Friday, November 30, 2007

Contemplating something other than my belly-button

Since I began the month in a rather contemplative mood, it seems rather fitting that I should end it on a similar note (Don't ask me why, it just seems right). I'm contemplating yesterday's win by the Dallas Cowboys over the Packers. I know Mark Batterson(In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy day) and a few 'gazillion' other Green Bay fans are pretty disillusioned right now as they try to figure out what went wrong and how come Brett Favre still can't win at Texas Stadium. As these beleaguered fans try to search for something positive to hold onto in the sad loss, they are reminded that most of them didn't even get to see the game anyway since only one-third of the country have satellite TV and the NFL network. Ouch!

So today's post is for those Packer fans in mourning. To you ardent, committed and faithful supporters I say: Get over it and quit whining!!! I'm a Broncos fan so how do you think I feel? Seriously though, the glass is half-full not half-empty. Let's be honest about this, what on earth does the team that wins the NFC championship have to look forward to? Imagine playing an entire season with the supreme goal of reaching the Superbowl, knowing that your destiny is to ultimately be pumelled at the unrelenting hands of the New England Patriots. I know, I know, that's why they play the games, you tell me. There's no way to know the outcome of a game until it's been played, you say. While this is true, you must admit that somethings are a little more certain than others. One of those things that seems certain (barring a major mishap) is that the Patriots will run the table.

So my unsolicited counsel to you Packer (or even Cowboy) fans: Be like me! Resign to your fate and work towards finding a high draft pick that might possibly make your team a little more competitive against the 'Brady Bunch' next season. Did I mention that I'm a recently converted Patriots fan? See you next month. Ce la Vie, eh?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What would you die for?

Sagarmatha (which means "Mother of the sky") Is the best known of the Himalyan mountain range lying between the countries of Tibet and Nepal. It is more commonly known in the West as Mount Everest! The first westerner on record to have scaled its lofty heights was a British explorer named Sir Edmund Hillary. For his efforts he has a "step" on the Mountain named after him. Others were not so lucky. Their legacy to an attempt at summitting the worlds highest peak: their bodies preserved forever right where they fell and died. In 1996 more than 16 people reportedly died in one summer expedition to the summit (read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air). Some of the worlds most renowned climbers have died or been severely 'beaten' by this 'mother', yet every year they come back for more, not deterred by the apparently exhorbitant climbing fees ranging from $45,000.00 to over $60,000.00 (these fees don't include climbing equipment, and they offer no guarantees that you'll make it to the top or for that matter even make it out alive).

Why do seemingly sane people do it you might wonder? Well, George Mallory gave what I consider to be the most classic of responses when asked why he wanted to summit Everest. "Because it's there" was his well reasoned response. Excuzeme??? "Because it's there"? So let me try and unscramble this in my fogged brain. The worlds highest piece of real estate (higher than many jet liners fly) offers a challenge for some people to summitt simply because it is there? I'm glad I live vicariously through the Discovery channel and National Geographic, because you couldn't drag me to that mountain even if I were dead (I would place a well aimed karate chop right to your jugular). I just don't think attempting to scale a mountain while suffering from high altitude pulmonary edema is worth dying for. Evidently, judging from the bodies that lie strewn across the barren, colorless landscape that is Mount Everest, some people do.

I have often thought long and hard about what I would be willing to die for. I have settled this fact beyond any shadow of a doubt: I would die for the cause of Christ! As I think about Rwanda, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and other such war-torn areas of the earth, I am broken-hearted for the innocent people whose lives are given as collateral damage for a war that they didn't even understand. I would be willing to die to ensure that they received the good news that: Jesus already gave His life in exchange for theirs. Some people would die for money, some for drugs, some for a licentious lifestyle, and others from simply having nothing to live for. It is part of the human psyche to believe enough in something to be willing to die for it. That is what becomes your passion. That is what becomes your driving force and your motivation to do whatever it is that you do, even on your darkest days. So, In case no one's ever asked you the question, I'm asking it now: What would you die for?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What day is it?

I bet you didn't know that today is writers-block day!!! What's that you ask? Well it's a new 'day' that I have designated simply because I have nothing to write about that's burning in my heart. So this morning I'm simply writing to let you know that I have nothing to write about. How's that for ingenious???

