Losing Faith?

Well, if you’ve listened to the Day 3 Kilmarnock Podcast, and if you listened to the special “addendum”, then you know that the gauntlet has been thrown down. With recklessness never before witnessed now or ever, it was declared that Faith Price’s blog is better than this one.

Now, I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, so I have chosen to let the people speak. Look to the right and you’ll see a simple poll (until it expires one week from today) so that once and for all, we can see clearly who’s blog reigns.

Now, a word about Faith. Faith is great. I really like her. But when I’m faced with such a challenge such as this, well….the gloves come off.

So, take a peek at Faith’s blog you can find it here.
Then, come back and cast your vote.

Okay, Faith. Let’s do this.

So overboard.

I wonder if anybody else notices things about themselves as they get older. I wonder if anyone shares these generally non-positive things with anyone else. (And remember this is a blog, so I do mean ANYONE else.) I’d guess its more likely that most of you noticed these things long ago and the fact that I’m just now noticing them is once again a testament to my slow processing speed.

One thing I noticed this morning is that I thank people a lot. Maybe too much. Maybe way too much. Thanks so much for reading that sentence. Really. Thanks so much.

Case in point: It’s 9:17 a.m. right now in the past 10 minutes I have written 2 emails to 2 different people. Within both emails, I was thanking them. Not for anything specific per se, just in closing. As in…

Thanks so much,

But here’s the weird thing I noticed. When I type the word “Thanks”, my fingers automatically follow “Thanks” with “so” as in “so much”. As if “Thanks” is insufficient. I’m not kidding. It’s a freaky subconscious thing my fingers do when I’m typing “Thanks so—see? I did it again. So, I admit, I’m a bit overboard with “so”.

And if you ever call me on the phone, I’ll thank you before saying goodbye. Even if you called me. Even if in the context of our conversation I agree to some huge favor you’ve asked, like donating a kidney. Even if I was totally right and you were totally wrong (Okay, that one doesn’t really happen). No matter what we say on the phone, I’ll thank you right before I say goodbye. I just do. Its a habit. Thank you.

I’m thinking about having brain surgery to correct it.

Another thing is, I use commas a lot. In fact, its been said that I overuse commas. Some would say that the previous sentence shouldn’t have a comma. To that I say, “Tough toenails, I’m the one typing.” Seriously, I do like commas and for someone who does an awful lot of typing I’d fully expect the comma button on my keyboard to wear out first. And I’m still upset that it has to share with the <. I mean who uses < ? I just looked down at my comma button and no joke, the < is just about worn off. I can't wait until its totally gone and then its just me and my , ready to conquer the world.

I don’t mean to psychoanalyze myself, but my love of commas might come from the fact that I don’t like things to end, I mean end. And periods just seem so final.

Worth It All?

I think I’ve said before that I grew up in a conservative independent Baptist church. The name of the church was “South Jersey Baptist Church”. It was on Townbank Road in North Cape May. Google it when you have absolutely nothing to do.

And in that church of my youth, I aquired my theology. My Dad, Ron Varner, is one of the best expository preachers I know…even to this day. But before each sermon, we’d sing hymns. Not familiar with hymns? Hymns were songs you’d sing in the church service from a book called a hymnal that had not only the words to the songs, but also the music; the notes, the keys, the parts for soprano, tenor, alto, and bass. Ah, hymns. What memories.

One hymn I remember in particular, “When We See Christ” held these words in its chorus: “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus. Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ….”

Wanna be a hymn-star? Click here, and you’ll be centerstage for a “When We See Christ” Karaoke Jam. Sing as loud and as badly as you’d like. Especially if you’re reading this at a public library computer.

You back from your World Tour? Good.

The reason I was thinking about this hymn is because I’ve been extraordinarily busy recently (comparatively speaking) and I want to be sure that what I’m doing is worth anything. Can you imagine going through life living each day and at some point looking back and seeing no evidence that you did anything good?

Now, I know there’s a line of thinking among some Christians that goes something like this, “Do your best and God will take care of the rest.” But what if the best that I’m doing isn’t even something God is interested in taking care of the rest of? In a nutshell: Is what I spend my discretionary time doing in line with what God would have me do?

