What Does Your Future Hinge On?

I grew up when the home computer was becoming popular and accessible.  My parents first purchased a computer when my brother was in high school to keep better track of the books for our family farm. It had a green screen, no color. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying a good game of Test Drive.

In high school, there was one game I thoroughly loved though it frustrated me to death. “Myst graphic adventure puzzle,” as it’s called, was a game I was addicted to. Trying to figure out why in the world you were in this place; how to get from one place to another- it was so puzzling it made my head hurt. Yet, it was so intriguing that it captivated my attention. Why was it so frustrating? Oh, let me count the ways. It would often happen that as I would play, I would get pretty far down the game, only to realize that I was stuck. Why? Because I passed up a button, or turned a lever the wrong way 2 hours before and had to therefore go all the way back in order to move on and finish the game (a feat I was never able to do without a cheat book or sheet). This is probably why I haven’t really played video games in the last 15 years.

I’ve written before about my tendency to future trip. It’s part of my default, my way of escaping, my way of controlling–to future trip and try to come up with every possible situation so that I am prepared for whatever comes. Those of us who future trip know that you never fully know what is to come and therefore end up getting blindsided at some point. Or, perhaps by future tripping, we get stuck in the fantastical situation with villans, plots both major and minor, and in the end we defeat the enemy and become the conquering hero. But it is all fantasy. It’s things that have not come to fruition or realization and therefore, my emotional investment in it, let alone my time, is worthless.

Well, at least I have the tendency to live that way. And it sucks. It hurts. It causes anxiety, worry and grave concern. It definitely does not bring out the best in me, and I would assume, it doesn’t bring out the best in others around me either. This is control at it’s worst.

When it comes to over-working towards the future,  CJ Casciotta writes in his short book “Branding is for Cows. Belonging is for People,” that “It turns out the cost does not come close to justifying the kind of Return on Investment we were hoping for, because the investment we were hoping for was fixed on the future, at the neglect of the present. It was 100% focused on doing without any regard to ‘belonging.'” Neglecting family and friends now in hopes for a great future for all of you together,  just doesn’t add up. We’ll never see a return on that investment. This can also be seen in future tripping. At times my thought is that if I can control the future, then life will be better and easier. The problem is that we can’t ever, fully, completely, totally control every single thing in our future.And in order for me to actually try to control everything to that extent, will only push away everyone I love around me.

People get sick, pass away and lose their jobs. There are wars, economic down turns and factories close. We can’t change these things and we definitely can’t control them. And if we focus all of our energies on these things in hopes that there will be no chance for a misstep in the future, we have sadly missed out on the life that was being lived around us the whole time. We missed out on belonging. When we missed out on the present and focused on the future, we realize that the future we wanted won’t happen because we forget about everyone around us along the way. Perhaps the future we wanted may very well be living out in the present around us…we just can’t see it.

Jesus warned us of this danger by simply stating “don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself.” He was showing us that this way of life isn’t good for us. He was gently reminding us to simply trust in him. How simple yet so very hard.

For me, I realized that for too long I was running my life as if I was playing a computer game, a game of Myst-constantly doing, trying to get to the next thing, all the while disengaged with what was going on around me. Disengaged with the present has caused me to overlook Iris or important things to her that she values, time with my children or what they are excited about, even missing God in the moment because I was too busy thinking about next week. With the exception that Myst is not reality, the only difference between it and my life is that in life I can’t go back to change things. But I can chose to change things from this moment forward. We are given that opportunity thousands of times a day.

Do I chose trust every single moment or every single day? Nope. I don’t. I downward spiral into the “what ifs” and scramble and hustle for control. Just yesterday I did it and had to go make amends with a friend. I’m thankful for their grace towards me. It is a constant, continual choice to trust in Him, to believe in Him. God invites us on the journey of self awareness and of God awareness. Engagement is the only way that happens. May we all choose engagement for this moment, this day.

be blessed today

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Are You Savoring the Finer Things in Life?

