compels us to draw nearer to God in faith.

One of my favorite scripture passages is one that I repeated out loud ten times a day during my darkest hours following my divorce three years ago.

Those who suffer according to the God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do what is right.        I Peter 4:19

Despite the pain and suffering we should turn towards God, the Faithful One.  He will sustain us.  We should never use our pain and suffering as an excuse to act out or engage in further wrong behavior.  We must press on and continue to do what is right!  This is falling upward.  Moving on to a better place through the adversity of life which is inevitable.  Rohr’s book describes the process of spiritual growth through the experiences of life both bad and good (primarily the bad ones).

If you are struggling or suffering today, look to God for strength.  Respond with faith, kindness, forgiveness, and grace.  This is the path of healing and growth.  In the long run, falling upwards is less painful than falling down.  It is also how we grow and mature and become better humans.

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This is where I start

start

After nearly a year of sabbatical, it is time for me to start blogging again.  Sorry to all of you who have missed your regular dose of The Hill of Beans. Rest assured that I am on track to keep blogging exciting and thought-provoking articles throughout 2017.  My sabbatical over the past year has been a great time of rejuvenation, drawing closer to my wife, and learning how to live in the moment.  I highly recommend it!

So what is up with The Hill of Beans in 2017?  I am committed to write and blog several times a week.  I will continue to comment on a variety of topics and continue the conversation about “what really matters in this crazy world?”

I just finished reading a thought provoking book by Rob Bell titled, How to be here.  Although not theologically deep nor accurate, this book looks at “finding purpose, joy and meaning in your life, and wisdom for how to keep moving forward on your path.”

Within this book, the author describes a one-time encounter with a rental car clerk who impressed him for her positive attitude and work ethic.  While talking about her long work days at the San Francisco’s busiest rental office, she commented, “this where I start”.

Think about it.  Let that phrase sink in.  It is truly an amazing line.

This is where I start.

You may be in the wrong place. You may feel like you’re not fully here because you need to be somewhere else. … Sometime we feel like we’re standing at a distance from our own life because we need to get to another life. … the reason we don’t feel fully here is rooted in how we’re thinking about where we are.  After three minutes in that rental car office, I noticed how fully present that woman behind the counter was.  It was noticeable… She said, ‘This is where I start.’”

We start with the here and now. We only have this present moment to live.  We give right now the best we got.  We can have dreams and aspirations, but they are the future.  We can’t change them, yet.  We can only change, manipulate, or deal with the present moment. We can only strive for our dreams by living in the here and now.  We all have to start somewhere.   Take the first step. We begin any project or task by accomplishing Step 1.

The car rental agent had the right attitude.  She may not see her job as the ultimate achievement of her life, but for today, for the time she was on shift, she gave it her all.

King David described this attitude thousands of years ago when he wrote Psalm 37:3

“Trust in the Lord and do good.  Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”

Dwelling in the land is living in the present.  Give the present moment and the people who immediately surround you your complete attention.  It is not pining away or fretting about an unknown future (that’s where the trusting in the Lord comes in). It is dealing with the present moment, the next small step in the correct direction.  As we frequently say in recovery group “one day at a time”.  We only have today to live.  Live today fully for what it has to offer.

The Apostle Paul adds to this discussion when he encouraged the church with these words:

“Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

We are all meant to live our lives for a purpose, no matter what we do, whether it is considered a menial task or what appears to be some “world changing” mission.  What matters is our attitude.  Living in the present.  Taking the first step.  Rejoicing that we can fulfill our God-given design.

This is my endeavor or theme for 2017 – to live for today, to give right now all my attention, to work with all my heart at the one task at hand.  For me this will include cultivating the habit of laying aside distractions and focusing on the present.  I intend to give more attention to what is important, and try to de-emphasize what is merely “urgent” or “convenient”.  Hopefully this will be reflected in my writing and that I may have something to encourage you as we move forward on this journey called life.

Blessings on you throughout the New Year – 2017

 

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Celebrate!

 celebrate

Frequently I get caught up in the mundane aspects of life: waking early, going off to a 9-5 job, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, … rinse, repeat. I lose track of the important aspects of life and my purpose. I become too concerned with the temporal aspects of life and things of the world. I forget my greater purpose. I neglect to enjoy life and the blessings that God has granted me, and all of us.

Why do I do this? Why do I strive for things of this world when I know that they are passing away? Why do I too often hang my head low in exhaustion or disappointment?

Is the Christian life primarily a set of rules, “do-s and don’t-s” followed by shame and judgment and self-flagellation?  Is that the way God intended the Christian life to be? I think not!

In the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus presents three parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. In each parable, something is lost (a sheep, a coin, and a son) and then later found.

One sheep out of a flock of one hundred is lost.  The shepherd searches diligently to find the one lost sheep.  One of ten silver coins is lost, and the possessor searches diligently until she finds her missing silver coin.  A son denies his family and runs off to a wayward lifestyle.  After having squandered his inheritance, he returns penniless and with little hope, yet his father runs to greet and embrace his son.

All three parables conclude with celebration.

He calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’            Luke 15:6

She calls together her friends and neighbors, saying ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’        Luke 15:9

let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate.        Luke 15:23b-24

In these three parables, Jesus repeats the same point for emphasis. There is great rejoicing in the Kingdom of God.  It is a good thing that an individual returns to the Father.  Christians should primarily be about the business of seeking out the lost and restoring them to the Father.  This is our purpose and when achieved, a cause for celebration!

The Christian life is about celebration! Celebrate that lost people can be found.  Celebrate that the Father runs with open arms to a child who was lost and now returns home. Celebrate the immense blessings we enjoy!

This celebration is not a just once in a lifetime event but a daily celebration. Each day we must return to the Father and feel His warm embrace. Each day is a gift and we must celebrate it!

The very simple childhood hymn expresses what our attitude as Christians should be each day:

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.   Psalm 118:24

Rejoice and celebrate today!  It is our inheritance as Christians!

What do you think? What can you do today to celebrate as part of God’s Kingdom? Who needs to hear this message of hope – that God is waiting with open arms to welcome you home?