Cool by Association

Not many people know this, but I’ve had my fair share of celebrity run-ins. 

I asked Ollie North a question and got an answer.  I saw Alan Ruck (“Cameron” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) TWO different times at the grocery store when I lived in NY and I even talked to him (inviting him to one of MY performances).  I’ve been to the Conan O’Brien Show (the first, much better one) where I also saw Kelsey Grammar and more notably Max Weinberg.  I held a door open for Rosie Greer, I’ve been on The Today Show (well, in the crowd outside but still), I’ve been literally run into by Barry Manilow, I’ve had a conversation with Rosie O’Donnell, and I was personally introduced to Kathie Lee Gifford backstage after a performance.  And I’ll just throw in for free that Phyllis Diller once stepped on my mom’s foot.

Yep, clearly I am where I am in life because of these chance encounters with greatness.   Or not.

While it may be true that I have been just as affected by the aforementioned celebs as I would have been had I merely thought about them, there is a truth that I’ve been thinking about recently.  And it has much more to do with the real truth in the old saying “Its all in who you know.”

Take a gander at what Paul said to the church in Rome (8:16,17): “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

We usually only ever hear the word “heir” when we’re reading a will or we’re watching Antiques Roadshow and its immediately followed by “loom”.  It’s no wonder then that the depths of what is being said here is lost on our 21st century ears, enlightened as they may be.

The easiest way to understand the legal term “heir” is to use the term “entitled”.  Someone named heir is someone who is entitled to all that is laid out in the legal document.  This verse is telling us that if you are a “child of God”, then you are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”  Just before Paul wrote these words, he wrote about the concept of adoption; a fitting parallel to what God the Father has done through God the Son.

So, welcomed into the family of God as an adoptee is what puts us, His children in the position of heirs.  We now stand alongside Jesus Himself as beneficiaries of every blessing, every gift, every supply, everything that God can give and does give to His only Son, He now gives to every son and daughter that enters into His family.  Paul says further that we are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)

“What’s the dif?”, you ask?  Well, I believe it is primarily one of attitude, perception, and ownership of all that we have in our adopted sonship/daughtership state in God’s family.

In my junior year of high school, our family decided to host a foreign exchange student.  So all the way from Holland, we welcomed “Wouter” into our home for an entire year.  I remember vividly picking him up from the airport, awkward first moments of silence, and that first morning at the breakfast table when he put unimaginable things together for breakfast, out of sheer ignorance of what he was and wasn’t supposed to eat together.  To this day, I still can’t forget that mashed potato sandwich.

But it didn’t take long before “Woody” (we couldn’t pronounce his real name) and I became fast friends.  We became truly like brothers in the same family.  We laughed, we wrestled, we shared secrets, we talked about girls, and we enjoyed sharing a room together for the year.  And just as vividly as I remember his first day in America, I remember his last.  I remember standing at that airport checkpoint, hugging him with tears literally pouring down my cheeks.  I remember standing there holding my brother, this brother I never had, for what seemed like an eternity.  We held each other and wept because of the deep sense of family that we had come to know in one another.  We cried and cried and we actually never said the word “goodbye” to each other.  We couldn’t bring ourselves to say it.

As strong as that bond was for the both of us (and I have never seen Woody again since that day), the bond of the Heavenly Father on those who call Him such would make my feelings for my exchange brother seem trite and silly.  We ARE all that He says we are.  We HAVE all that He says we have.  We WILL BE all that He says we will be. 

Just as God the Father embraces, prizes, touts, and honors God the Son, so He does for you His child. 

Now, what was it that you wanted to ask Him?

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Just another manic morning.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is recorded to have said, “The prayer of the morning determines the day.”

But for most people, it’d be more accurate to substitute the word “prayer” with “crisis”.  Yesterday, as we were in the final moments of getting kids (we have 4) out the door for the school bus, we decided that our youngest would wear his new slip-on style “Crocs” sandals to school.  Halfway to the bus stop I realized that was a mistake the would shape my next hour or so.  My youngest loves to run and his sandals (with no backs) were not allowing him to run like the wind the way he wanted to.  He’d take a few schlepping steps, get frustrated, stop and cry.  He’d take a few more schlepping steps, sandals scraping the ground as he tried to run and also keep them on his feet, get frustrated, stop and cry.  I soon learned that the sandals weren’t the best idea.  After all, shoes that are “slip-on” must also by their very nature be “slip-off”.  But finally we made it to the bus stop.  He had stopped crying, but was still not too keen on the sandals.