I like watching the food channel on tv. To me its up there with design shows both fashion and homes-it always amazes me what people can come up in their creativity. Seriously. Watch anyone of those shows and I’ll bet you can list off at least 30 different ways you can make a hamburger differently. Or what someone can do with a couple yards of fabric draped just so, over someones body. Or how a simple piece of wood can become an original, one of a kind piece of art in a home. It is amazing. As I have grown in my hobby turned profession as a coffee roaster and barista, I have also come to enjoy the fine subtle flavors of food and drink. I’ve come to appreciate craft made delicacies. I’ve also come to understand what the word “savory” means. It’s the richness or lushness of a particular food, that’s the savory aspect that I’ve come to appreciate and desire. Savory food is something to be savored-enjoyed, slowly in all of it’s complexity.

Last month I was gone for a week traveling with a friend through the Gobi Desert, the lower mountains and the massive sand dunes of Mongolia. I was so very thankful for this trip as it not only gave me the opportunity to see some incredible landscape, but also to spend time with my friend. A couple of days later, after returning and getting back into life, Iris and I were sitting down talking one night. “I’m so glad you’re back, I really missed you,” she said. “It’s not that I didn’t have a good time without you I did. And, it’s not like I couldn’t have enjoyed my time without you present. I could. It’s just that……I don’t know, It’s just that it seems…..it seems that life is more savory with you than when you’re not here,” she continued.

Savory. Not flavorful…though that is probably also true as I tend to be a little more crazy than  her. No, savory is what she said. But savory is the aromatics, the herbs, the right blend of spices that leaves that enjoyable flavor that keeps you coming back for more. Life is more savory. I guess savory could be a word used towards a work of art as well. There is something that is pleasing when looking at art, something that catches your eye and holds you fast to it. I, for one, enjoy Monet’s paintings as they are pleasant to my eye. The brush strokes, the somewhat muted colors, it is relaxing and peaceful to me. But in regards to something holding me fast, where I can’t move and, yes, even brought to tears…..Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. It draws me in to all of it’s subtleties.

And I guess that is where I have landed with this place, this world, this life. This world is just not savory without Christ in it. Or, perhaps, life seems to be bland if I don’t have the savoriness of Jesus enhancing or even adding to the beauty that is creation. It’s black and white instead of in technicolor. It’s muted somehow. It’s like eating “dry toast…no butter, no jam, just dry” to quote a line from the highly theological My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Savoring isn’t just the “finer things” in life….it is life itself.

Today, I sat down to finish this post. I usually write my posts a few days (or weeks) in advance and do a simple edit the day I post them. But as I was thinking about this one today, I was trying to figure out what made today so savory. It came down to relationship. Not just relationship with “my people” be it face to face or via some app on my phone, it didn’t matter, it was simply relationship that made my day savory. Of course the whole day wasn’t savory…traffic, traffic isn’t savory at all. But the time in the car talking to a friend while in traffic, that was savory. Lingering, which I’ve written about before. To savor. As with anything, I’m learning that there is always something to be thankful for and now I’m learning that there is a savory part of life because of Christ that I’m beginning to become aware of. What is it about today that made it savory for you? Just curious.

be blessed today

 

Photo Credit: here

 

The Sin Of This Modern Era and What We Can Do About It

Ed Stetzer tweeted in June, “In the last 5 days: 700 refugees drowned off Greece, 9000 babies were aborted in U.S., and 68 were shot in Chicago…and a gorilla dominated the news.”

There is this subtle sin that has crept in the world and grown in power the past several years. Sadly, the Church has not been immune to it. What is it? The subtle deadly sin of disengagement.

Why are we so disengaged?

Let’s look at what has happened in recent history. In the last ten years the Iphone, Ipad and cloud computing have taken the world by storm. We are more connected in more ways than any, ANY other generation in the world…. ever. We are more interconnected as a human race than we ever have been before. But the world has changed in other ways as well. More fighting, more wars, more tension, more offense, more distraction and more taking sides. I wish I could say this was only outside the Church, but you and I both know it is happening in every religion, every country and in every nation. And yes, that includes those who are following Jesus.

I’m thankful and grateful for modern technology. I am. I can send videos to my friends back home in the States in milliseconds. I can communicate, in real time, with anyone I want no matter where they are in the world with an internet connection. I have files stored in a server thousands of miles away from where I live. I can listen to any music I want, watch any movies or shows I want, and keep track of how many minutes of sleep I get a day. I can publish a book, on my own, and have it sent worldwide in a few hours. It’s unbelievable.