By the way, since I'm here and you're here, what's your favorite kind of dessert? I am really partial to bananas foster or those really great blondie's at Applebees. Speaking of... I think I'm going to go make some bananas foster for breakfast. Hey, I don't often get the chance to be that decadent. You're welcome to join me if you'd like.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Friend (Root) Forever

I’m still reeling with laughter from having recently watched Tyler Perry’s Madea goes to Jail. Interspersed between the humor and inimitable rhetoric of every one of his plays (that I’ve seen), are succinct spiritual messages that encourage us to live our lives effectively as well as recognize the value of relationships. While there were numerous moral messages in the play, the one that got my attention the most was ‘hidden’ at the end when Madea was speaking with the 16-year-old girl for whom she was providing temporary custody while her mother served out a prison term. Madea compared relationships to a tree. Wow! I’ve heard lots of analogies, and I’ve heard relationships likened to so many different things… but a tree? That’s how engaging the writing of the Madea scripts can be! Here’s how she expressed it (the following are my words but Madea’s ideas):

Some relationships are like the leaves on a tree. They are unstable and unreliable. Blowing this way and that with every wind of circumstance, these relationships tend not to last. Like leaves on a tree, that are constantly blown this way and that in the wind, they eventually fall off and then wither and die. Other relationships are like the branches of a tree. They are attached to the trunk and can typically withstand the wind. But, put under enough pressure from bearing a load, they will often bend and break. Like the branches of a tree, certain relationships often can’t withstand the weight of pressure that might be brought to bear on them as a result of life’s influences.

Finally, there are the relationships that are like the roots of a tree. Firm and solid, they run deep into the ground and withstand the pressure of any wind of change. Long after the leaves have withered, and the branches have snapped, the ‘root’ relationships are still standing. I have walked through circumstances in my life that have revealed all three levels of relationship. It is my fervent prayer that, as I become more like Jesus, I will be the kind of friend that always represents the roots. What kind of friend are you? What kind of experiences have you had? Care to share?

Monday, November 26, 2007

I ain't lyin', I ain't lyin', I ain't lyin...

Yesterday I nearly developed a hernia from laughing so hard while watching Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail. Tyler Perry is an amazing story teller, interjecting the right amount of humor and 'food-for-thought' that keeps your head spinning with all the myriad life lessons behind each play. His life story is also quite an amazing testimony of rags to riches, but what makes his story even more impressive is the fact that his wealth, rather than change him and embitter him towards a society that "trampled" on him for so long, has simply provided the means for him to serve people the way he's always wanted to.

At the end of the play, while introducing the cast as he usually does, he mentioned the fact that he was giving $1,000,000.00 (yes, this is not a typo, I said one million dollars) to victims of hurricane Katrina from the ninth ward district in Louisiana. To ensure that every red (or bronze) cent went to the beleaguered victims, he was not going to give the money through an agency, but was going to personally walk the streets and listen to the stories of the people. He went on to explain that the only reason he was sharing this information publicly was because he realized that many people may have wanted to give towards helping displaced Katrina victims in the past but were financially unable to do so. He further opined that, since he was able to do this primarily because of the largesse of people who purchased "anything Tyler Perry," this meant that they were also giving vicariously through him.

What an incredible way to start the week! First I get a sore stomach from laughing so hard at the ingenuity of the writing (and the brilliant ad libbing) of his play, then I get a sobering reminder of what true wealth is all about: pouring into the lives of others who don't have. You're not wealthy, so you can't give like that you say? Therein lies the beauty of wealth. It's not found only in the abundance of material possession. I am confident that you have a gift or a skill that would change someone else's life for the better if you would only be willing to share it. So I dare you! Do a Tyler Perry today and give a personal gift to someone that isn't expecting it. Can you do that for a brother?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Heart Disease (Part 4 of 4)

So, if you can drag yourself away from the leftover turkey for a few minutes, I'd like to conclude this series of posts on heart disease by dealing with this word "hyper" that has us all excited and... dare I say it... yes, hyper (there, I said it, I admit, I'm weak and I couldn't resist). The Greek word hyper literally means "in place of" or "on behalf of."

Let's examine these verses that employ the use of the word hyper.

