Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Runny Noses and Itchy Eyes

Yesterday and the rest of this week the blog will be in an allergy-induced coma. Mornings are kinda hard with the breathing and sneezing and phlegm and what not. I'm sure God has things for me to see in it, but mostly I just feel miserable. So, hopefully they will calm down over the next few days and I will get back to un-medicated thought patterns and the blog next week. Until then, run after Jesus!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Wonderings (and Wanderings)

Can a church be both strategic and organic? I love the structure and drive of creating strategy,  but I also believe that if we can strategize the church, then we can quickly create our own kingdom instead of God's. How to balance those is a big question in my mind.

Oh Denver Broncos... I'm glad I couldn't watch. Quit losing please.

I wonder if there will ever be a day that my to do list actually shrinks. It feels like it often grows longer throughout a day. Today that is certainly the case. 

I think there are not very many people still deciding who to vote for when the Presidential election happens in 5 weeks. I don't follow that world really at all, but I don't hear many stories of people changing their minds about who to vote for. Also, I love these "campaign commercials" made by Ellen.

Will my Teva's officially fall apart soon? I've had them for 6 or 7 years, but they are about to officially bite the dust. This makes me sad. It really makes my feet sad. I've been thinking I might try Chaco's this next go around. Thoughts?

Allergies suck. A lot. I signed up for a 5k and since signing up have been mostly unable to breath and completely unable to sustain any type of exercise. I think this 5k for me is going to feel a lot like being beat with a blunt instrument for whatever ridiculously long amount of time it takes me to complete it.

What do you wonder today?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fear and Satisfaction

I'm overweight.

I don't like it. In fact, I mostly hate it. I get tired too quickly, physical activity is harder than it should be, my clothes don't all fit... The list could quickly get very long.

And I've tried to lose weight. And I've lost some and regained some and lost some and regained some. Many of you can relate. But here's the thing: I'm a little bit afraid to lose all the weight, because what happens if getting to my "ideal" weight doesn't bring all the "happy, happy, joy, joy" that I feel like it should?

What if I'm still a broken person struggling with insecurity even when I'm skinny? And deep down, I know that is the truth. Being skinny will not fix my humanity. Neither would being taller or faster or smarter or anything.

And so I, and you, have to unpin our hope in this life from our circumstances in this life. We can't hang on to flimsy promises that life will be better when... Because sometimes the "when" doesn't turn out picture perfect like we imagined.

I have friends that went to the doctor last week expecting the all clear in a fight against cancer. Instead they were told that they had another year of chemo with radiation to face. They have to know, that even though this was horrifyingly bad news, that there is hope outside of anything that happens with the 'c' word. Or this little girl that has been fighting for her life just weeks after her family moved to Africa to help free women and children from the sex slave trade. This wasn't the way it was supposed to work out. This isn't what is supposed to happen when you move to a 3rd world country to free slaves... it just isn't. 

But if our hope is found in health or things working out just like we dreamed... then we are missing the beauty of Jesus. He makes beauty from ashes and causes things to grow in the drought of our hearts. 

I need to lose weight, but not because it will fill all my dreams or something, but so I can be healthy for my family and to do what God has set me on this earth to do. I will leave my hope of fulfillment and perfection squarely in his loving and good hands.

Hebrews 12:2-3 (Message)
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pursuit of God Chps 1-2

I've been reading "The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer. A few quotes and thoughts as I've started reading it.
Everything is made to center upon the initial act of "accepting" Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls.  We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him. (16)
Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. (17)
When religion has said it's last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the "and" lies out great woe. (18)
The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God's gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution. (22)
C'mon! There is so much there, out of just the first two chapters! Oh my, the God-and part just wrecks my heart! Oh how I love the other things that I try to include in following God. Pick up the book and give it a read. I'll leave you today with the prayer that Tozer writes at the end of chapter 1.
O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long, In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Culture Shock

Proverbs 23:17-18
Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels; soak yourself in the Fear-of-God— That’s where your future lies. Then you won’t be left with an armload of nothing.
Are you sure, God? Does my future lie in you? I'm going to be honest, a lot of the time that doesn't feel very true. A lot of the time I think my future lies in whatever I see making other people happy. 

