I Have Some Bad News

pux-phil

Today is that day. You know the day that comes around once a year and gets us all in a ruckus. No not Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter or 4th of July. Not even Saint Pat’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Today is Groundhog day and we will find out if more winter is on the way or if Spring is springing early this year. Cross your fingers and say a prayer.

Most of my life there was only one source to get this valuable information – Punxsutawney Phil. He lives of course in Punxsutawney, PA and for 130 years has given us cause to pay attention to his town on February 2nd. Every town should be famous for something and a rodent whose shadow controls the emotions of his citizens is as good as anything I guess. This morning I found out that in Marion, OH there is a hog named Buckeye Chuck. Unbelievable. What a rip off. I bet Phil is a mad little critter. His one day to be the center of attention for the whole world and his fame is tarnished by an imposter from North Central Ohio. Poor Phil.

I have some bad news. Imposters are not just in the ground hog species and they aren’t just in Ohio. Although there are plenty of those around here to be found. Imposters come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and creeds, all cities and settings. Don’t think your space is void of the possibility. Be warned, but don’t be alarmed.

Imposters are rampant in our day. Some try tell you they are the best leaders when they are really copy cats of someone else’s better ideas. Some will tell you that they are making things great again while they subversively take things in a particular direction that pleases and profits their constituency. Some will make you believe they are the powerful teachers on truthful topics when they are only telling you what you want to hear and fueling your fears/insecurities with familiar rhetoric. Some will make believe to like you, accept you, love you, all while searching for your immediate replacement to meet their needs or fulfill their agenda. Imposters come in the form of leaders, pastors, teachers, churches, Trump University, celebrities, friends, and of course ground hogs.

Imposters are wide spread and wildly popular. Don’t be fooled. Listen carefully and look into the life and character of those you listen too and follow. Think, pray, discern if their words or direction do good or bring harm to others. Reject new things that are only shiny, but possess no substance. Embrace old things that have shown themselves to be tried and tested. Question those who make promises to some while offering threats to others. Be willing to walk away from those whose leadership doesn’t pass the test of authenticity, good will, and generous living. Buy into people who buy into people, but rid yourselves of the stock of those who discount others based on race, religion, or the right side of things.

Be the real deal. Impeach the imposters in your life (at least in your heart.) Be authentic. Don’t believe everything you hear. Learn to look, listen, and launch in a direction that benefits you AND others. Champion words and ways that are substantially useful and not just stylistically comforting. Resist the temptation to hope for a quicker change of season so that you may live into the season that God has called you to.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. (Proverbs 4:18)

Some Things Shouldn’t Be Faked

Netflix has uploaded a series of videos that were designed as countdown videos to help families ring in the New Year with some pomp and circumstance. The purpose of the family friendly countdown video addresses a major problem with families on New Year’s Eve. Apparently, telling kids they need to go to bed before it is actually midnight is a problem for some families and Netflix discovered a way to help families out. The videos feature some of the most popular cartoon and real life characters to fire up the kids so they can count down New Year at 6 PM, 8 PM, 10 PM or perhaps even earlier in the day. The actual time is really not the point. The experience of counting down and popping the cork – even for kids – seems to be a “can’t miss” and a “we can’t disappoint them” event for families these days. No need for truth or transparency in the family. Just fake it. Thanks Netflix for helping families across the world get past this end of the year calendar nuisance without making mom/dad seem so bad.

Countdown 2016     (Check it out!)

Please hear me when I say that I am not against Netflix, New Year’s Even Countdown videos or sending kids to bed early. It is highly likely that I will use and practice all three this Thursday night. I am against parents who deliberately lie to their children, media companies who intentionally aid such deception, and cultural experiences that tempt families and/or churches to bend the rules of what is right so that fun and cool always comes first. (Use your imagination on that last one for a minute.)

Faking that we are excited about getting socks for Christmas might be ok. Faking that your Aunt Polly’s casserole tastes good is probably a good idea. Faking that you are surprised that the New England Patriots are the NFL’s biggest cheaters might even be acceptable if you are trying to keep family harmony and peace on earth. A 40+ year old former male athlete faking an injury to get out of a tackle football game with younger men is certainly alright. These are things that can be faked without losing integrity or credibility, but there is a long list of things that shouldn’t ever be faked.

Here are just a few…

We can’t fake parenting by taking the easy way out. Our kids liking us can not be our highest priority. Our kids following us into maturity is. We can’t fake our maturity or authenticity. Kids know and others do to.

We can’t fake friendship with people so that our network is expanded or we have a fall back plan to prevent loneliness or boredom. True friendship accepts others as they are and enjoys them that way. True friends are not always the takers of the relationship. Sometimes (often?) we are the givers.