1. Christ died for [hyper] our sins - (1 Corinthians 15: 3)

2. Jesus gave Himself for [hyper] our sins - (Galatians 1: 4 NCV)

3. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for [hyper] us - (Galatians 3: 13)

4. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for [hyper] his friends - (John 15: 13)

5. Before His death, Jesus took bread and said, "This is my body given for [hyper] you - (Luke 22: 19)

Do you get it? Are you hyped up about this word "hyper" yet? If not, let me attempt to make it a little clearer. What does He plan to do about our diseased hearts? Nothing. He's already done it! Everything we need to resolve the problem of heart disease, He has already provided. All we have to do is accept the heart exchange that He offers. There is absolutely no cost to you except the choice to surrender your diseased and weak heart in order to receive His strong and healthy heart. We enter heaven not with a healed heart, but with a new heart. His heart. Soooooo, the question of the day is: what are you going to do about your heart disease?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

As we celebrate the time honored tradition of Thanksgiving Day here in the USA, I wanted to take a moment to express my thanks for a few things. As I read the inimitable words of Paul in Ephesians 5: 20 "Always give thanks to God the Father for everything..." I would be remiss not to begin by saying: I'm thankful to my Heavenly Father for loving me even when I'm unlovable.

I'm thankful for my precious parents who shaped my values and ideals.

I'm thankful for my wife who has been my compass for character and integrity, and my warmth in the coldest moments of my life.

I'm thankful for my brothers and sisters who constantly challenge me to become a better man.

I'm thankful for my wife and kids who have somehow convinced me that I'm the greatest husband and father on planet earth (even though it defies logic).

I'm thankful for my extended family who believe in me even when I have struggled to believe in myself.

I'm thankful for my staff and team at The Well who serve selflessly from day to day, believing in our calling and our purpose.

I'm thankful for the precious people that call me their pastor (I still marvel at why that is), encouraging me to keep doing what I do because of the difference it is making in their lives.

I'm thankful for the friends in my life who have proven themselves true friends in the midst of the greatest adversities I've faced.

I'm thankful for the Mast family, and for Ron in particular without whom I would be doing something different today.

I'm thankful for the friends that left in the midst of the greatest adversities I've faced. They taught me true character.

I'm thankful for Dennis, Steven, Steve, Ron, Chris, Jeff, Femi Obaweya and all the guys who speak into my life on a constant basis, assuring that I don't miss the calling.

I'm thankful for my bicycle that allows me to burn off the calories from all the over-eating that is prone to happen between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.

I'm thankful for the turkey that "volunteered" to make my Thanksgiving Day memorable.

And I'm thankful for you, the reader, that graces my blog with your presence when you could be anywhere else.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Heart Disease (Part 3 of 4)

Understanding that our hearts are diseased, and that we don't pass the "heaven" test, Jesus, our spiritual cardiologist has come up with the perfect "exercise" regimen to fix the problem. He says: "exercise your right to accept my heart in exchange for yours." We are urged to contrast our hearts with His. When we list the claims that qualify him as either crazy or kingly (depending on your world view), don't omit this one: "Can any one of you convict me of a single misleading word, a single sinful act?" (John 8: 46 MSG) I know if I issued that challenge to my friends and family hands would wave like stalks in an Indiana corn field.

While His enemies tried to drum up false charges against Him so as to convict Him of wrongdoing, Pilate, Ceaser's highest ranking official in the region, found no guilt in Him. Peter, His excitable disciple who walked with Him for three years, testified: "He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss." (1 Peter 2: 22 MSG). Clearly His heart is in perfect condition, so how does He respond to our diseased and imperfect hearts? Well, can a cardiologist spot irregularity and dismiss it?

By the same token, Jesus has made His position clear: "[Only] The pure in heart will see God." (Matt. 5: 8). So where does that leave you and I? It leaves us needing a heart transplant. It leaves us drawing hope from a five letter Greek word - Hyper. "Hyper's not a Greek word I hear you say, it's what my kids are when they have to stay home from school for a week at Thanksgiving!" Well, we'll just have to find out tomorrow won't we?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Heart Disease (Part 2 of 4)

Yesterday I told you about my experience with a "heart condition" which, thankfully turned out to be a sleep apnea episode and not any sort of heart trouble. I did mention however, that we all have a heart disease that requires a heart exchange, since medication and exercise don't work on this kind of heart disease. For the skeptics, I suggested that a simple heart exam would establish whether or not we had diseased hearts.

