December 25, 2008

The Best Gift

This Christmas morning the thing that left the biggest impression on me was my daughter - her selflessness and the joy she found in giving to others. I don't know what 6 year olds are supposed to act or think like - I have nothing else to gauge it on - but I watched as my daughter very gratefully opened her gifts, gave hugs and thanks, and then delighted in giving the gifts she had made to her family.

Over these last weeks she has been tirelessly working on cards, crafts, and other handmade gifts that are of little monetary value, but those of us on the receiving end consider priceless. The card my daughter made me will probably be the highlight of my Christmas...the best gift!

I keep asking the Lord to birth within me this selflessness and joy that comes from the blessing of giving myself to others. This is Christmas.

December 16, 2008

Please Place the Item in the Bag

It's becoming clear to me that many seemingly intelligent individuals have yet to grasp the purpose of some things. When they fail to do this it brings much frustration to those of us in the general public who are even moderately aware of how things are supposed to work. Let me explain.

The new "Self Check Out" aisles at the grocery store - these are designed for a few reasons. First of all they are there for people who are purchasing a few things; you know, like 2-10 items. They are not for the person with 37 items, 14 of which are produce, a jumbo bag of dog food, and the one golden item in the store with no sku # on it. These aisles are also for people who somewhat understand the concept of electronics - someone who could operate an old-school Atari or a CD player. Not the lady at the store today who scanned a carton of eggs 14 flippin' times today! She started arguing with the machine as it spouted back at her, "Please place the item in the bag". This was evidently not as clear to her as it was to the rest of us watching and waiting. And finally, these are not - I repeat, are NOT - for people writing checks! This brings us to the next issue.

Checks. People still writing checks at the grocery store, at Target, at Lowes.... Are you aware that they invented this magical device called a check card? It's marvelous! They swipe the card, the money comes straight out of your checking account, they give you a receipt, and you can record the withdrawal when you get home...rather than while you're standing there in line with 7 people waiting behind you! Hi there. Welcome to the 21st Century. 

God has given me the privilege (or curse) of not being able to avoid getting behind these nice folks. Do you know them? Tell them to smile and wave at the nice, patient guy behind them! He has nowhere else to go & nothing else to do.

I love visiting the grocery store. It's a magical land of discovery. Food, chocolate, and people! What more could you ask for?

December 15, 2008

Witnessing Worship

God's people have done serious injustice to many of the terms and words that are integral to our faith and the way we live life. We have done wonders of confusing things even more than ever. For instance, think back to your childhood (if you grew up in "the church") and remember the old poetic chant: "Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the door and there's all the people!" Hands folded, we began with "Here's the church...". From that very young impressionable age we were being taught that the church was a building - that you opened the door to "the church" and there were all the people. Wrong. 

The church is not a building. The Church is the people of God - WE are the church.

In addition to our verbal butchering of "the church", we have created a horribly shallow and safe idea of the meaning of "worship". When you say the word worship, most people in the church - most Christians - think you're automatically talking about music. "Are you coming to the worship service this morning?" "What style of worship does your church do?" "We don't raise our hands when we worship!" We stand guilty as charged of not only confusing the rest of the world as to what the Lord himself calls and identifies as "worship", but we've confused ourselves to the point that we don't even know what we're talking about anymore.

I believe that over the last few days I have witnessed "worship". It has not been in or through something that I (or anyone for that matter) would have chosen or desired. Basically, I've come to my parents home to assist my Mom in making sure that my Dad can die peacefully and with dignity. You don't think about these things until they camp out at your doorstep and begin knocking. The whole experience so far keeps leading me back to Isaiah 58.

The Lord comes with great indignation and lets His people know that so many of their "pious acts" and their "fasting and penance" is like noise and static to Him. Why? Because while they're fasting and praying and singing...they're fighting among themselves...they're going through the motions...they're still living for themselves. Does this sound like some of us? Some of our churches? Could it be we think we're worshiping...and we only sound like noise?

God's response to this is to tell us what true worship looks like to Him: freeing those who are wrongly imprisoned, welcoming and caring for the poor and hungry, giving clothes to those who need them, and - please don't miss this - NOT HIDING FROM RELATIVES WHO NEED OUR HELP. Paul exhorts Timothy (and us) that "those who won't care for their own relatives...have denied what we believe." Worship is starting to look a little different.