And it’s distracting. Simultaneously, we are the most engaged and the most disengaged generation in history. We are the most engaged- engaged with knowledge that is. But, completely disengaged with reality. Disengaged with life, people, living human beings. Disengagement, it seems, is the sin of this modern era.

Second, it seems this way especially when looking at current political circus in the States, it’s clear that there is something darker going on. There is an underlying idea that the world is going to Hell, everything is falling apart, but we as Christians will be ok. The idea that we need to circle up the wagons, grab our guns and protect ourselves. And at the same time, held in tension, there’s this idea that we’ll be ok, so let those who don’t know Christ die knowing that their eternity is uncertain…as long as we’re ok.  It’s the, “I’m in, you’re not; I win, you lose. Sayonara,” mentality that for whatever reason the Church just can’t shake. I’m not saying that everyone in the Church believes this. But there are those who do, and no matter how small they may be in number, they seem to be the loudest.

How have others been engaged?

We have disengaged from the “least of these.”  If we’ve done it to the abandoned, forgotten ones in the world, we’ve done it to Christ, Matthew 25. But there are examples of engagement.

God reveals to us that we are to be active participants. Think of Esther in the Old Testament standing up for her people before the king. Think of four simple fishermen who were content doing just that the rest of their lives until someone showed them the Truth. Peter, Andrew James and John became active participants in the world and did not sit by and let it fall apart. In recent history we can think of so many more….Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Lyman Stewart, Amy Charmichael and more.  These people did not say “Sayonara” to the world. They became actively engaged in being a part of its redemption history.

Taking an honest look at ourselves

Let’s look at the Church in a couple of areas. First is social justice. To be fair, we are considered aliens in the world. So, it is hard to look around and not allow the thankfulness of our salvation in Christ to turn into some sort of prideful sneer towards someone who does you wrong. It’s hard not to feel some sort of weird justification when something bad or hard happens to someone who was hurtful to you. We want justice but only in those things we deem important. When we look at social justice or fighting for justice to those oppressed innocently, it seems that the Church in many ways does this well. And I am so grateful for this.

But in other areas, we as the Church fall way short. Even now I hear from fellow believers in my home country, this attitude of “Well, that is unfortunate for you. You should work harder, be stronger, get over that, move on.” We fail to see that many things in life aren’t up to us. Many things aren’t something we can just get over or work harder at. They aren’t things we can immediately, from out of no where, become stronger in. Many of us are completely powerless to either situations or privileged people.

Go to any Alcoholics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Over-Eaters Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery or any other recovery type of meeting and you will soon see people who are unable to just “get over it.” I honestly believe there is no difference between the ones who attend those meetings and everyone else except for one thing- the ones who attend those meetings know how helpless they are and how much they are in need of a Savior. The other group of people would probably have a hard time admitting that.

Second is the area of knowing versus doing. David Fitch in his book “The End of Evangelicalism?”   writes, “the ‘inerrant Bible’ allows us to believe we have the truth while at the same time remaining distant from actually engaging in it as a way of life. We assent unabashedly to the perfect book without it truly meaning anything. It acts as an “ideological fantasy” wherein we live in a projected world where we can believe we have the truth, but in real life have to make little or no changes to the way we live.”

I admit that I have given give into the selfish desire to become judgmental and disengaged at times as well. Knowing I have the Truth and no one else does gives me a sense of power and of judgment. It gives the idea that because I know the Truth, there’s no reason for me to change. Knowledge somehow gives us power and control…. we think. We are still grasping for control and think we can do a better job than He can. If we didn’t, there wouldn’t be people burning out, falling from moral failure, blindly sticking with one political group, having more protests about what they are against rather than what they are for, among other things. But knowledge doesn’t cause us to become engaged.

And third, the area of spectators versus participants. In recovery groups there’s a level of grace towards one another that is unmatched to almost any other group of believers that I’ve ever been in. Why? Because those in recovery all understand that they are in the same sinking ship in this world. Citizens of the world or citizens of heaven, we were all born into this fallen place. It’s what we choose to do with this time while here that counts. Giving grace and living a life of honesty, vulnerability and forgiveness allows us to transcend the boundary between disengaged spectators and participators. Spectators watch the world fall apart like they’re watching a movie in a theater. Participators are the ones who are scratched, beaten and bloody because they decide jump in the pit and help those who need it.