We can’t fake our fitness by buying new shoes or clothes. Eating healthy only helps when we exercise and sleep well. Faking fitness is an easy thing these days. Everyone dresses the part. Few people have the medical records to back up their wardrobe. Faking it puts us in a company of people trying to look and feel better, but in the end we know that we are really out of control and undisciplined.

We can’t fake love with our spouse or special other. We love them or we don’t and we shouldn’t fool ourselves or them. It just isn’t fair. ( If you are uncertain if you are faking love or not review 1 Corinthians 13. If you aren’t loving like that, you are a fake.)

We can’t fake our worship of God with tears and/or a happy heart. Those emotions could very well be moments of escape from our fear, worry or doubt. Worship likely does make us feel good, but worship is not about feelings. It is about God. Worshipping God is daily and is full of the details of our life including our actions, attitudes, assets and ambitions. Worshipping God consumes everything or it consumes nothing!

We can’t fake liking ourselves either. Many people hate who they are or what they have become, but see no way out. So they fake self acceptance by indulging or insulating their ego with pride and self deception. Yet, they are simply covering up the shame and disappointment they have with themselves by faking it day after day.

Truthfully, I have been a fake in all of these ways and more. It is painful to admit it, but to deny it just increases my status as a serial faker. I know you have too. Faking is not an anomaly in our culture. It is an epidemic. You might even say that our culture is suffering from a pandemic crisis of fakery. God’s grace is the cure. Don’t try any other remedy because it won’t work. Just try on the true clothes of Christ and see what happens. It will eliminate our need for popular parenting tips. It will forge friendships that last through the ages and across the miles (even from TX to Ohio). God’s grace will transform our love of self into a love of Christ and towards a surrendered love of others that is pure and holy. And when God’s grace grips our soul we become instruments of worship with our whole body, mind, and spirit.

Some things just shouldn’t be faked. Faking doesn’t help anyone or anything. It only deceives and divides. Real life and real relationship is impossible as long as faking is the foundation. Embrace truth in all things, but do so with love and concern for others at all times. Choosing not to fake things is not an excuse to be a jerk. Just an opportunity to be real.

Nobody needs a fake in their life on any level. It is a learned behavior that needs to be and can be absolved.  We just have to make the choice – daily.

So what are you choosing today?

Wanted: Good Music to Listen To

headphones and mic

Our acts of piety are instruments that, by the grace of God, do the work of aligning our heart, mind, soul, and body to values, priorities, and activities of the kingdom of God.                                                                         (Rowell – These Forty Days)

My son plays the trumpet. He also plays the guitar and he twangs a bit on the ukelele. I have overheard him playing a little on the keyboard that his mother uses to practice for church and he sounded pretty good on that too. If all goes well he will make the transition from trumpet to tuba for the marching band next year and I am so excited. I would bet he could also play the drums, the kazoo, and maybe the triangle without a single lesson. The kid seems to have some talent in his fingers that only his mother’s side of the family could have provided and my side is very, very thankful.

Not all of us will play an instrument (or 4) in life. Not all of us will have the interest or the discipline to try it. Music and the making of music will escape the ability and imagination of many of us. God help us because music has a way of touching our hearts and rubbing our soul in very meaningful ways. It is highly likely that those who never express themselves or experiment with music fail to be formed in ways that effect the body, mind, and soul. Playing a song or writing a song is a way of expressing something very deep within one’s soul that without such expression would be left to bounce around internally and break things. The song inside of us that is left unplayed or unwritten might very well break our heart, break our spirit, or just plain ole break us down.

Such is the Christian life.

What God has put inside of us with the presence of His Spirit is meant to break free from us in ways that enrich everything around us with faith, hope, and love. As we act faithfully and fervently our lives are singing a song – a God song – to the world around us. Such a God song projects what we know to be true about God through personal experience. We know that God is loving, kind, compassionate, forgiving. We know that God is able, sovereign, just, and certain in all things. We know that God is Father, Son, and Spirit. We know that God is in us, with us, and for us as we live and die. We know that “greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.” We know this and we believe this and by the grace of God and the willingness of our spirit our lives sing this to others.

And when our lives don’t sing such a God song we are quite likely singing the song of another god. That song for other gods are songs of sin, selfishness, shame, failure, fear. Those aren’t songs worth singing or writing. Those songs sound like broken down tunes without meaning or melody. Those songs need to be taken out of print and taken off our playlist as soon as possible and replaced by the song that our God is wanting to play. His song makes beautiful music and touches us (and others through us) in deep and meaningful ways.

