August 29, 2011

Cell Phones

I remember the day when my brother got his first cell phone. It was an in the car cell phone, all wrapped up in a leather bag/case. It had a wire the ran from the bag to a cool looking antenna that was on the back of his SUV. It was such a cool gadget . . . and so much smaller than the big brick looking cell phones that other people had.

I remember the first cell phone I had. I thought I was so cool. It was small compared to my brother's bag phone, though I still had to pull the antenna up for better reception. It was too big to fit in my pocket, so it had a lovely leather sleeve that fit over it with a belt holder. I could make and receive calls. To check the voicemail, you had to call another number. It did nothing else. Well, I probably could have sent a text at that point, but it would have cost lots of money. I was so high tech.

I currently have an iphone. It is miniscule compared to my brother's bag phone. It has no needs for external antennas or a constant power source other than to charge the battery every other day. And it fits nicely in my pocket. Furthermore, I can do so much more than just make phone calls. I can surf the web, video chat with my friends in other parts of the world, play any assortment of games made specifically for it, control my desktop computer in my office from anywhere I have phone signal, and use it as a compass if I were ever lost in the middle of nowhere--all without roaming charges! What a difference two decades of technological advances can make.

Though, with advances come with a price. Before the age of cell phones, the only way people could reach you was with a land line. If you weren't there, they might be lucky enough to leave you a message on your answering machine, if you even had one. Otherwise, they were forced to call you back at a later time, write a letter, or travel to you to speak to you face to face. Now, I can't get away from anyone. In all honesty, my phone is closer to me than almost everything else. It is always within arm's reach. Which means, anyone and everyone I am connected to is really only an arm's length away, in addition to all the information and stuff I choose to encounter through my phone. I can't get away from anything, unless I put my phone in time out.

More than that, before the age of cell phones, the only way I could really annoy someone with the phone was to repeatedly call them so they had to get up to answer the phone that was in another other room or physically trip (or choke) them with the coiled 30 foot handset cord. Now, I have a plethora of annoyance possibilities from talking loudly in line at the supermarket or texting in the middle of a movie to forgetting to shut off my ringer during church.

I wonder how Jesus would have used a cell phone, had he had that technology available to him. I'm sure he would use it in all the positive ways--sending emails of encouragement and communicating to others about the Kingdom of God. Would he have a twitter feed that stated, "just fed 5000!" or "healed a blind guy today!" Probably not. He certainly would have remembered to silence his phone at the temple and the synagogue.

I want to be honest here. I'll be the first one to admit that I need to gage the amount of noise that I let technology create in my life. I probably do need to put my phone (and for that matter, the internet) in a time out and make some silent space to be still and listen without interuption. It will probably be good for me . . . and the world won't fall apart while I'm gone.

How about you?

August 24, 2011

What Should We Do?

I read a post today by the bassist of Third Day, a Christian band that I have liked for a long time. I think his comments are on target. I encourage you to read his thoughts.

Africa has been on my heart a lot recently. It makes me feel like a contradiction. I am a contradiction. On one hand, I feel so strongly that I need to do something to help. On the other hand, I cannot stop being who I am, feeling like I am entitled to eat what I want, do what I want and so on and so on and so on. I know I need to do something, yet fail to do anything. My heart wants to be thousands of miles away with the people of Africa, yet my eyes can't see two feet in front of me to get my mind to move.

I wonder if the boy who gave Jesus the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5000 went through the internal struggle I am going through. He probably didn't have all the entitlement pressures we have built into our beings here in America--not that that gets us off the hook. Even if I could work through my personal dichotomy and actually do something, I fear I would end up being like the disciples as they responded to Jesus' challenge for them to feed all the people. "We can't do that! We don't have the resources. We don't have the money. They are so far away. You are crazy!!!"

Lord, help me to see the five loaves and two fish. I will try my hardest to not eat them for myself. Rather, I will do something with them for Your creation. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear!

August 21, 2011

Could Anything Else Go Wrong?

Today during worship, we had a few hiccups.  It all started with me missing one of the verses of the song, Great Is the Lord Almighty.  Actually, I started singing verse two instead of verse 1.  Obviously, I could have went back and sang verse one after we sang verse two.  But, it wouldn't have been right, singing about Jericho before singing about God bringing Israel through the Red Sea.  So, I stopped the song about half way through verse two and started over.  I should have known that wouldn't be all that would happen.