What do we do now?

So, how do we stop this and start becoming engaged with the world?

First, spend time in reflection asking that the Spirit reveal to you areas in which you have been disengaged. If you think you haven’t been, that’s a good sign that you probably have. Then as those areas come to mind, seek forgiveness. This is not a one time reflection, but an ongoing one.

Second, for those who have lived a life of engagement listed earlier, and the countless others, it came down to a decision. A decision to become active. Willing to face the pain and suffering around them and become “one” with those in the midst of it. They went against the trends of the culture they were in. Becoming engaged with the world is starting to see faces, eyes, of those suffering. Not just read headlines.

Third, it begins with looking around your world and finding the suffering that is around you. Looking up from your phone, laptop and tablet, and seeing the world for what it really is. Not the digital world we have become too comfortable living in.

Fourth, becoming engaged starts with being honest with your own emotions and acknowledging the feelings of those around you. Just like Christ did. The women at the well, the oppression of the merchants in the temple, the lame man unable to get to angelic pool to become healed just to name a few. He empathized by being honest with what He had gone through in order to engage with those in pain around Him. He wept.

By becoming engaged with the world and not just informed about it, we are living out that second commandment of loving our neighbor like our self; and, almost on divine accident, the first like it, loving our Lord our God with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind. May we be known as the generation that engaged the world for Christ.

be blessed today

 

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.kickvick.com/21st-century-photos/

How Surrendering This One Thing Might Change Your Life

Last month, we decided to take a trip out West. What was to be a six hour drive on paved roads, ended up being about 10 hours, taking an accidental wrong turn and driving 125 miles off road. At the end of the day, I realized our rear tire was low, so I ran over to a tire repair place to have it fixed after we arrived at the guest house we were staying that night. They fixed the tire, but he next morning before we departed, I noticed it was low again, so I took it back and had them replace it. They ended up putting a cheap tube in it and sent us on our way. Three hours down the road, we hit a pot hole hard enough that it pinched the tube and air started to escape quickly. I got out, jacked up the car and began to remove the lug nuts from the bolts on the wheel.And that’s when the real problems started.

When the tire repair put the wheel on that morning, they cross threaded not one, not two, but three of the wheel lug bolts which ended up breaking off when I went to remove the wheel. Please keep in mind AAA doesn’t exist here, our Mongolian is nowhere near fluent and there was no cell reception. Not to mention we were an hour, easily, from any type of village/town/city. After a brief moment of me losing it (some words we shall not mention and a few punches of the tire of which I’m not proud of), we were able to call an expat friend of ours at the guest house who sent out a mechanic. Several hours later, we were on our way to continuing our vacation.

Reading that, I’m assuming some of you could feel the tension and frustration and may have reacted similarly. But why?

Very generally speaking, North Americans are pretty planned out people. I know I am. I’m not to the extent as some people (funny how I automatically disassociate myself from extremes :), but I still do like to plan. Planning in and of itself is not a bad thing. It’s good. It’s when the plan begins to dictate everything that it becomes a problem. For example, I used to be the kind of guy who could never relax on any vacation we went on. Why, you may ask? Because I was too busy planning our next vacation.

Sad, I know.

Planning is great to create strategies, business goals, budgeting and saving for future things. When it begins to power over relationship, or potentially, whatever God has for us in that moment though, we begin to no longer engage with what is going on in the present. We’re too focused on what it “should” be and not seeing what  it “is.” As I often say, “it’s not good to ‘should’ all over yourself.” We can get buried in the law of “should.”

It’s not good to ‘should’ all over yourself

I’ve grown in this area, not because of any great thing I’ve done, but simply because I’ve lived in two separate cultures that are far more event oriented than time oriented. Being from a time oriented culture (time rules the day), it really messes with you and can cause some great frustration if you move to an event oriented culture (more about the event no matter when it “should” start or how long it “should” go on). Why? Because if you are used to people being on time and ending on time and move to a culture where things may start 30 minutes to an hour later, it can cause impatience. The reason- it messes with my plan. In the simplest form, that’s it. It fluctuates, changes, challenges my plan.