And God, can I tell you something? It's a LOT easier to envy careless rebels and those who don't follow you than it is to fear you. They make everything look so fun, carefree, and simple.

But I know it's a lie.

Because I know when it's just faith and hope and love that are left, those things that I envy will be gone, they will be nothing. And a lot of people will look kinda silly while they stand around trying to hold all of their nothing (I guess a lot of times it already looks kinda silly). They will strain under the weight of their nothing. And it will reward them with nothing.


I can carry your weight. You say your weight is easy and light. Some days it feels awfully heavy to me. But I get what you mean. You hold my future, my hope. I won't be left holding a bunch of nothing. I will be left being held by you and in that, I will have everything. 

God, rid me of useless jealousy for things that aren't you. Let me SOAK in you because you are love and you are my future.

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Power of the Pause

The church staff I work on has recently started a new practice. Each day at 10a and 2p, we stop whatever is happening in the office, close the office and spend 10 minutes in prayer together. We generally read a Psalm from the Paraclete Psalter and then spend time in silence or prayer. We have been doing this for about a month. Here's what I have learned:

  • There are a lot of Psalms I am not familiar with. (Like Psalm 29- that one wrecked me last week. The voice of the Lord... Wow!) I have read the Psalms a few times, but as we pray the Psalms together, I hear then in new ways as I allow them to wash over me as offerings to and from God.
  • I work with some awesome people. If you've never prayed with anyone on the church staff, just come in and ask, they all love Jesus, and it comes out when they pray. 
  • The power of pausing. 
That last one... Stopping each day at 10 and 2 is really hard. I will be right in the middle of something and all of a sudden I have to stop. That is really hard for me. I am a very distractable person already, and having to stop when I am "in the groove" can just feel unfair to me. 

But I kind of think that's the point of fixed prayer times like this. To get the opportunity (or be forced!) to stop and see God and refocus my world towards him. As a pastor, it seems like it should be easy to always be focused on Christ as I work. It is not. But pausing helps me remember what I should be remembering, and in that remembering I find life and energy.

So, stop by at 10 or 2 sometime and pray with us, or set your own times throughout the day to "pause".

If you're going to pause, leave a comment about the when and the what!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Weight of Debt

How many of you have ever been in debt? Even if it's just a small amount of money, it can be overwhelming. I remember when Shiloh and I signed the papers for our first home loan. I was almost physically sick knowing I would owe someone SOOOO much money for 30 years.

When you're in debt, it can often create a pit in your stomach that eats away at you. You feel this sense of urgency to remind you to get out of debt. Or you can be completely overwhelmed by both the feeling and the debt. You work harder or pinch extra pennies to pay it off. Whatever the case, when we are in debt, we FEEL it. 
Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love, for whoever loves has fulfilled the law. -Romans 13:8
As I read Romans 13:8, I think about how the debt to continuing to love makes me feel.

Because all too often it produces no urgency.

No extra work.

No sense that I have to do something now.

It is really easy to forget that we owe a never-payable sized debt to God for the love that he showed us in Jesus Christ. And we pay it back by loving others. (I am in no way suggesting that we can pay it back or that it earns our salvation. Just that it is a debt we owe that we can only make payments on with our love.)

This isn't a "be nice to others" love, either. It isn't easy. It is self-sacrificing. It chooses to see, and then know, people that are invisible in our culture.   (If you don't know where these people are, go to wherever the low income housing assistance in your community is located, and buy someone there a meal.) We need to feel the urgency and love others with radical abandon. 

What a beautiful debt to owe! May kingdom-sized love abound in your life!

How are you loving others?

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

I'm reading a book right called "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green. It is the story of Hazel, a teenage girl with terminal cancer.

Last night I came across a line from Hazel in a conversation about beauty with her boyfriend. They are marveling at the beauty of the elm tree seeds falling all around them. Here is a snippet:
     "Of course," said our waiter. "We have bottled all the stars this evening, my young friends. Gah, the confetti!" he said, and lightly brushed a seed from my bare shoulder. "It hasn't been so bad in many years. It's everywhere. Very annoying."
     The waiter disappeared. We watched the confetti fall from the sky, skip across the ground in the breeze, and tumble into the canal. "Kind of hard to believe anyone could ever find that annoying," Augustus said after a while.
     "People always get used to beauty, though." 
That last line is such a good reminder! I worship the creator of all beauty and goodness, but very often I find myself missing the beauty altogether, or worse, grumbling about how annoying it is.