Now, I want to stop here in the story and point out a type of parenting that I call “helicopter parenting”.  When any crisis arises, some parents (myself included at times) swoop in and save the day, providing the perfect solution/rescue from trouble  just in the nick of time.  In that vein, I leaned down to my son’s level and said, “Hudson, would you like me to go and get your sneakers for you?”  Through whimpers, he quietly said, “Yes.”  So I fired up the rotors of my parenting helicopter and flew home as quickly as my feet could carry me, only to see the bus coming up the street as soon as I reached our front porch.  I knew instantly there’d be no way on God’s green earth that I’d make it back to the bus stop in time.

Now, I had a decision to make.  Would I shut down the blades of the helicopter; the parenting helicopter I’d come so accustomed to flying, or would I go the distance and ultimately bring the sneakers to the weeper?  What would you have done?

That’s what I figured.

Since going back to the bus stop would have been useless, I went to his room, grabbed his sneakers out of his closet, grabbed some socks, and climbed back into my parenting rescue copter, which looks suspiciously like a minivan.  Off I drove to the elementary school parking lot, landed the rescue copter, and walked over to where I figured his bus would stop and let him out.  Yep, “Plan B” was working out just fine.  I’d see him get off the bus, swoop in with socks and sneakers, and fly off into the clouds until the next crisis arose. 

And as I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, I thought about what other parents in their parked copters must be thinking while looking at me standing there near that bus loop, under that tree.  Here was a dad who, from all indications looked quite sane and yet was standing in a bus loop holding a pair of child’s socks and sneakers.  I can’t help but think that someone must have seen me standing there and thought, “Oh good Lord, that dad is so inept, he didn’t even put shoes on the kid before sending him out the door!”

So, I finally see buses start to roll in and I keep my eye out for my youngest son’s bus.  There it was!  Rolling in, and rolling by way too quickly to be stopping anytime soon and anywhere near me.  I watched it finally roll to a stop at the opposite end of the bus loop from where I was.  Undaunted and still committed to save the day, I started hoofing it down the sidewalk and into a sea of children, in the hopes to find mine or one that looks like mine.  By that time, I was tempted to grab any kid wearing sandals, sit him down, take them off, and squeeze my kids shoes onto his feet.  But while I was having that thought, I heard a stern, “May I help you?”  But while those were the words coming from this militant mother’s mouth (volunteering as security guard), I was reading between the lines; what she was really saying was, “You don’t belong in this sea of children. I don’t like the looks of you. I don’t trust your intentions. You make me uncomfortable.  You’re not supposed to be here and the fact that you’re here makes me feel and act like a mother hen.   No, a mother mongoose.  No, a mother bear.  No, a mother dragon.”  I quickly tried to explain myself, and the sandals, and the shoes, and the helicopter, but she didn’t care one bit about the sordid details.  She just wanted me to march my trespassing heiney to the front office, go through the retinal and rectal scan like every other visitor has to, and hope to gain entrance into this fortress of security.  So I did.

Did I mention that at this point I’m still a grown man carrying a child’s socks and shoes?  So, I get to the office, punch my name into the computer, sign some legal documents that I think contractually obligate me to surrender my soul to gain entrance, wait for my picture badge sticker to print out, slap it on, and head toward my son’s classroom. 

And then came the payoff.  I walked through the door of my son’s classroom, he looked up from his morning work, and……wait for it…….smiled.

There it was.  There was the sole reason any of us parents do anything.  All that work, that running, that dragonfighting, all for that one moment when my son looked up at me with eyes that said, “I recognize the lengths you have gone through to bring me my socks and shoes.  I esteem you highly and vow from this moment on to never take you for granted, always to appreciate and respect the position of loving authority you hold in my life, and to constantly remind you of just how wonderful I think you truly are.”   But it sounded more like “Hi Dad.”

With pride in my heart, joy on my face, and I think maybe my chest puffed out a little, I took off those dastardly sandals and replaced them with soft warm socks, and lace up sneakers, double-tied.  Now my son could face the day not having to schlep.