I wish this simply applied to the start of work, a meeting or even a date. But it doesn’t. It applies to many aspects of my life. What I’m going to do next week, month, year or even a decade from now…if it messes up my plans, I react. And usually, not in a good way. To me, it is a small (or big) form of control. And control is only a thing reserved for God.

I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day. We were talking about recovery, what was going on in our lives and how we can’t control what will happen no matter how hard we try. Then he said “I’m simply trying to surrender what I think tomorrow will look like.” That thought stuck with me. The idea of surrendering my idea, my “design” of what tomorrow will be with all of it’s nuances and intricacies. Huh, what a novel idea.

“I’m simply trying to surrender what I think tomorrow will look like.”

If I am able to surrender what I think my tomorrow will look like for the sake of relationship, I can begin to see how my life would be lived much differently. If I can surrender what my tomorrow should look like for the sake of being present with where I am, who I’m with and where God is in all of it, what a more colorful life I could be living. I am not saying give in and have no boundaries. God also desires that we have healthy boundaries in place for our physical, emotional and spiritual health. But boundaries are much different than holding to a plan above everything else.

Pause for a moment and wonder how your life might change if you began to live in such a way to be present where you are. Surrendering that bit of control may bring awareness of God and awareness of self like you’ve never encountered before. And it’s here we begin to see the world with God’s eyes.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: https://garyunderwood.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/

Where Are You Headed?

There’s a major holiday coming up here this coming week and the preparations in the city have begun. Most people will be heading out of the city to the countryside. Many businesses are closing their doors for a week and so are we. We are preparing on heading out, going West, seeing a bit of the countryside we have never seen. Hot springs, glacier fed lakes, dirt paths roads, sleeping in tents, hiking down trails-all part of the adventure.

As I started making a mental list today, pulling out some gear to check over, it got me thinking about the journeys and trips we have been on. For me, a lot of the excitement and enjoyment is the prep work that goes into it. Planning where we are going, how we’ll get there, what we’ll do…all part of it. The anticipation of what will be, what we’ll see, what taste, smell.

And, well, that’s life, to, right? A journey, a trip that goes on through time. Perhaps we don’t move far away from home. Or maybe we never strive to be the president of the company. But, we’re always on a journey.

So, just three simple questions to pose for some reflection and discussion…..

………what are you preparing for? Where is your journey taking you in the near future? And, where is one place it’s taken you that you never that you’d go?

be blessed

Photo Credit: https://az616578.vo.msecnd.net/files/responsive/embedded/any/desktop/2016/03/04/6359265972226693102109023490_packed-car.jpg

Changing Your Ordinary: Living a Celebratory Life in Ordinary Time

I love celebrations. Mainly holidays. There’s so much that goes into our holidays, really. For me, Christmas is a big one. The food, the music, the presents under the tree. Easter is another big holiday in the West. We have certain traditions that we hold to both culturally and in our families. There’s a lot of preparation work that goes into it. Shopping, preparing for guests, taking time off of work, etc. But that’s all part of it when we get to just spend time with our families. It’s all part of celebrating.

It seems that in the Church in the West, we tend to pour a large amount of financial resources into outreaches for these two holidays. It makes sense, right? It’s an open door to talk about why Jesus came to this earth. It gives us an opportunity, that perhaps the secular world is almost inviting us to use, to share about why Jesus died and why He miraculously rose from the dead. Therefore, it make sense why we as the Church would pour so much money into these two times of the year. We want to create a place, a mountain top experience where others can encounter and experience God. But what’s interesting is that we pour so much money into these two holidays and those two holidays are a small percentage of our actual life every year.

There was an important holiday, a historical marker, that passed today, May 15th, that we heard little, if anything, about. It was really the foundation of the explosive early church movement. Today, May 15th is 50 days after Easter…today is the day of Pentecost. This day written about in Acts 2 was not only when the small group of followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time, it’s when the Church became the Church and started to grow.