A few songs later was special music.  During rehearsal we had done the song, The Beauty of the Cross, flawlessly three times.  It was perfect.  However, when we started it during our offering time, something wasn't right.  Either I was in the wrong key or someone else was off.  That, in turn threw off our soloist.  I don't think we recovered well, even though we pushed through.

Then, on the next song, I broke a guitar string.  Granted, I'm known for breaking guitar strings every once in awhile.  This time, it was frustrating, though, since the strings on my guitar are only two days old.

Needless to say, I was ready to step off the stage for Frank to preach.  When I sat down beside my wife, Stephanie, I leaned over and said, "did everything sound as bad as it felt like it went this morning?"  Her response was, "It was shaky.  You should have said something like, 'even though things have not went as we wanted, God still finds worth in our praise.'"

God wants us to worship Him with everything we are.  He wants us to do the best we can all the time.  But, I think He knows that we aren't always going to be perfect.  Because we are His children, I think He understands that at times, we are going to be off key or that a string is going to break.  I think it gives Him joy just like a play put on by elementary age kids would bring joy to those that are there watching.  Its a different kind of joy.  A joy that's not based on super-human ability.  Rather, a joy that is full of love, hope, and humility.

August 17, 2011

The Cost of Convenience

I read an article the other day on how the government pays for empty seats on planes so that out of the way places can still have air service.  Millions of dollars go to the airline companies every year so people in remote West Virginia or wherever don't have to drive an hour and a half to the airport to fly somewhere.  Seems a bit backward to me.  But, we do live in a culture where we buy bottled water for the same price as a soda.  Even worse, we'll drop $1.50 or more for a 20 ounce soda when you could spend 50 cents more and get an entire two liter. 

I think the thing that gets me most about the article is entitled attitude that everyone has.  Like the guy who says this:
"It's very convenient to have this place," Williams said. He said his family sometimes drives to Pittsburgh, to pick him up, but "that's a stress on them, and it's difficult to get up to Pittsburgh on time with all the road construction. So it would be terrible to have this go away."
Really?  It would be terrible?  We should spend $45 billion a year to keep some airports open just so some guy's family doesn't have to drive to Pittsburgh?  I think $45 billion a year could pay for the taxi service needed to get the few passengers from one place to another to catch their plane.  Or maybe the government should rent out Garmins for those who are directionally challenged.

The thing that frustrates me most, and really cuts deep in my own soul, is that we sit here thinking we are entitled to these things like cokes in whatever size we want and so on and so on while people in Africa have to make decisions on which child or children to leave behind to starve to death while the rest of the family goes in search of food.

Lord, forgive us.  Help us to see the things we need to do and move us into action!

August 9, 2011


Not much to write today.  I'm really focused on the tasks in my NOW list.  That is a great thing!

What are you all reading in Scripture?  If you struggle to stay consistent with your Bible reading, you should go over to YouVersion.  I really struggled for consistency.  Having it online has been a huge help.  You can set your browser to default to their page.  The thing that helps me most is I don't have the excuse of saying, "I don't have my Bible with me right now."  Its always there, on the internet--the same place where time wasters are like Facebook. 

YouVersion has all kinds of different translations to read, a search function, the ability to put two translations side by side, and best of all, multiple reading plans.  A great start for a reading plan would the plan for reading through the gospels.  As you read, you could be on the lookout for all the times Jesus talks about the kingdom of God/kingdom of Heaven.  It will change your perspective of who we are and how we are to live.

Happy Bible reading!

August 8, 2011

New Eyes

My friend David Joe recently had some major eye surgery.  Before his surgeries, his eyesight was bad enough that he took away his own driving privileges.  Post surgery, he has been amazed at the things he has been missing, even though his vision has not fully adjusted.  The problem is his brain.  The doctor fixed his vision so that his eyes themselves see perfectly now.  But his brain has been trained over the last few decades or more to see things with not so perfect eyes.  It is receiving perfect signal now, but doesn't know what to do with it.  It has to reprogram itself.

The human body totally amazes me--that it can reprogram itself; that it can heal itself.  Even more, most of the time it will do this all on its own as long as we stay out of the way.  We may need a doc or a mom to do some repair and put things in order, but the rest of the process is automatic.

Now, that is not to say that we don't get in the way of the healing that our bodies can do.  We can be unwilling to change our diets to heal our fatness and all the bad things that come along with that.  We can be unwilling to admit that there are issues with things, like our sight, and allow broken things to perpetuate into even worse problems.