The spiritual cardiologist examines our hearts and finds deep disease: "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly" (Mark 7: 21-22). The problem is further described in pandemic proportions: "No one is righteous - not even one..." (Romans 3: 10). Am I overstating the facts? Well let's find out with this simple heart exam and measure our life against these four standards from God's law, since, as applicants for heaven we should at least score well on God's entrance test.

1. You must not steal (Ex. 20: 15) - Have you ever taken anything that didn't belong to you (even a paper clip)?

2. You must not lie (Ex. 20: 16) - If you say you never have you just did!

3. You must not commit adultery (Ex. 20: 14) - Jesus said if you look at a woman with lust, you've committed adultery in your heart (Matt. 5: 28)

4. You must not murder (Ex. 20: 13) - Before you claim innocence, remember, Jesus equates murder with anger. "Anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder." (Matt. 5: 22) We assassinate a dozen drivers daily on the morning commute.

Evidently, the news is grim from the cardiologist. Your test scores indict you as a thieving, lying, adulterous murderer. Apparently, you, like I, need a new heart. What do we do? We'll find out tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Heart Disease (Part 1 of 4)

In 2004, the night before I was scheduled to leave for an annual motorcycle trip, I had a heart "episode" that required me to be rushed to the ER about 1.00am in the morning. The cardiologist ran a battery of tests and scans. I was put into every machine conceivable and every machine (at least that's what it seemed like) was put into me to ensure that my old "ticker" was, and would continue to work perfectly. It seems that we need our hearts working well and without disease in order to live. Why am I so skilled at stating the obvious you ask?

Well, sometimes I wonder if it is as obvious as we think. Over the next few days I'll share some thoughts about heart disease that might give you a little different perspective on what appears to be the obvious. My cardiologist, unable to find anything wrong with my heart after running a series of tests and scans, decided that I might need some medication to help. Help what? I wondered. If you can't find anything wrong with my heart, why on earth do I need medication? I guess no cardiologist worth his 'weight-in-blood,' would detect what appears to be an irregular heart beat and ignore it.

That's why I prefer the treatment of another heart Doctor. When He saw the condition of my heart He made me an eye popping offer: "Let's exchange hearts. mine is sturdy; yours is frail. Mine's pure; yours diseased. Where on earth did I find such a doctor? You can reach Him at this number: JOHN3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son." What has Jesus's death got to do with me you might wonder? Maybe you even appreciate the teachings of Jesus. You equate Him to other "wise" sages of history such as Gautama Buddha, Confuscius, Mohammed among many others. But no matter what side of the equation you view it from, you can't see the significance of His death being of any benefit to you. The answer to your question begins with a heart exam. Jer. 17: 9 states, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Not your heart you say? Tomorrow we'll do your heart test and find out.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Money, money,'s a rich man's world!

Okay, it's soap box time so prepare yourself. There have been a number of stories in the news recently about Christian leaders being under the investigative spotlight of the IRS and the U.S. Congress for gross financial mismanagement and misapropriation of funds designated for charitable purposes. The reports suggest that many of these leaders are "milking-their-flocks" and getting rich off the income earmarked for ministry.

I have been on a number of blogs that I visit regularly, and many of them have expressed opinions about this issue. One of the reasons that I decided to write about this is the fact that, as I have observed many of the comments written in response to the blogs, I recognize that, not only is this a volatile issue, but it is potentially divisive for the Body of Christ. First, I would like to suggest that the only reason the Church is being policed by secular organizations is because we have failed to police ourselves effectively. Scripture is not silent on matters of integrity where finances are concerned and, unfortunately we all bear the brunt of the poor choices made by a select few. It is amazing to me that while some are forming organizations such as the "Junky Car Club" so that they can spend less and give more, others are buying Bentleys, Rolls Royces and multi-million dollar mansions with income derived largely from the benefits of pastoring a large congregation.

I am persuaded that it is not my role to judge or adjudicate on matters that don't concern me. I don't know anything about the income sources of any of these leaders under investigation, so I am not in a position to determine whether or not they are able to afford these "luxuries" without dipping into church coffers. I do know however (from both Biblical and first-hand experience) that while "all things are lawful, all things aren't expedient." My committment to my calling precludes me from driving a Bentley simply because I don't want to have to constantly explain why I drive a Bentley while people in my congregation can't keep the lights turned on. Am I responsible for their electric bill? No. But I am responsible to demonstrate a sacrificial lifestyle before them in order that I might earn the right to speak into every area of their lives. What does a sacrificial lifestyle look like you ask? Since that is personal, we must each let the Scriptures as well as our purpose and calling speak to us about what that looks like.

