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?