I think that is the problem with our spiritual lives.  If we were to be faithful and chase after God, living our lives for him in the way that he has called us live, everything else will heal itself.  Now, I understand that as we talk about our spiritual lives and the things we do, there is more than just ourselves involved.  Our living and spiritual lives also involve those around us, from our spouses, family, friends, co-workers and so on and so on.  I think that is why it is so hard when God steps in and makes all the perfect repairs.  Our living needs to reprogram itself.  And that is challenged by us and those around us. 

This is why it is so important for the church to be the Kingdom of God.  If we are being what God has called us to be, then we are creating a place where people can come to heal from life in the world and learn about life in the Kingdom.

August 4, 2011

At The Last Minute

Why does it seem that our world always runs in a constant stream of deadlines and procrastination? The recent debt debacle in our nation is only one of many examples in our world. We push and fight and push and fight and end up leaving ourselves no time to make great decisions and solve the problems. Shockingly, I am not any better. Why is it that we cannot get organized, motivated, or (the most dreaded word of them all) disciplined?

If you take a close look, you can see the products of un-organization and un-motivation all around us. Sure, some people have discipline, like Seth Godin. The rest of us want it, but somehow can't move ourselves to deal with our credit card debt, our super sized waistlines, our poor relationships, multiple task lists at work, our home projects, the things we really want to spend our time on, and so on, and so on, and so on. We are such a mess.

Fortunately, I can only speak for myself.  That's probably a good thing, especially since I have my own problems with procrastination.  I certainly don't need to be pointing fingers.  I have lots I need to get done.  I have lots of wants, desires, and aspirations.  Yet, it seems like every day, the things I want to get done are still there when it is time to head home.  Each day starts with hope and ends with the thought of maybe tomorrow.  Its like our productivity is stuck in Groundhog Day.  The problem is, not changing the routine will only get us back to yesterday.

I think my solution is this.  I need to get past the overwhelmed feeling I have sometimes at all that I need to get done and simply be disciplined.  Well, that and make a plan of attack.  I read a post on Lifehacker today that encouraged the reader to, "reduce everything you want to do to an action you can do right now."  What I read between the lines there is this: take all you want to do, write it down, and make it doable.  Break it down into tiny "baby steps", to quote another Bill Murray movie, and then do it.

Why does it seem so simple, yet its so difficult?  Oh wait, because we strive to be lazy and wait to the last minute to get things done.  I'm tired of the pressure.  I'm tired of the doing average things--that is what it feels like I do.  I'm ready to change and become disciplined and motivated.  Lord help me!

August 3, 2011

The Humility of Manasseh

This morning I spent some time in the story of Manasseh, one of the kings of Judah.  The story can be found in 2 Chronicles 33.  Manasseh is the son of the great king Hezekiah.  You should go and read about them...

The story of Manasseh caught my attention today because of the polar opposites in it.  As the story begins, Manasseh is a dirt ball king.  He sacrifices to other gods, builds new places of worship to them, and sacrifices is children.  He even builds altars for them in the temple of the Lord and places a graven image the he made himself in the temple.  Once the writer is done listing all the bad things that Manasseh has done and encouraged his people to do, the writer says this: 
But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.
All of these things are bad news, especially if you are the king.  Living bad means one thing--God is going to beat you down.  And that's what happens.  The king of Assyria comes to town, makes Manasseh his prisoner.  He binds him and puts a ring in his nose--not a pretty nose ring that one would wear as jewelry, a big, nasty nose ring like a cow or bull would get.  Then he drags him off to Babylon.

Here's where the story takes an unexpected turn.  The text says that Manasseh humbled himself greatly before is God.  And God heard his cry, and acted.  As you read the rest of the story, you will see how God returns Manasseh to Jerusalem, allows him to rebuild parts of the city and, most importantly, that Manasseh leads his people to only worship the Lord.

If there is one thing I've really picked up from reading through Chronicles the last few weeks, it would be the roles that humility and pride play in our existence in the Kingdom of God.  All through Chronicles, the writer shares how this king was humble and how that king was prideful.  And, it never fails, when pride rules, God's presence and engagement disappears.  Yet, when humility reigns, God is directly involved for the good of those being humble.

