OK, Forget That.

I have a good friend who passed away several years ago, and he and I were kindred spirits, at least in one particular area: memory. He’d often say of himself, “I have a good memory, it’s just short.” I look at the previous blog (the silent game) and wonder, “where was I going with that?” I think it had something to do with rest, the Sabbath, and that rest, while usually something we need so desperately, is typically inconvenient; given our break-neck speed of American life. So many live that way. I refuse.

Today, I’m reflecting on our local McDonald’s. It occured to me in a new way last night (I was there with my wife and kids) that our McDonald’s, in it’s recently renovated state (they tore the old one down and built a brand new one in it’s place) is almost anti-kid, in the way McDonald’s has historically been. It seems that the designers took their cues from Starbucks more than anything else. It’s a ridiculous milange of red-nosed sophistication. The only thing there for kids is–get this–video games. What kind of McD’s is this? Where are the sweat-dripped tunnels and the stale smell of feet that I have come to enjoy with my almost 100% artificial meal?

But that’s not my point (not that I need one), it’s the Happy Meal issue. As a parent, it’s routine for our kids to ask upon pulling into a McDonald’s, “Can we get a happy meal?” A standard answer is no. Here’s why: they don’t eat the fries, they don’t need the chocolate milk, and toy that comes with it is rarely ever seen again after the first half hour in their possession.

But this time we indulged. It was Shrek 3 and I have to be honest that it was worth it to awaken this morning not to kids watching TV, but to 3 out of 4 (the 4 was still lounging in bed and could care less) all congregated in the living room playing with, you guessed it, their complete family of Shrek, Fiona, and whatever their offspring are called. It was heartening.

So here to McDonald’s. Not because of the countless horrible ways they contribute to our society, but for the one single way they brightened my kids world this morning.

The Quiet Game

Tonight at dinner, my 7 year old son suggested that we play the “quiet game”. In case you don’t have kids, or have never seen a kid, the game goes like this: Everybody’s silent and the last person to make a noise is the winner. Well, we were just a few minutes into the game when I found it quite hard to contain my laughter. Luckily, just then, I was distracted by my son when he said, “Pause” and then went on to talk about how his younger sister and brother should be out for noises they made. After filing his official complaint against them, he said, “Unpause–back to the game!” And not a minute later, he said it again, “Pause” and then went on to talk about something else. After he was done, he said “unpause–back to the game!” Clearly it was either he or I who didn’t completely understand the premise of winning this game.
My wife chimed in and said, “Pause…I think the quiet game is pointless if whenever you want to talk you can just say ‘pause’. Unpause–back to the game!”
Then I just couldn’t resist trying out this new clause in the game. So I said, “Pause…I just want to say that when Macy (our 5 year old) said ‘I’m not out!’, I think that’s the funniest thing you can say when playing the quiet game! Because the very statement that got her out was a declaration that she’s not out. I just think that’s hilarious! Unpause–back to the game!”
Rules are great things. The keep us safe on the road (usually), they keep our society moving in civility. That is, of course, until they become inconvenient. There’s more to say here, but I’ve got to run. Maybe I’ll keep this up later on. Maybe not…..Pause.

Why I’m Here

Today was a day that reminded why I’m here. And so as not to be nonspecific, by “here” I mean on earth; the purpose for my life. I know there isn’t just one, but today I was reminded of one.

I was spending some time with one of my friends; one of the teens in our student ministry. I had spoken with this person yesterday during a particularly rough time. I shared what I could with this person and quite honestly, just hoped for the best. But part of the blessing that I’m talking about–the blessing of knowing why I’m here came in those precious moments when it was just the two of us talking, but I knew beyond any doubt that there were three of us there. The third was guiding, helping, and happy with the other two of us as we spoke. The third was God Himself.

If anyone happens to read this and isn’t persuaded quite yet of the existence, presence, and power of God–and I mean the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Moses, the God of Israel, the God who redeems, the God who heals, the God who restores, the God who uses someone as flawed as I am to accomplish His purposes–if you don’t know that God then what I’m saying now is quite literally nonsense, I suppose. Keep reading if you want to.

In those moments yesterday as I opened my mouth and spoke, I can say with all confidence that it wasn’t a simple flow of words rooted in human intellect. These were not flimsy antecdotes, flung in some effort to hit somewhere near any point of relevence. These words, while spoken in my voice, I truly believe were crafted by God. Please don’t hear me say that I am God or would ever claim to be. Like John the Baptist, “I am not worthy to untie His sandals”. But I know that God took hold, partnered with me, joined with my life experience, my personality, my leanings, and spoke through me. How do I know? After seeing the results, how could I not?

Only just over 24 hours later, I met with this person again for another conversation. And the difference was more than human explanation could do justice. It was a fulfillment of the verse in Philippians 4: “And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” This person said themselves, “Nothing has changed–my situation, my struggle, my frustration–but now I’m different. I’m at peace. I’m free.” This person used the word “magic”, but only to indicate the drastic, unexplainable difference he felt, not to give credit to “magic” the way the world would understand it.

