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Archive for December, 2007

At the Movies, part 1

There is a movie on in the next room whose principle theme seems to be that doing right and being responsible is lame. The heroine is an adult who hasn’t changed her outlook since middle school/high school/college and is pictured as a person with "integrity" because she hasn’t changed and hasn’t "sold out." The oldest daughter of the responsible wife and mother is portrayed as miserable because she has been raised to do well in school, etc. The wife and mother is portrayed as someone who is "missing out" and has "lost herself" because she wants to be a good wife and mother.

I wish I had the boring, miserable experience of doing well in school and getting a scholarship to a nice college. I wish I had the boring, miserable expereince of growing up sooner and being responsible sooner. I find no joy and no "heroism" in my past stupidities, laziness and irresponsibility. I am paying for them now. Everytime I pull a weed or yank a vine, everytime I am hacking at the ground, eveytime I have to get up before the sun for a 45-minute drive to work, I realize how my past lack of discipline, focus, and courage to follow my convictions have caused me to be in a low-paying, mostly unfun job.

I realize it is not a Christian movie, but I see the same philosophies among Christans of all ages. God is boring. The Bible is boring. Doing right is boring. It is especially bad in youth ministries whose core value is "excitement" instead of loving God and loving others. It leads to self-absorbtion. I find God exciting and the Bible amazing.

I wish I wasn’t so shy about being the person God created and re-created me to be. I wish I had the courage to hold to my convictions.

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The Last Straw

I am insanely angry. On the outside, I am calm and collected and grateful to be typing on a computer in a beautiful home with plenty of food. But on the inside, I am a rolling boil of angry emotions.

"The guy" from work that I write about often, accused me, in front of a co-worker, of  "doing what [boss] does not want me to do, alot." He was asking me to do what the boss asked me not to do. He asked me three times. I finally raised me voice in a very firm manner. That is when he said the above. This was the last straw. Before I went home, I told my boss what had been said. I was angry in spite of trying not to be. My character and integrity had been slashed.

I’m not talented enough, nor good looking enough, nor charming enough to fake it through life. All I really have to fall back on is character and integrity. If I lack character and integrity, I really have nothing to offer. If I rebel against my boss, it is a sin equal to the sin Lucifer comitted against God. If I rebel against my boss, I am not fulfilling the law of Christ found in Galatians 6.

I have four days off until I see him again. My boss and the two of us are going to have a conversation when we get back. I am going to ask for specifics of my sin. If he cannot come up with specifics, then I cannot accept the comment as from God.

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C-Day plus 2

I was singing Christmas carols this morning at work, and I got to thinking about shepherds (I was singing "Silent Night"). I thought through all the things I had heard about the shepherding profession as it was back then: poverty, dirty, smelly, a necessity but not really appreciated. Still funny to me how God did things. He just isn’t normal! Can you imagine what those guys thought when they saw an angel? Can you imagine the thoughts of the religious leaders when they heard that God announced his son to shepherds? Ha! You just gotta smile.

Of course, I got to thinking of me later on today when I was treated less than appreciated. Even though I work for a "ministry," it is clear to me that I am dirty, smelly and, although a necessity, not really thought highly of. I try to remember God’s extravagant love to me, but it is hard sometimes in the midst of power plays and the like.

Ironically, my reading today was in Psalm 27 (it wasn’t supposed to be this one: I forgot where I was supposed to be reading and so I picked #27 because today is the 27th). "The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me  to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." I am afraid and I struggle to hold onto confidence that things are going to be okay. "Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." I try to remember God wants to straighten my paths by guiding me through adversity, but man I am tired of it. Waiting gets harder and harder. But I need to get up every morning, face each day as brand new and wait.

Proverbs 27 was the second part of my normal reading schedule. This jumped out: "A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the resentment caused by a fool is even heavier." I am resentful of this jerk at work, but even more resentful that my boss is more interested in being liked than rebuking this guy. It is a heavy feeling every morning, every day.

I imagine shepherds had to put up with alot of garbage from self-important people. Society is a ladder. Thankfully God lowered himself to the bottom rungs.

 

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C-Day plus 1

Well, I didn’t miss Christmas too bad. I wasn’t Mr. Christmas, but I made an effort to focus a little better. Five days off helped. Having to work the day after Christmas kinda brought me down on Christmas day. I think my December was till too busy for me to really appreciate Christmas as I would like. So, I figured, why not think about Christmas for a while after Christmas.