Before you begin to protest, let me assure you that I have heard (and at different times even made) all the arguments about different people having different callings, and different income levels and so on. I don't seek to impose a lifestyle standard on anyone. On one of the blogs I read, someone had suggested that the lifestyle level at which we should live as Christians can be called "reasonable man standard." He stated that while he agreed that it was somewhat nebulous to define what that meant, he knew it when he saw it. My response: then your so-called reasonable man standard is subjective, since we will all have different parameters for measuring it when we see it. What I do seek to do however is to point us back to the Bible. Jesus spoke a lot about finances during His ministry. At the risk of over generalizing, I believe we can sum up a lot of what He said as being, "Don't be owned by your possessions so that they don't blind you to the true purpose of having those possessions." A hedonistic lifestyle cannot in any way be complimentary to the message of the Gospel that we preach.

At the end of the day, God is the one who sets the standard of integrity (In His word), and if we find our selves facing a barrage of accusations from the secular world about our extravagant and hedonistic lifestyles, then maybe it's time to take personal inventory and fix whatever needs fixing before the IRS or Congress does it for us in a very public and humiliating setting. What are your thoughts about this issue?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Is anyone out there?

The new movie "I Am Legend" featuring Will Smith looks like a must watch. Since I haven't seen it yet, I can only speculate as to how it ends and as to what the whole premise of the movie actually is. I can however surmise from the trailers that it has to do with a guy who wakes up after a devastation of some kind only to discover that the entire world has perished from some sort of contaminant. He finds himself all alone, trying to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment. If art imitates life, then this scenario speaks well to the realities of every day living. Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed by the pressures of life's circumstances that seem to constantly assail me. At those times (even though they are few and far between), feeling all alone in the midst of myriad people, I find myself wanting to yell "Is anyone out there?"

In the movie, Will's character appears to rely on his training as a law enforcement officer, as well as a couple of firearms to get him through the unfamiliar and difficult task of surviving. These may turn out to be woefully inadequate for the task at hand (I'll let you know after I've seen the movie). However, I am privy to a few stories of people who have called out in dire straits, needing help, and have been rescued by the most unlikely of things because their complete and total dependence was on God. Rahab the harlots entire lineage was rescued by a rope that she threw down over the city walls to help the Israelite spies. David's lineage was rescued by a sling and a smooth stone from a brook. Samson's lineage was rescued by the jawbone of a donkey. The nation of Israel was rescued by a common staff used to support Moses in his advanced years (he parted the Red Sea with it).

So next time you feel like crying out, "Is anyone out there?" Remember that there is a God who loves you and who provides the most unlikely of "weapons" to rescue you from your circumstances, if you will only choose to trust Him. Whether you're a risk taker like Rahab, a conqueror like David and Samson, or a deliverer like Moses, if you'll learn to trust in Him, He'll deliver you too. So I ask you this morning, who's out there for you?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Gift for the Ages

One of the myriad things I am discovering as I make my way along the course of my destiny is that God's greatest blessings often come costumed as disasters. What we might often interpret as tragic and disastrous, are actually blessings. How so you ask? Well look no further than the cross of Calvary. Jerusalem's collective opinion that Friday afternoon was this: Jesus is finished. What other conclusion could have made sense? Even His disciples had turned tail and fled.

He was nailed to a cross and left to die. They silenced His lips, sealed His tomb, and, as any priest worth the price of a yamulke would tell you, Jesus is history. It would appear that three years of power and promises are decomposing in a borrowed tomb. In the darkness of the crucifixion sky there appears to be not one ray of hope. How disastrous!

But God is not surprised. This was His plan all along and it is right on schedule. The greatest blessing the world would ever receive was placed on a common cross to suffer a very public death. What a travesty. What a disaster.... May be not! May be it's a blessing masquerading as a disaster. How so you ask again? May I take the liberty to remind you that in His painful and tragic death, He purchased eternal life which He now offers freely to us. There has never been and indeed never will be a greater blessing than that. Have you or will you accept His priceless gift?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jack's the Man... sort of.