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.”-Acts 2:1-6

I never used to consider the church calendar, but over the years have come to appreciate it’s purpose in bringing focus and order to our sometimes crazy lives. When looking at it, there are some important things to take note of. First is that the calendar year starts on the first day of Advent, not January 1st. Then, there is Advent time (the time starting a few weeks before Christmas) and Christmas time (starting Christmas day and leading up to the first day of Lent). This time combined makes up 15% of our calendar year, or 55 days. Next, there is Lent (usually starting in February and leading up to Easter day) and Easter time (starting Easter day and ending on Pentecost). This time makes up about 25% of our calendar year or about 146 days. Finally, comes a massive portion of our calendar year, 60% of it actually. It’s called Ordinary Time and it lasts 219 days.

Most of our lives are lived in the ordinary time. The normal everyday, go to work, come home, sleep, wake up kind of place. We do our shopping, eating, sleeping, playing, schooling and our normal routine during this time. We have a rhythm during this time. We all do. Besides birthdays and anniversaries (and a few national holidays) most of our lives are lived in ordinary time-reality. Holidays and celebratory times are not reality per say. They are celebratory, not the ordinary. Our ordinary, routine, habitual lives.

I have met a lot of believers, followers of Jesus who live for those holidays. They are only a part of a faith community on Christmas or Easter, but that’s it. I’ve been in churches who pour a lot of time and money into those two holidays for outreaches. But other than that, they really don’t reach out the rest of the year. The problem with living this way is that we are basically saying God only cares about us during those mountain top experiences. Or perhaps, what we’re saying is we only care about God during these few times a year. By living this way, we are showing that God doesn’t really care about us at all apart from these times. That He doesn’t care about us when we are in the ordinary time of our lives, or worse yet, when we’re in the valley and the pit. Man, what a horrible relationship that sounds like, right? Could you imagine a relationship where your spouse only cares about you on their birthday and anniversary and ignores you the rest of the year? Or let’s think about heaven. If there are no celebrations, no holidays in heaven, how boring it’s going to be for all eternity. No mountain top highs there. Do we really believe that?

No. No, we know that’s not true, don’t we? We know that God loves us no matter where we are, mountain top or deepest valley. But it seems we only live for the mountain high.

So, what if we changed our ordinary? What if we created a new ordinary? What if we began to live a celebratory life in our ordinary time? What would that look like? We’d have to change our routines, our habits, but could we? We can, and it’s not something earth shattering or even something new. It’s already been shown to us, modeled for us.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47

Before Pentecost no one knew what to do. Jesus was gone, ascended into heaven. His followers had no idea what to do next. Their leader gone. But, then the Spirit fills them, Peter gives an incredible speech, and then we read this. The apostles, the early church, their ordinary changed. And God moved dramatically. They ate together daily, they prayed together daily, they listened to teaching together, again, daily. Starting in Acts 3 we read that healings began on a regular basis. And, it says that God added to their number daily. Daily!

So what happened?

At some point, we as broken humans, looked at what was going on daily and decided to condense it to a Sunday service and Wednesday night bible study. We did that. And then those times of communion happened less and less. Healings happened less and less. These ordinary things back then, became extraordinary. Or sadly, perhaps even non existent.

We created a new ordinary that took those days and condensed them and in doing so we put the responsibility of our own spiritual growth and development onto the pastor. We put the weight of that onto someone else so we didn’t have to have the responsibility of being more disciplined, having compassion, of growing in Christ. And by doing so, we could excuse our lack of discipline and put the blame on the pastor.  I don’t think we set out to do it, but we did. And it continues on.

We need to create a new habit so that what happened in Acts 2 becomes our ordinary. Perhaps our new habit will include daily reading in the Word, or daily prayer. Perhaps it will include regular confession to another or regular sabbath and rest. And maybe even consistent, regular service towards others around us.

By doing this, we won’t just experience God in the mountain top or on Easter, but we’ll be continually engaged with Him all year long. We will become more aware of His presence both on the mountain peak in the hellish pit we’re in. Perhaps we’ll be more able to see and be grateful for the blessings of abundance and the blessing of learning in the struggle. I can say that others will see that our God is a God who cares about us no matter where we are, no matter what we’re going through, no matter what holiday it might be. And through that, perhaps that “added to their number daily” will no longer be an action of the past. What if we all lived a celebratory life in our ordinary time? What could happen?

be blessed today

 

Photo Credit: https://lidtop.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/black-and-white-colouring.jpg

 

 

 

Nothing To Live For

Being content. Happiness. Fulfillment. Satisfied.