Today (once the sun and someone else in my family is awake!), I will choose to see beauty. And I will not be satisfied in the beautiful thing, but I will remember who the beautiful one is, and give Him glory and honor and thanks.

So, shake off your slumber, stretch your limbs, open your eyes wide and see the beauty God has placed around you wherever you are today.

Where do you see beauty today?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prayer of St. Ignatius

Challenged students to pray this prayer of St. Ignatius for the next 3 weeks. Feel free to join us!

Lord, I so wish to prepare well for this day.

I so want to make all of me ready and attentive and available to you.

Please help me to clarify and purify my intentions.
I have so many contradictory desires.
I get preoccupied with things that don't really matter or last.
I know that if I give you my heart,
whatever I do will follow my new heart.
all my encounters, reflections - even the frustrations and failings
and especially in this time of prayer,
in all of this may I place my life in your hands.
Lord, I am yours. Make of me what you will. Amen.

In all that I am today, all that I try to do, all my encounters, reflections - even the frustrations and failings and especially in this time of prayer, in all of this may I place my life in your hands. Lord, I am yours. Make of me what you will. 
On a less important note, I am about to try a piece of gum called Stride Shift Citrus to Mint. That sounds gross. But I'm excited to give it a whirl. Yeah for super cheap and weird packs of gum from Meridian Grocery in Newton! And yes, that is a nun calendar. It just appeared in my office early this year. And I think it is swell. And I just changed it to September after I took the picture.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Worldly Wisdom vs. Godly Wisdom

As I've been reading through Proverbs recently, I've been struck by how often our  world operates in the exact opposite way from what the Proverbs say. Take these verses from Proverbs 15 for instance:
5- A fool spurns a parents discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence. 
What? In our culture that first statement would read, "A fool heeds a parents discipline." It is completely acceptable among teens to trash your parents when you don't agree with them. (I would guess that if I changed teens to 30-40 year olds, it would still be a true statement.) But, the kingdom of God works differently than the kingdom of man.
10- Stern discipline awaits those who leave the path; those who hate correction will die.
Our world encourages "finding your own way" and "doing whatever makes you happy". Neither of these statements lead one to be open to correction. Our culture rebels against correction: "Who are you to tell me what to do/say/think/how to act?" And this is encouraged! Be independent, follow your heart, and make your dreams come true. But. God's kingdom works differently than the kingdom of man.
18- The hot-tempered stir up dissension, but those who are patient calm a quarrel.
Most often, the loudest, angriest voice wins in our culture. If you have been wronged, be as loud and angry as possible, and "they" will have to deal with you and make things right. Case in point: A plane full of United passengers are recently stranded in China for 3 days. They begin yelling in the airport and attacking United personnel across the counter. They receive refunds and vouchers almost before they have landed in the US. Another group is stranded in Peru (A country they weren't supposed to see) for 1.5 days. They stay mostly calm and never cause a scene. It takes 7 weeks and LOTS of phone calls, emails, and faxes to hear from United. (Side note: Full refund request okay'd on Wednesday morning. Woohoo!) But, God's kingdom works differently than the kingdom of man.
33- Wisdom's instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. 
In our world, humility is usually a trait of weakness. It's ok to fake it when people are publicly making much of you, but it is not something that will lead you to great honor. Case in point: Usain Bolt. The cockiest, least humble athlete I've ever heard interviewed. He takes great honor for himself. But, God's kingdom works differently than the kingdom of man.

Go after the kingdom of God!

Where do you see a difference in the way of our culture and the way of God's kingdom?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What's in a Name?

I have had a few questions lately on where the name of the blog comes. I am hurt that those of you who don't know haven't read through my archives back to May of 2007 when I first posted about the name. But, I understand, I guess. 