I got to thinking today about a billboard I saw advertising our local Christian radio station. It stated that "Santa listens" (meaning to the radio station). I was wondering how parents explain to their kids how a fictional character listens to the radio. Then I got to thinking why we even pretend he is real when the message of Santa seems, perhaps, too different than Jesus. How does Santa know when we are sleeping and know when we are awake? How does he know if we’ve been bad or good? Is he omniscient? Omnipresent? A stalker? Head of the CIA? Isn’t the real meaning of Christmas about a Savior who gives us the gift of eternal life in spite of our behavior? Doesn’t the Lord give gifts in spite of ourselves?

I don’t know anyone who has turned away from Jesus when they found out Santa is not real. I do know plenty of people who believe God doesn’t love them because they have done bad things. Shouldn’t we Christians be all the more eager to talk about the gift-giver who gives us the gift of love and eternal life even when we are bad and even when we, apart from Jesus, can’t be good for very long?

Or am I just over-thinking this?

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Dear Joseph,

Dear Joseph,

I’ve been asked twice this week how I would’ve handled your situation. I have no idea. I’d like to think that I would trust God with this plan (not to mention have the courage and/or faith to act on what must have been the struggle of deciding if you heard God correctly). I’d like to think I was understanding towards Mary even if I didn’t understand. You must have been wise enough to know it was God taking to you in that dream. I can’t imagine I would’ve been wise or courageous enough to just go with it. I can’t even imagine what fears you had about bringing a child into the world under difficult circumstances, much less while knowing that it was God’s son whom Mary was carrying.

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Christmas

The 18th of December. 10:06 PM. Seven days ’till Christmas and I still haven’t invested time slowing down and thinking. I had the opportunity tonight. I’ve had over four hours of alone time. My brain is tired, my emotions drained and my will crushed by loss of perspective. I work, come home, crash and start over the next day. Were I in Bethlehem 2000 or so years ago, I would have just been a number on a census, going through my days oblivious to anything special going on.

I don’t shop anymore, nor do I even send out cards. I wouldn’t have a Christmas tree or decorations if I wasn’t married. It is nothing spiritual, I’m just worn out and merely existing. PFR asks, "Do you feel like you wake up every day to watch your life slide right by? Is it slipping away? Does the question call to your mind, ‘Are you just doing time? Could there be a better way?’" Although God has given me a new spirit of power and self-discipline, my feelings run the show. I love the Christmas season, though. I used to be so involved with Christmas. I was the Christmas card master sender outer! Did Christmas programs and went to parties. I’ve slowed down alot, but one thing has not changed — I still don’t intentionally invest time with the Christmas story.

So, I go to bed knowing that I could have done more tonight. I will sleep soundly because manual labor has given me the gift of quick, deep sleep. I will think about Christmas as I work tomorrow. But I sense another Christmas will go by with the marks of mediocrity etched in my memory.

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Thank you God

I haven’t even taken time to thank God for a whole lotta stuff. For example, today, God has been trying to remind me of how fragile my mind and emotions still are. Something happened at work today which took me a long time to overcome. It was a fight to stop my thoughts from going down an angry path. What is worse than what chronological adult/mental-and-emotional-child dude did to me was the fact that I have absolutely no compassion for him. None. Pity, yes, but zero compassion. "How can you love God whom you can’t see and not love your brother whom you can see?" God took the time to reveal two weaknesses in me: One is the absence of love for this man and, two, is my still weak mind and emotions. I am thankful that God thinks it is worth his time to allow this to happen so I can see my weakness before I get back into ministry.

One of the ways God was trying to teach me today was by remembering Philippians 4:8. The first thing it instructs us to think about is that which is true. So, I thought through some things that are true: Scripture, Jesus, God’s justice were the three that kept coming up. Problem — As I was thinking of Scripture, it occurred to me how much trouble I was having recalling any. That’s when I realized I had not read the Bible in at least three days. I must read every day. I think of it like a person who wants to really succeed in their vocation. They would go find the best of the best and be mentored by them. I need to remember that Jesus needs to be my mentor.

PS – I found another snake today. It was a small, beautifully marked rat snake (although it could have been a corn snake). I was moving mulch with my garden cultivator and the snake got wrapped up in the tines! It was lethargic enough that I could have held it, but I just kept it on the cultivator and took it to the woods.

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