Jack Bauer is the man! Well sort of. Jesus is really the man. But I must admit that Jack's story does try to emulate Jesus in certain things. I don't imagine the writers of the famed "24" series thought about the parallells between Jack Bauer's day and a day in the life of Jesus when they came up with the idea for the show, but the parallells are there, interspersed within the stories. You just have to look a little carefully.

I really like the episode in season 1 when Teri and Kim Bauer are held hostage in a barn awaiting their death sentence. Cowered in the corner and flinching at every sound, Teri suddenly calms herself. Realizing that Jack will do whatever it takes to rescue them, and knowing that until that time she must be strong for both Kim and herself she says these reassuring words to Kim, "I'm trying to explain to you what a simple, powerful thing my love for you is! No matter how bad things get or how good they get, that's not going to change, I just don't know how to do anything but love you."

Hold up. Time out. Those words aren't original to Teri. Jesus expressed that sentiment long before Teri Bauer's "creators" ever came up with that line. He says: "I have loved you with an everlasting love." And then to prove it, God became a baby, subjected Himself to the ridicule of His creation, and then died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. He exchanged His life for ours. It sounds too good to be true. It's almost as fantastic a tale as Jack breaking out of the most unlikely situation and rescuing Teri and Kim. But it happened. You can take comfort in that fact today. No matter what you're going through, He doesn't know how to do anything but love you. The question is: will you receive His love?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fretting is Futile

Fretting is futile! Just like attempting to resist the Borgs of Star Trek fame, fretting is futile. Matthew wisely counsels in his gospel, "You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it." The word worry used here in the Scriptures is a compound of two Greek words, merizo ("to divide") and nous ("the mind"). Worry literally causes us to devote only part of our focus on the immediacy of today's priorities, and the rest on what hasn't even happened yet, as we continue to fret about it.

The result of this is half-minded living. Worry and anxiety can become a really expensive habit. Consider the fact that, while worrying is not in itself a disease it can result in high blood pressure, migraine headaches, an overactive thyroid, and in some extreme cases, heart attacks. If worrying eventually solved the problem then maybe it would be worth while. But the reality is that all it produces is stress, an empty wallet, and more problems to worry about.

Fretting is futile! The real answer to your problems is one word: Jesus! The Bible urges you not to harden your heart when you hear His call (like right now), because if the truth be told, resistance is futile too. So, the real question for you today is, what do you do to ensure that you are not fretting about the things you can't control?

Friday, November 9, 2007


When I was a kid I imagined that my dad was the strongest man on earth and the best at everything. I remember very vividly kicking around a soccer ball in our vast backyard with my brother one afternoon. The goal was to kick the ball as high into the air as possible. My "superdad" decided to join in the game, and with authority kicked the ball so high that it disappeared into the clouds. No, really it did! Okay, maybe it just looked like it did. Can you understand though, how from the perspective of a six year old that ball looked like it had disappeared among the clouds, especially since it took like two hours to come back down to earth? That "disappearing ball" moment simply confirmed my suspicions about my dads superhuman capabilities.

For some inexplicable reason that moment still lingers in my memory after all these years. I still recall it as a moment when I felt so proud of my dad and his abilities (real or imagined). I trusted my dad implicitly and anything he said was as good as money in the bank. I realize now that the reason for my confidence in him was the apparent authority (real or imagined) with which he did and said everything. Jesus deals with us in much the same way except for the fact that his authority is never imagined. He offers to show us the way and fix the problems. He offers to show us why on earth we are on this earth. Don't we all need to learn this?

We know so much, and yet we know so little. The age of information is the age of confusion: much know-how, hardly any know-why. We need answers. Jesus offers them. Make Jesus your polestar, your point of reference. Set your sights on Him and then take your bearings from the light that He shines into your life and circumstances. What do you believe about Jesus? What's in your wallet... I mean, in your imagination?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What's Your Flavor?