Make no mistake. The song is God’s song. It is not a song about how great we are or how holy we are. It is a song about Him – His grace, His holiness, His greatness. We bring nothing to the song. He writes the song, publishes the song, conducts the song through His collection of instruments, and finally plays the song through us. He is all the talent. We are only His instruments to be used in making heavenly music. And when He plays…

Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo!

Join God’s band/orchestra/symphony today. Confess sin. Turn away from shame. Quit living in alternative ways. Trust in Him to be the Savior He promises to be. Let Him change your heart. Rest in Him. Abandon the bad music you are making on your own. Play only God’s song from this day on.

Lent 1/ February 22, 2015————————————————————————

Psalm 25

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship[b] of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.

How is that working for ya?

work

I’m a people person, very personable. I absolutely insist on enjoying life. Not so task-oriented. Not a work horse. If you’re looking for a Clydesdale I’m probably not your man. Like I don’t live to work, it’s more the other way around. I work to live.                                     – Dupree

I am 35 years old and mid way through my working life. Since today is Labor Day I think I might do a little reflecting on what I have done, what I am doing, and what I will do for the next few decades until Social Security frees me. It seems to me that taking a good long honest look at oneself is an important thing to do from time to time in order to make sure the destination you had in mind in the beginning is still an option. In other words, is my labor still doing for me what I hoped it would do when I began working and am I still headed towards the finish line that I imagined for myself.

OK. If I am going to be honest, I am actually about to celebrate birthday number 42, but I am about half way through my working life. That part is true and I am not sure if I am relieved or disappointed about that. As for my progress as a laborer I guess I am either half way home or only half out of the gate. Either way I have about 25 or so years left to work in the mine.

Recently, I heard that people beginning their career today should expect 9 career changes over their working life. That is right – 9! Since my entire working life has been in the same career field (Christian ministry) that is a little hard for me to imagine, but I guess it is possible. Some of my friends have moved from education to sales to business and back to education although not necessarily in that order. That doesn’t count the multiple jobs in each of those career paths. If I am somewhere between relieved and disappointed I can only imagine what I might be thinking if I had tried a half dozen or so different occupations.

Life is tough and work it seems is even tougher. That is probably why there seems to be a transient nature to how people approach work today. Perhaps constant career changes is a coping mechanism for being overworked, underpaid, not recognized, and left feeling useless by the time you can apply for your company watch (which no longer exists as a retirement gift.) So while it may be helpful on Labor Day to remember that you are blessed to have a job (94 % of working age Americans are – http://www.bls.gov), it might be more cathartic to take a deep breath and think about your working life.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you there yet? Are you happy? Did you make the right choice? How could you have chosen better? What can you do to make your work better for your life and family? What working regrets do you need to forget? What would you be happiest doing for the rest of your working life? What are you waiting on?

We usually do have more questions than answers. Such is life, but questions aren’t our enemy. They are the markers that help us get back on track to something better and often better for us. Maybe on Labor Day 2014 we could all start thinking about work and our working life in a new way. If so, we stand to gain so much by getting a clearer picture of why we do what we do. Maybe that picture/vision will be powerful enough to transform our daily struggle into many moments seeking the most significant outcomes from the investment of our blood, sweat, and tears. Since we spend about 90,000 hours of our life working (45y x 250d x 8h), that work should be about both quality and quantity; both identity and investment; both happiness and wholeness.

So this is what I am thinking about the rest of my working life. ——————

I want to work in ways/places where the purpose is obvious to me and to others.

I want to work in ways/places where my gifts and abilities are a good fit.

I want to work in ways/places where I can begin to pour into others the way others have poured into me (or should have.)

I want to work in ways/places where titles are less important than teams.

I want to work in ways/places where “doing business as usual” is not the daily mantra.

I want to work in ways/places where young ambition can be shaped into a missional force.

I want to work in ways/places where I can make one difference, each day, every week, for the rest of my employment.

I want to work in ways/places where I can feel good about the way I give my body, spirit, mind in exchange for cash, health insurance, retirement contributions and professional development.

I want to work in ways/places where I am sure God is pleased with what I did with what He has given me.

That is all. Am I asking too much? Are my expectations too high? Did I leave any out?

How is work working for you? I would hate to think that we work hard all of our life at something we don’t enjoy, with people we didn’t like, and for a purpose that didn’t make a difference to anyone. It doesn’t have to be that way for any of us. Let’s not exchange our years for a paycheck. Let’s not surrender the best of ourselves for something we don’t believe in. Let’s give our life to God and others so we may live in the joy of fulfilling our creation purpose.

Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.            Proverbs 16:3