My Dad has exemplified Isaiah 58 with his life. Many Sundays as I was growing up I wouldn't see him in the "worship service". I would wonder, "Does my Dad just not like to praise God?" Yes, I would seriously question this. Well, the reason he usually wasn't present is because he was in a room praying with someone or counseling them, or in the parking lot helping someone jump-start their car, or listening to someone who just needed an ear. My Dad worshiped - he just did it more with actions than with words. Now I am watching my Mom exemplify this as my Dad's body is rapidly and brutally sucking the life out of him. I believe that she has determined that this man who has lived his life attempting to live and serve well also deserves to die well. I know that's not a comfortable or attractive talking point over coffee...but there are times that life says, "I don't really care what you're comfortable with!"

Sitting here, wiping someone's face, bringing them tea, rubbing their back, trying to answer their semi-incoherent question, "What is happening to me?" - this doesn't feel like worship. But I believe that it is resonating in heaven and bringing joy to the heart of the One who will eventually say, "Jerry, it's time. Let's go home."

May our actions and our lives be worship. Because the Lord says, "If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. 'Yes I am here,' He will quickly reply."

Isaiah 58
1 Timothy 5 

December 13, 2008

Why Bring the Kingdom?

The Book of Acts exists for one reason: the Kingdom of God. Jesus spent countless hours and took all sorts of opportunities to explain to those following Him that He had come to bring a "new" kingdom - a kingdom like none the world had ever seen. He said weird things like, "The Kingdom of God is like...a farmer who planted good seed...a treasure a man discovered hidden in a field..." and so on. Jesus sent out 72 other disciples and told them, "Whether people accept your message or tell you to get lost, make sure and announce to them that the Kingdom of God is near!" Evidently, this Kingdom is important.

I brought up the Book of Acts because of how it begins. Luke explains that after Jesus rose from the grave He met with them several times and "talked to them about the Kingdom of God." Interesting.

So Jesus spent 3 years with these men and others close to them, He fulfilled all prophecy spoken about Himself, He died on the cross, rose from the grave, conquered sin & death, has now appeared to His disciples several times, and as He does His favorite topic of conversation - the thing He sees as most valuable to repeatedly bring to their attention - is the Kingdom of God. Upon arrival Jesus brought this new Kingdom with Him. Now He is telling His followers that their main responsibility is to be bringing this Kingdom here, through the way they live, the things they say, and through their love for one another. Wherever you go...bring the Kingdom!

No sooner had Jesus gotten this out of His mouth and the disciples chime in and question, "Lord, are you now going to...restore our Kingdom?" Lord, we know that you've taught us, you've lived sacrificially among us, you were beaten and bruised and crushed and killed for us, and you've explained in detail that our lives are now about YOUR Kingdom...but just one question...when are you going to restore OUR Kingdom? Lord, we're totally great with your agenda, but is there any way You might give some attention to ours? 

[This would normally be the appropriate place to ridicule the disciples, making an example out of them. The problem with that is, WE are still asking this question today. What about OUR Kingdom?]

It is NOW time for the people of God to make the decision - which Kingdom are we living for? We cannot keep one foot - one hand or half our heart - in this kingdom and think we're going to effectively and wholeheartedly bring the new Kingdom with us. Jesus said a few things about this. (Matthew 24, Luke 14)

Are we bringing the Kingdom? This is the question for every "follower" of Christ to answer. Don't know how to know, how to tell, how to determine whether or not you're life is bringing about the Kingdom of God? Look around you. Look at those close to you. Look under your own roof. And answer this simple question: Are you making disciples? Are you showing anyone - even just ONE - what it looks like to follow Christ? Are you teaching, leading, influencing anyone - even just ONE - to make the decision to "seek first the Kingdom of God"?

So whoever you are, whatever you're doing, wherever you go, with whatever means necessary through love and mercy...bring the Kingdom! And whoever crosses your path...make sure and announce to them that "the Kingdom of God is near you now". 

Bring the Kingdom.

Matthew 24:14, 28:18-20
Luke 10

December 10, 2008

The Blue Streak

My neighborhood is great! On one side of me I've got this sweet elderly couple and on the other side this awesome young family. Kids up and down the street, neighbors talking in the yard. It's your typical American middle class neighborhood. Except no mailboxes. We have the big ugly community mailbox which, as I think about it, keeps anyone from having a Nascar mailbox with flames on the side, attached to a big piece of wood that used to be part of a power line. Maybe I really like the community mailbox. Either way, my neighborhood is great.