These are all words that have come into my journal the past two to three years. Not so much as I am these things, but more along the lines of will I have or will I attain these things. And more questions like “are we to be happy, are we to be fulfilled or satisfied with where we are (geographically, socially, emotionally, etc)?” I know I’m not the only one who has had to ask the same things, wonder about the answers or spend time reflecting on where I am at the moment. Iris, my friends and others have allowed me to sit in those questions, those sacred glances off into the distance of the past and future. And I wonder am I to ever be content? Am I ever to be happy? Am I ever to be fulfilled? Am I ever to be satisfied? At least “ever” being on this planet.

Ricky Gervais, the British comedian, whom I find really funny, is also an Atheist. He’s fairly outspoken about his faith and has disdain and critique of all religions, especially Christianity.  I really do like his brash and honest comedy, I have read many of his quotes and thoughts on those who believe in Jesus. A few months ago, I read the following quote by him-  “It’s a strange myth that atheists have nothing to live for. It’s the opposite. We have nothing to die for. We have everything to live for.”

I’ve reflected on his thought from time to time wondering if he is correct, if his premise and main notion is true. Do atheists have nothing to die for? Do they have everything to live for? What about those of us who follow Jesus, do we have nothing to live for and everything to die for?

I think Ricky is right. He, as faith in atheism, is right- he has nothing to die for. He has nothing, including himself, that he needs to die to or die for. It is totally up to him as to what he does with his life. Which is why he is right about the second part. He has everything to live for. Anything and everything he wants to do, he can try to do it. That is true. And in the end, he will have done everything that he may have wanted to do for himself that he possibly could.

But does his statement mean that for those who believe in Jesus the complete opposite is true? In other words, if we believe in Christ, we have everything to die for and therefore nothing to live for? In my opinion, not totally. I’ve been trying to figure out why this statement bothers me so much….I think I know why. Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I searched and read and tried to understand why that quote bothered me so much. The idea that I have nothing to live for or nothing to die for really didn’t sit well with me. Praying through that, I realized why. If I, we, live for Christ, it’s a win for us as well. If we die for Christ, it’s a win for us as well. In my mind it looks like a win win. But I am biased. I realize that.

So, how does that fit into being content, satisfied, fulfilled and happy? I know of some people who say that this world is going to hell in a hand basket. “It’s ok, we’ll get it in the end living eternally with God,” is the comment given after some tragic event or negative thing that may happen.  It’s almost a justification for us to accept being beat down, joyless and accepting that God doesn’t have something better for us. I’ve interacted with a lot of people as I have traveled and I am often saddened at the apathetic and defeatist mentality I have found in some of the believers I’ve engaged with.

We have the ability, when we are able to dig through all the layers of junk and dysfunction laying on us, we have the ability to be at incredible peace even though there may be massive chaos around us. This is a gift from the Prince of Peace for all those who follow Him. I am learning that I can be content in Christ, that He satisfies my every thirst. But I am not fulfilled unless I am being used by Him for the purposes He has created me to be apart of. Sometimes I need help in seeing where He is using me, exactly how He wired me. Sometimes I need to lean into the community around me, my support system, to gain perspective as to where He is using me in my giftings. It just may not look like how I envisioned it.

He calls us to Himself, to no one else, to nothing else. Simply to Himself. And as I follow Him, grow closer to Him, learn more from Him, the more I am learning that heaven is Heaven, but there is so much goodness, so many gifts, so much here that He has for me. We have everything to die for-eternity with Someone who loves us deeper than our wildest imagination. But we also have everything to live for-community, nature, compassion, joy and the list goes on. To simply wait for the end to come, when there are glimpses of it now that would be missed, well, that’s not really living, is it?

We have everything to both die and live for. Start living.

Have you found this to be true? In those moment you have chosen life as opposed to waiting for eternity, what was your experience?

Be Blessed

Photo Credit: http://www.bambuclinic.com/child-with-daisy-between-toes-lying-in-meadow-relaxing-in-summer/