It’s a thought that can really haunt you if you let it. But I take it as a leveling tool when the thought arises in my mind. I suppose you just might go crazy if you’re paranoid that whatever you’re doing at any given moment is displeasing your Creator who created you for something other than what currently fills your time.

All of this is simply another angle of the deep-rooted desire to do something that matters. So, I ask questions of myself like:
1. Will what I’m doing today make a difference in a year? In 20 years?
2. Does what I’m doing with my life now represent a heart and life that is passionate for God and people? Or does it represent a mind focused primarily on myself?
3. (For parents of kids still under your roof): If my child(ren) were to follow my example, would I be proud of the people they become?

There’s a realignment that can happen when I ask hard questions of myself. That is, if I actually realign anything. It’s one thing to see a misalignment. It’s quite another to do something about it.

So that I don’t spend my life chasing my tail, I’d like to try and put legs to these thoughts. Here are some things I can do to bring this to life:
1. Evaluate life on a daily, even hourly basis. Did what I just spend that hour on draw me closer to God’s design for my life, further, or did I just “mark time”? (Some might argue the third is impossible.)
2. Intentionally pass on what I know. Someone once said, “If you want to impress people, talk about your successes. But if you want to impact people, talk about your failures.” Successes or failures, I want my kids to know that their Dad is going to be honest with all of it. I want to take every chance to teach my kids not just what is right, but why its right. Case in point: 15 minutes ago I was standing at the bus stop with my son. He and another boy were talking about whether they prefer doctor visits or dentists visits and the pros and cons of each. A third boy walked up from down the street who also rides their bus, and without a word he raised his fists with his first 2 fingers extended like a gun and “shot” my son and his friend. And then declared “There. You’re dead.” And while for the most part I chalk that up to “they’re boys”, I also am keenly aware of the influence of society through media, internet, movies, cartoons, and video games in the hearts and minds of children and adults alike. But in those moments at the bus stop this morning I squandered an opportunity to not only teach my own son, but also those 2 other boys as well. “Lighten up Jerry, they’re boys playing with fake guns.” Well, if we don’t give kids the right perspective on things like that we shouldn’t be surprised at the horrible epidemic of school violence, not to mention sexual deviance, hatred, and substance abuse. So, I want to pass on what I know.
3. I want to live unashamedly loving Jesus. I want my kids to know that I would lay down my life for my wife, but that Jesus laid down His life for me. How can I do anything but turn my all over to Him. The truth is, God’s wrath is coming to this world. But God’s love has already come. And that love of God is only found in the person of Jesus who died in my place so that I don’t have to fear the coming wrath. Those aren’t popular words today, but they are necessary and true. And no matter what, I want my kids to know (beyond the whole pastor gig) that if my job was cleaning cess pools, teaching 1st graders, washing dogs, wiring houses, welcoming Walmart customers, I’d still be captivated by Jesus’ love for me and live each day returning that love to Him through loving all people.

If I can do those things, I know that I can confidently say that when its my turn to be lowered into the ground, that my life’s work would bring a result that would have been worth it all.

Loved or Vandalized?

I woke up yesterday morning to quite a surprise. Apparently while I slept, some jokesters decorated my lawn with Fruity Pebbles (the colorful cerea that can’t be picked up), and a dozen eggs under the welcome mat at my front door. Not only that, but they painted my car windows with “Class of ’09” and then saran wrapped my entire car. They even took great care to even wrap under the car as well. Certainly whoever the culprits, they did a great job–and whatever their goal was, they achieved it. But I had to wonder, who would have done this?

I lead a small group of high schoolers, who all happen to be graduating this year (their ceremonies were this weekend, actually). So, I soon decided that out of sheer love and good humor, they decided to decorate their small group leader’s lawn and car. Even as I unwrapped my car and my kids helped pick the silly string from my driveway, I couldn’t help but feel the love. I mean if they hadn’t loved me, the probably would have thrown rocks through my window with menacing, threatening messages attached to them. So, I chalked it up to love and gladly washed my car.

End of the story? Not quite.

They also threw countless lima beans across my front yard. These beans promptly took root and now I have lima bean plants all over my front yard. Even after pulling them out by the roots repeatedly, even after mowing them down, they return undaunted. So, it seems as though I have become an involuntary bean farmer.

At least now I have an excuse to buy a tractor.