Fast forward 24 hours to this morning.  We’re at the bus stop (sneakers on this time), and my two youngest are playing tag while waiting for the bus.  Just as I heard the roar of the bus engine around the corner, I look down just in time to see my son trip and fall on the asphalt street.  Immediate tears and crying ensue.  I think to myself, “Oh good Lord, can I have a normal morning, please?!?”  The answer clearly being “Nope”, I picked him up, tried to convince him all was well and quickly realized he wasn’t buying it.  So, while all the other children climbed aboard the school bus, my youngest and I begin the walk home, with one out of four knees bloodied and needing a band-aid.  After peroxide and some attention from mom, he seemed no worse for wear.  So we got in the minivan once again, put it on auto-pilot from the day before, and enjoyed a nice ride to his school.

I’m not saying that as parents we’re supposed to save our kids everytime they fall, forget, or fail.  In fact, I’d contend that there are definitely times when the good ‘ol “you made your bed, now lie in it” method is completely appropriate.  But at least for now and in instances like these, I’m enjoying building that foundation of trust with my youngest son.  So that in the future when he needs to stand on his own, he’ll know he can do so with the love and support of his parents.

Most comfortable.

I’ve heard that most people are deathly afraid of public speaking.  I love it.  I find myself looking forward to the next time I get to communicate to a crowd.  As a kid, when other kids wanted to be firefighters, policemen, and astronauts, I wanted to be a stand-up comedian.  It’s true.

I recently had another opportunity to be in front of and speak to a large crowd.  As usual, I was in my element.  I hope that doesn’t sound too egotistical, but I suppose I can’t help it if it does.  I don’t mean it to be, it’s just that the more people I’m in front of, the more comfortable I am.  It’s weird, I know.

I got a comment from someone in the crowd the other day that he just couldn’t believe “how comfortable I seem up there.”  It’s true.  I love it.  And again, I’m not sure how this is coming across, but I feel like its something like a gift from God.  Its a gift I’m so thankful for, because it ignites my insides. 

What is it that makes you come alive inside?  What is the gift of God in your life?  What is your talent, your unique ability?  What is that thing that brings you joy simply because you recognize it comes straight from God’s hand?

Westboro.

I was relaxing for a few minutes late tonight; unwinding in an armchair, unaware that I was about to be appalled by a documentary that was spotlighting the deepest type of hatred a human being can have; that of another human being.

I watched in horror as the program “20/20” did a brief news piece on a church with the name “Westboro”. Perhaps you’ve heard of this church.  They are well known for their picketing and demonstrations in places like funerals for fallen soldiers and where they will be in direct public opposition to homosexuals, Jews, and other subcultures of our society.  They spew their message of hatred, claiming to speak for God and rightly upholding God’s Word.

The most disturbing aspect of the brief documentary was the use of the children of this church as pawns in their agenda of hatred.  7-year-olds and younger standing with their parents, holding signs saying things like “God Hates Fags”, “Jews Killed Jesus” and other unspeakably hateful words. 

And in the midst of this news piece, I found a ray of hope and a cause to celebrate.  The producers of “20/20” spotlighted a daughter of one of the married couples who are members of Westboro Church.  Her name is “Lauren” and she at one point questioned the teaching of hatred, and pointed out a hypocrisy in the Westboro Church.  She was quickly ostracized not only from the congregation, but from her family as well. The ironic thing was that Lauren’s attitude was so much more Christlike and biblical than those who cut her off for not believing the Bible.  She was compassionate, forgiving, and gracious toward her parents and her former church who continued to be cold, unwavering, and pious toward her.

When I teach from God’s Word (and I do regularly), I challenge the students to search the Scriptures for themselves.  To never EVER “take my word for it.”  I urge them not to believe something simply because they’ve heard me say it.  

To my own children, I gladly welcome them to search for and learn about and investigate other “religions”, (though I hesitate to call Christianity a religion), because I know and have learned for myself that God’s truth can stand on its own.  Scrutinize it, inspect it, test it, dissect it, do whatever you’d like to do to it, and it will come through completely intact.  It’s not the truth because I believe it, I believe it because it’s the truth.

And I cringe, to put it mildly, anytime I see “Christians” (though I’d never call the members of Westboro Christians) are represented by a small group of nut jobs who stand on street corners for no other reason then to spout hatred.  Its reprehensible and nauseating.  But I must say that I’m thankful to live in a country where nut jobs are free to say whatever they like.  How ironic that they stand and picket and protest at the funeral of a soldier who died defending their freedom to protest at his funeral.