It's absolutely amazing how different we all are, and yet how much we strive to be the same and conform to certain norms and expectations that society places upon us. I heard someone once speak on the fact that everyone in kindergarten is a creative artist (because they all believe they are) but by the sixth or seventh grade "reality" and "conformity" begin to set in and we begin to question our abilities and creativity. Society tells us what we can and can't achieve, and places limitations on us based on our gender, culture, or education. I'm still blown away by the fact that in our "socially advanced" culture I still hear statements like "I'm not sure this country is ready for a black or female president." What??? As if being black or female is somehow a handicap!

Being different is a gift from God. Being different is what creates innovation, development, and change. In order to create the kaleidoscope of color on the canvas that is our world, we must encourage and celebrate our differences. I am truly grateful for the churches in our region that are so different from us, as they reach a segment of our community that we are unable to reach. I am so grateful for the things that I'm learning from them as we build relationships and commit to helping each other fulfill our calling and purpose. That's what makes Baskin Robbins so successful. Every one has an option of their favorite flavor. I heard a preacher say one time "because I'm not your flavor doesn't mean I'm not in God's favor." I like that! It speaks to the very essence of our differences being a part of God's plan and purpose.

So I encourage you to keep being you, even as you conform more and more to God's will for your life. Don't try to shape or model yourself after someone else otherwise you'll deprive the world of the true gift that God designed you to be. I'm learning this truth in the most profound way in ministry. I must be true to whom God called me to be, no matter how much I interpret other people's methods or systems as being the recipe for their success. What are some of the things you struggle with wanting to do but don't for fear of being labeled different? For that matter, what are some of the things you're doing, simply because others are doing them, but shouldn't be doing? Care to share your thoughts with us?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pain Junkies

I am pretty strongheaded! It takes me a few times of falling flat on my face before I get it. Now it's not necessarily because I'm a pain-junkie or anything like that, it's just that sometimes I'm so convinced about something, that life has to smack me around a few times before my perspective begins to change. Take for instance the time that my son was mouthing off to me about how old I am. Being the balanced, intelligent and emotionally calm parent that I am, I challenged him to a race to demonstrate my agility and ageless speed. In all fairness to me, I did at one time run a 12 second 100 meters, so I can't be blamed completely for thinking that somewhere inside me still resided the "beast" that once was.

Reality often paints a far different picture from fantasy, and I discovered this fact yet again, the hard way! I stretched and warmed up in preparation while my son picked his teeth and looked entirely disinterested in the proceedings. My wife, being the good sport that she is, was the starting umpire and tried to give me every possible advantage. We took off running the minute she said "go" and to my utter surprise and amazement I found myself well in front of my son. All went as I envisioned until about the 50 meter mark, when my aging body went on strike. I felt this agonizing pain all the way down my left leg and thought I would keel over. Common sense, among other good reasons dictated that I stop immediately, and so like the wise man that I am I doggedly limped to the finish line neck and neck with my son who would have overtaken me if we had had two more feet to go. The sprained muscle in my leg took over a month to heal (don't you hate that about getting older?).

You can be sure that's the last time I ever challenged him to a race. Even I know to quit when I'm ahead (or neck and neck) depending on your perspective. Sometimes this type of tenacity comes from a deeper place than "pig-headedness." The Bible actually says that the righteous man may fall seven times, but he will rise again. In Jeremiah's treatise, he rhetorically asks, "if you have run with footmen and they have wearied you, how can you hope to contend against horses...." My tenacity prepares me for some of the rigors that life throws my way. I refuse to quit in the middle of the race, no matter how much pain I'm in, because I know that, "though weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning." What's your pain threshold like? Do you quit the race at the slightest twinge or are you impervious to pain?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Doctor Dunkenstein?

I find that the real me is not as cool as I sometimes think I am. I'm not quite as smart, I have to hold my belly in to get that washboard look, and I'm clean shaven because I'm bald and not because it's the fashionable look. Taking stock of reality can be depressing at the best of times (that's why we go to the movies, so we can escape reality for a couple of hours and fantasize about being the hero) but it is truly essential in order for you to make the right decisions.

I discovered that truth the hard way. I tried to dunk a basketball not too long ago while I was messing around with my very athletic son. I'd done it in the past, and I had convinced myself that, with all the weight I've lost and my religious committment to exercising and staying fit, I would repeat the feat. All went well until I slammed the ball against the rim and came down really hard on my side. I hurt for a month! In fact, I hurt now just thinking about it and it happened over a year ago. Having taken stock of that reality, I now enjoy watching others dunk, and live vicariously through them.