And so there I was, driving in my car, listening to this person tell their story. The story that had evolved to nearly exactly the opposite of what it was just a day before. And God used me in that story. God did work in that person’s life after reaching into His toolbox and finding me fit for service. Wow.

Happy Other’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day. This morning my 4 kids and I poured the love onto my wife, and in no uncertain terms let her know just how much we adore her. From homemade cards to framed pictures of the kids, to a slightly more “pricey” gift from me, we just let her have it!

While she was opening the couple gifts we got her, I was holding our youngest and whispered in his ear “go tell Mommy Happy Mother’s Day!” He slid out of my lap and went to her, nearly nose to nose and said in a cheerful voice “Happy Other’s Day!”

Close enough, I thought. But then I realized that this 3 year old hit it right on the head. The reason we cherish mother’s so much is because they’re all about others. It’s never (or seldom at best) that a Mom would put herself, her own interests, her own welfare before those of her family. They truly are “others” focused. And that’s why we’re enamored by them and the selfless love they show every day. Case in point, my wife decided that the gift I got her would go back, so that she could use the money in a more practical way.

So, to my own wife, to my own Mom, and to all Mom’s who might ever read this, I say, “Happy Other’s Day!”

This is for me.

When I was a kid, I had a place in my bedroom closet where you could actually see the floor. I cleaned that spot out just so that I could fit there. It was on the back of the closet behind a bunch of other stuff. It was maybe 2 feet by 2 feet; no more. Just enough for me to sit. It was my place. Nobody knew about it (not that anyone cared to), and I loved it that way. I kind of feel the same way here. If you’re reading this, and you’re not me, you found this by accident. I’m not public with this thing, ironically enough. Like that place in my childhood closet, this is just for me. And if I have told you about this place, then you should realize that I’m considering you pretty close.

It doesn’t take too much sniffing around my blog to realize that I’m fairly irregular in my writings here. I guess I’m too busy living my life. Blogs are such a ridiculous luxury. It makes me wonder how all the people with so much to say on their blogs ever have any time to live the life that would substantiate such claims. I’d rather just live.

But here I am at my keyboard, trying not to waste too much time moving my fingers and watching words appear on the screen. But I think maybe I have something to commit to my blog today.

Jesus. He’s just on my mind. Nevermind the fact that I call him Savior, but I also would like to consider Him a personal friend of mine. I’d like to say we’re on a first-name basis. I don’t call him Mr. Christ or anything like that.

I’ve been thinking about His life on earth and the enormous amount that His life has to do with my life. When Jesus was walking along one day, He (again) said some pretty stirring things. But this particular time, they were words that more people choked on than normally would. He said, “I’m the bread of life.” At that, lots of people who were following Him stopped. They stopped following Him after He said that. It was like it was just too much. The miracles were cool, and even some of His teachings made sense–He was definitely known for the power and authority that He spoke with, authority other teachers seemed to sadly lack. But this “bread of life” stuff crossed the line. They couldn’t swallow that. So many left and stopped following Him.

Jesus is a tree shaker. He shook the tree hard that day. They may have been one of the hardest shakes of His life. There were other shakes, but that one sticks out to me.

I remember my first sermon. The very first one as a fulltime pastor. I was teaching on Colossians 3:1-3. Look it up if you want to. If you don’t have a Bible handy, I like http://www.biblegateway.com/. You can find it there.

Anyway, not long after I got home from that church service that Sunday morning, I got a call on the phone. It was one of the members of our church, and he was not happy at all. I don’t recall all of his words, but I’ll never forget these: “I don’ t know how many people you drove from the church today.” Gulp. This was my first sermon ever and this was the commentary I get afterwards? I thought, “Have we thrown all those boxes away already?”

Tough teachings. Jesus gave them. Because following Him isn’t “easy” the way we think it ought to be. Following Jesus would be so much easier if it were cool. If it were popular. If it were fun. But it’s rarely any of those things.

“Jesus Is My Homeboy” the t-shirt read. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I was pretty sure of the philosophy behind whoever thought it was a good idea. It’s the same philosophy that cranks out other paraphenalia like the t-shirt with the Ford-esque logo, asking “Have you considered the Lord lately?” Is this what Jesus had in mind when He called His disciples? Is this what dangerously living for Christ looks like? I’m not saying anything, I’m just saying.

So, after the whole “bread of life” statement, Jesus turned to one of His boys named Peter. Jesus asked Peter, “How about you? Are you going to leave too?” Peter said the very thing that I want to be the centerpiece of my existence–the reason why I do anything that I do–he said, “Where would we go? You have the words of life.” Peter was confessing to Jesus, “To me, you’re the only option. I don’t have a back-up plan here. I’m all in.”

As I type “I’m all in”, I shivered. Maybe it’s just chilly in here. Or maybe I realize that these words I’m claiming are big words. And my life had better reflect an “all in” commitment.