The name is a from quote from "Reflections on the Psalms" by C.S. Lewis:
Meanwhile, of course, we are merely tuning our instruments. The tuning up of the orchestra can be itself delightful, but only to those who can, in some measure, however little, anticipate the symphony.
I try to live each day watching and remembering that the symphony is coming. The kingdom of God, in parts and pieces, is already here, but it has not fully arrived. The in-breaking of God's kingdom happens as the followers of God follow the example and way of Jesus in the world around them. 

This is the "tuning up". It can be overwhelmingly beautiful as we see God-sized, kingdom-full things happen in the broken world we inhabit. Yet I still long for the symphony: the instruments working together, perfectly following the conductor, creating a joyous and enormous movement of sound. 

May we be people who long for the kingdom of God and spend our lives bringing pieces of it to people here.

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Being a Dad

As humans, we are always striving for balance. Eating a balanced meal or diet, the crazy people try to balance their workouts (I just try to workout!), balancing the budget (unless you are my government...), and balancing our work/home life. 

That last one is hard for me. I am blessed to be doing something I love for a job, that I have skills to do, with people I really love working with. But it can make my job WAY too important in my own mind.

It gets really easy to think about how I am (or could be) helping lots of teens get introduced to Jesus and community and the Church and forget about doing those same things with my 4 kids at home. Home can get pretty stressful because I never leave anything for being there. I give it all at work. 

And this is a problem. A big one. Part of the problem is buying into the lie of "balance". Not the lie of achieving a balanced life, that is goal we can have. But the lie that we can split our life up into parts, like 50% work 50% home or 33-33-34 or 1-40-59 or whatever you want the split to be. If your family gets less than 100% of you, that sucks. Of course it is unrealistic to give 100% of your time, but you can give everything you have when your there.

Here is what I'm trying to do:
Work ridiculously hard while I'm at work. 40 or 50 (or sometimes more) hours of work a week should be plenty to get done what I think God is calling me to do, if I use my time wisely.
When I have big, huge, hairy, loud work projects to finish TODAY!!!, I go home when I say I will, or even a little early. And I leave my computer off once I'm home. No pulling up work projects the second I'm home.
We talk about and memorize the Bible together. We talk about the story that God is writing. We read the Jesus Bible Storybook together(Seriously, go buy it now!). Because the Bible and following Jesus is not my job, it is my LIFE. I have to pass that on to my kids and show them what it means in the small places of my day, not just when I'm up front at church things.
I'm trying to teach my kids what's important. Don't tell Kennedy, but I'm going to take her out of school to go finish some pottery we've been making at my friends Mark's studio. 

What are you doing to "balance" the different parts of your life? Leave a comment on this post!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Wonderings (or Wanderings)

I wonder why I let myself fall asleep on the couch once in a while. It always makes my entire body feel miserable.

I wonder if the current presidential candidates are trying to drive voters away with their lies, half truths, and lack if civility. I have very little interest in voting, and zero interest in voting for either main party candidate. I also wonder if their tactics will trickle down to local politics. I had someone running for a local seat ring my doorbell, tell me who he was, tell me 2 bad things about who he was running against, nothing about how we would fix those problems, and then ask for my vote. Ummm... is that what earns votes these days? Bummer.

I wonder if I will actually train for the 5k I signed up for. I hate running. A lot. But I also hate being overweight and feeling tired after even small physical activities. So I gave someone $23.00 to participate in their charity 5k on November 3. That is just under 9 weeks from today. I believe I can currently run to the end of my cul-de-sac (at a VERY slow jog) without stopping. Any tips or advice?

I wonder how often all the 4 big Reno County high schools win their season opener. One of the youth group students ran for 2 td's and threw for 2 more to lead his team to a big win. Way to go, Tim! And at 5th Quarter we had 115+ students. From a school of 280. It was crazy. And awesome.

I wonder what it will be like to take a personal retreat day on Wednesday. I'm kind of intimidated by the idea. A whole day of quiet, reflection, and prayer. I'm also a lot excited. I have taken about 2 of these in my ~104 months as a pastor. I have been given 1/month that whole time. Sorry God and people that I pastor. But our staff is holding one another accountable now to take one day each month. We have to schedule it before the month starts. That's good.

I wonder if, now that college football is started, it will make it seem faster to get to college basketball season. Rock Chalk!