“Beloved, let us love one another.  For love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God.  If we don’t love, then we don’t know God because God is love.”  1 John 4:7-8

What the church in Westboro fails to do is what God does perfectly and continually…he loves me and you, His creation while abhoring the sins we commit.  He looks at those who love Him and sees the righteousness of Jesus, and at those who don’t love Him with compassion, patience, and a willingness to forgive and restore.  Nowhere in the Bible am I, as a lover and follower of Jesus, commissioned to hate anyone at anytime for any reason.  Search the Bible cover to cover and you simply will not find anything that even slightly resembles the sanctioning of hate-speech toward those who do not embrace God and His grace.

And so I am compelled to pray for those connected to Westboro.  I believe that the grace and love of God is strong enough and broad enough to reach even them.

“That’s no problem.”

My youngest son just walked in soaking wet from the belly down.  Not even seeming to notice (or hoping I wouldn’t) he said calmly, “Hey Dad, can I get my swimming suit on and go in the stream?”  We have a small stream behind our house that our kids love to play near and around, but hardly ever IN.  So, his request came as a bit of a surprise.

I asked, “Hey Hudson, did you go into the stream with your clothes on?”  (Playing dumb.)  The response came back, “Ummm….no.”  I pressed on, “Then how did you get all wet?”  “Ummmm…….I dunno…….Hey Dad, can I put my swimming suit on and go in the stream?”  Clearly we had quickly come full-circle on this conversation.

I said, “Hudson, you’re all wet.”  He looked at his clothes momentarily, raised his head to look at me and said, “That’s no problem.”

What is it about doing the wrong thing that messes up our thinking?  Since it’s terribly hard to accidentally do the wrong thing, most of the wrong things we do (like going into the stream with our clothes on) are thought out, even if the thinking starts and ends nanoseconds before the wrong thing is done.

But we know when we’ve “stepped in it”, don’t we?  We have that sense of “uh oh” and sometimes we have the crazy audacity to come to God the Father dripping wet and acting like we’re bone dry.  We sometimes completely skip over the step of talking with Him about why we’re dripping on the carpet and go right to making our requests.  We do that because confessing our sins to God isn’t very comfortable.  We rationalize our behavior with thoughts like, “God already knows what I’ve done wrong, so it really doesn’t need to be brought up or discussed.” and “God knew what I was going to do before I did it, and He already forgave me so I can just forget about it.”

But let’s allow God’s Word to speak here: 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The word “confess” is “homolageo” and means literally “to say the same”.  When we see sin in our lives, our confession is when we say the same thing about it that God says about it.  Essentially, confession is agreeing with God that a sin is a sin.  We don’t sugarcoat, we don’t gloss over, we don’t sweep under, we don’t dismiss.  We face it, and SAY THE SAME as God says about it.  Only then can we rightly partake of the forgiveness that is ours by the blood of Jesus’ death on the cross.  Our confession triggers His faithful response of justice—wait a minute here—justice?!?  The verse says that God is “faithful and JUST…”  Where in the world is the justice?  How do forgiveness and justice go together?  In human terms, forgiveness and justice don’t seem to be anywhere near each other.  You either forgive OR you dispense justice.  If you punch me in the face, I can either forgive you OR dispense justice by punching YOU in the face.  So, how can the concepts of justice AND forgiveness be found together in apparent harmony in this verse?

It’s because Jesus on the cross satisfied once and for all the justice of God’s holiness.  God’s holiness demanded a holy sacrifice.  Jesus was that supply.  Jesus was that sacrifice.  1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…”

So, when we confess (say the same as God about) our sins, the forgiveness (made possible by the satisified justice of God through Jesus on the cross) is applied to that sin and we are purified from all unrighteousness.  Now, if you read that verse again, you’ll read that God does “purify us from all unrighteousness.”  That means that every sin, every flaw, every decision we’ve made, every word we’ve said, and every thing we’ve done is purified by the hand of God.

But it all begins when we confess.  I know this may not be a pleasant illustration, but I’ve always felt that vomiting is a great illustration of confession.  You see, vomiting happens when your body rejects something that has been put into it; either by something you ate, or by virus.  Just like that, your spirit knows when something has entered that doesn’t belong there, that isn’t part of God’s will and plan for you.  And the only way to get rid of it is to confess, to vomit, to expel it from your life.  Have you ever noticed that you usually feel better after puking ?  When all of that virus, that food item, that whatever-it-is is gone, you have a sense of relief.

What sin are you holding in?  Are you coming before God in dripping wet clothes but pretending you’re dry?  Puke that thing out, call it what it is, and allow God to purify you from all unrighteousness.