Wisdom dictates that I let some things go as I take stock and accept the truth about my limitations. The good news is that the things I have to learn to accept are not always bad. Take God's love for example. God will not let you go. He has handcuffed Himself to you in love. And He owns the only key. You don't need to win His love. You already have it. And since you can't win it, you can't lose it (unlike the ability to dunk a basketball). What things are you discovering about your life that inform the need for change and reevaluation?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fair Weather Fans

Wow! It's been a rough football season for me so far. You see I'm a Notre Dame fan and a Denver Broncos fan. Need I say more? Just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. It's bad enough that Notre Dame has looked like a pretty decent high school team all year long, sporting the worst record in their storied history, but to lose to Navy for the first time in 43 years! Gosh, do you realize what that means? The last time Notre Dame lost to Navy, your grandparents were sitting on the couch in their parents homes watching the game (at least it feels as if it was that long ago).

Then there are the dear old Broncos. And that really is what they looked like yesterday... old! They looked like players at the end of their careers struggling to keep up with the young players with something to prove. They have the distinct dishonor of being the worst team in the NFL at stopping the run. That fact was indisputably evident in yesterdays mauling by the Detroit Lions, 44 - 7. They were porous on defense and anaemic on offense. After watching yesterdays debacle by the Broncos, the Washington Redskins should feel good about the fifty-something points scored against them by the Patriots, at least they can hang their hats on the fact that it was the Patriots (potentially the best team in any era of football by the time this season is all said and done). To what do the Broncos attribute their embarassing loss?

But, I am a legitimate fan and not a fair-weather-fan. I proudly sported my Broncos hat while I visited with a group of buddies to watch the Patriots win against the Colts. I endured all the good-natured ribbing, while trying to save-face by explaining the tremendous benefits of remaining loyal even in the face of tremendous adversity (I'm sure there's a spiritual lesson in there somewhere). I was pulling for the Patriots as I really would like to see them rewrite history by going 19 - 0. Come to think of it, I live a little closer to Boston now than I do Colorado. Maybe I should consider becoming a Patriots Fan!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Growing Pains

The Christian "journey" is fraught with incredible opportunities for growth. They just don't look like what we expected. The challenges that we constantly face, force us to flex our spiritual muscles and sometimes stretch us to just within breaking point. But the results of lifting weights and exercising is always good for us no matter how painful the experience at the time. So it is with the trials we face in our Christian walk. I'm discovering that everything has its antithesis. Where there is opportunity for love, there is opportunity for hurt. When betrayal comes what do you do? Get out? Get angry? Get even? You have to deal with it some way. How? Observe how Jesus saw Judas. Jesus response to him as he (Judas) walked up to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane with the temple guards, "Friend, do what you came to do."

Friend!?!?!? How? Why? I have a million questions about that one, and you probably do to. But He is our example on how to navigate through not only the smooth portions of the road we're traveling but also the treacherous stretches too. Sometimes the betrayal comes from the most unexpected quarters but the source of the hurt has no bearing on your response. The opportunity to demonstrate God's love is never contingent on the circumstance or potential recipient of that sometimes elusive characteristic of God's nature. What opportunities for growth have you had recently? How did you respond in the midst of your trial?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Contemplating my belly-button

It's November first! Where did the year go? I guess the saying is true that the older you get the faster the years fly by. I'm entering that time of year when I become introspective about a lot of things as I review the year gone by. I try to quiet myself in contemplative introspection (no, this is not yoga), so that I can hear a little more clearly in order to make the adjustments that I have found to be necessary for the journey I'm on.

I find this exercise to be incredibly productive as well as regenerative. You see I'm learning that, in order to successfully navigate through life's myriad pitfalls, I must learn to focus on my soul at least as much as I do my body. I really enjoy lifting weights and road biking (I actually bike an average of 100 miles a week). All too often though, I find myself giving more attention to these activities than I do to prayer and study. Sadly we live in a world that has learned to elevate the body and degrade the soul. We pamper our skins while we pollute our hearts. It appears that our values are completely reversed and our priorities are messed up.

That's why I feel the need to slow down and contemplate something other than my belly-button. It really helps me refocus on the real priorities in my life. So how do you take stock of your life? What do you do that makes you more successful at navigating lifes potential pitfall? Care to share?