From the story of Manasseh, I think that repentance can be connected to humility.  Manasseh called on the God of his ancestors to come and save him, even though his attention before that moment was fully focused on other gods like Baal and Molech.  God showed mercy, forgave, restored, and enjoyed once again the worship of his people.

How am I being humble and repentant with my life?  How are you being humble and repentant?  And once we've answered that question, how are we being mercy to those who have wronged us?

These are the things we are to be as we live out the Kingdom.

August 2, 2011

Wash Your Bad Luck Away

I read this article this morning on Thai monks who are offering funerals for people who need to get the bad luck out of their lives. For a mere $6, the monk will put you in a coffin, pray over you for your bad luck to go away, put a sheet over you, and then pull it back for you to start your new life with good luck. Sounds familiar, eh?

As I sat here and read this article, I couldn't help but think about how much these actions parallel our view of baptism. We enter the water with the expectation of something more and something new. We are buried in the water just as Jesus was buried in the grave, and then we are raised to new life (see Romans 6).

My brain, being my brain, had two questions that popped up then. What is different from coffin/sheet baptism to a new life filled with good luck and our baptism to new life? And, even more intriguing, how would outsiders to Christianity compare the two? The second question, in my opinion, influences the first question.

If we were to ask people who had no idea of the church and our practices compare the two, would they see any difference? Would they see the weight of becoming a Christian explained into the conversations leading up to the baptism event? Would they see the changed life that is supposed to be there on our part and on the Holy Spirit's part after the baptism? My fear is that they wouldn't see a difference. I fear they would see the same schtick, "come, do this ritual, and everything will get better!"

If outsiders won't see it as different, do we?  I think the answer is yes, we would understand that it is different.  But, then that leads to another question, "How do our actions surrounding baptism--the journey into it, the change of life that is to follow as we live differently afterwards--show that we see something different?  Do our words and challenge for people of the world to join us and live out the Kingdom of God really give them the full perspective of that life?  Jesus was very bold in saying you have to die to yourself to follow him, so much so that he even told one guy to skip his father's funeral (see Luke 9).  Which, to try and read between the lines there, maybe the guy asking to become a follower is the first born.  Maybe its his duty to bring closure to his father's life and take on his inheritance.   Jesus' call is to leave everything about his family behind at that moment.  That's intense. 

What is our call to people as the church?  Are we as bold as Jesus?  Do we call them to higher things?  Do we tell them they need to give up lust?  Do we tell them they need to be tenacious with love and forgiveness?  Do we tell them that they will have to change and live for others, which will probably force them to change their views about their stuff?  Even more challenging is this: do our lives show that we have given up these things?  Do we live the way Jesus has called us to be so those deciding to join us in living out the Kingdom of God see and experience what that actually is?

I fear two things.  One, we don't really know and understand what the Kingdom of God is to look like so that we can live it out.  Or, two, we understand what it is and choose not to live it.  Neither is good.

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone here.  I need to check my life just as much as the next person.  The point is, we need to do it so that we are true to what we've committed to, and so the world can see that there is a difference between new life (see Romans 6 again) and getting your bad luck swept away.

August 1, 2011

A New Month

Where did July go?  For that matter, where did June go?  Next thing you know it will be Christmas.  I don't remember time going this fast when I was younger.

With a new month brings new possibilities and new changes.  You may notice a change right now here on this blog.  Well, two changes, actually.  First, I have blogged now three days in a row.  That is an accomplishment for me.  Per my post a few days ago, I am doing to do everything I can to blog on a daily basis.  We will see how that goes.

The other change is a small change that is powered by my high C personality.  Do you see it?  I am sure that my wife already noticed.  The change comes because when I blog from my ipad, does not allow me to mess with certain settings, like the font.  Thus, after I post, I have to at a later point, go in and change the font of the post to what everything else.  Uniformity in the life of a C personality reigns supreme!

I'm tired of having to go and change the posts.  So, the new font you are reading now (unless you are reading on an RSS reader, at which point, everything is out of my control) is the standard default font, instead of Verdana in the normal size.  I know, you could care less.  Remember, change is hard for us C people.

To show you the depths of my insanity, I must admit that I contemplated this change a few days ago.  But, I couldn't make the change in the middle of the month.  If someone was going to look at July 2011 in the future, the fonts wouldn't have matched on the page.  So, I waited for a new month for the switch.

Its a good thing I didn't think of changing until today.  Then I would have had to wait until September for the switch . . . not that it would have taken long to get to September as fast as time is.