But this past spring I began to feel like I was in a movie - one of those flicks where people start suspecting that their new neighbors are aliens or terrorists or something. I came home one day and this house caddy-corner across the street from mine had this freakish electric blue paint on it - just in one little spot. I thought, "That's weird!", and I went on about my business. But what was even more weird was that the blue streak stayed there....for days....for weeks....for several months. I just began to think that maybe someone took the whole "blue streak" metaphor a little too far. And then it happened.

One lovely day in the late summer/early fall I was driving down my street, coming home from work, when off in the distance I began to see something, almost like one of those hazy mirages you'd see on a 10-mile stretch of road in the hot desert. But as I got closer it began to get clearer. Holy crap. They painted the whole house electric blue. [Pause for a moment and try to visualize] In fact, one of the painters was still working on the side of the house. He looked like one of the guys from Blue Man Group (if that helps you grab hold of the color I'm talking about). 

I couldn't even pull in the driveway - I just sat there in front of my speechless awe. I glanced back down my street noticing that, while no house on the block (or in the neighborhood for that matter) was exactly the same, everything was painted some earth-tone. Everything just sort of went together. I began to go over in my mind all the possible things said in the conversation that ended with, "Ah yes! This is one. The color of my dreams." I came up with nothing.

I don't know the people in the electric blue house. I honestly never even saw them move into the house (adding to the whole alien-abduction movie feeling). I know people on the street have conversations about "the blue house" and "the people in the blue house" and "What were they thinking?" and so on. Honestly, it's dumbfounding. But I've begun wondering and asking myself, "Why haven't you marched your sorry backside over there and introduced yourself to your neighbors? Am I too busy? Will someone in a blue house even like a guy like me who lives in a house that's 3 shades of taupe? Why?"

Could it be that you don't want to like them because they disrupted your seemingly perfect little world? Could it be - as metaphorically nauseating as it is - that you're judging the inside by what the outside looks like? Is this really happening?

It's time to bake some cookies, gather the family, and go meet the electric blue family. Maybe they'll invite us in and we can throw paint on some timpani drums and bang them really loudly for hours. Well, it could happen.

I do know one thing: giving people instructions on finding my house has become a whole lot easier!

December 6, 2008

Wait For It...

Waiting. We are not creatures who are very fond of this activity. In fact, most of us would rather get a root canal than wait. Maybe I should speak for myself - I would usually rather hit myself in the thumb with a hammer than have to wait. I've never actually had a root canal so I've got to stop using that reference. Waiting can be painful and grueling. Waiting on that someone to call. Waiting to find out if you got that job...or you'll have to keep looking. Waiting to see whether or not the treatment is actually going to work this time. Waiting. 

I'm discovering that our hatred of this apparent state of inactivity - and our occasional unwillingness to participate in it - cause us to miss the hand of the One who created us and to miss something bigger and better that He had for us on the other side. It is not just loose rhetoric that Isaiah tells us that "...those that wait on the Lord will renew their strength." Most of the time we view waiting as simply that - waiting. We don't realize that we're being allowed to go through this process because the process itself does something to us.

Waiting is a refining fire. It begins to strip away these outer surface layers of self-centeredness. Waiting causes us to decide whether or not we are going to be creatures of trust & faith or control & entitlement. Waiting is out of our hands. Waiting sets the table and offers 1 of 2 main courses: worry & want...or prayer. Dinner is served.

I don't know what you might be waiting on: news, healing, that someone to finally arrive, satisfaction, tomorrow.........or the next day. Whatever you're waiting on please know that the waiting is where WHO you are is formed, shaped, refined and revealed. Yes, it can be painful and No, it will probably not be over as soon as you'd like. But in the end, you will "...rise up on wings like eagles. You will run and not grow weary; you will walk and not faint."

And that is worth waiting for.

Isaiah 40:27-31
Philippians 4:6-7
Matthew 9:17
Zechariah 13:9
Psalm 40:1-3

December 4, 2008

Is Christ Ruining Christmas?

Our church body is journeying together (as are many of you & others) through the Advent Conspiracy this Christmas. So far, it has been refreshing, convicting, and is changing & reshaping the foundation of how we think and what we do during this season. If you aren't involved or don't know about Advent Conspiracy ( I encourage you to learn more and join us on the journey.

Now let's talk Christmas.

I don't make any assumptions about what anyone else grew up thinking, feeling, or experiencing at Christmas. I only know my own experiences. But I do have a pretty good idea that the Mayfield family Christmas was a pretty fair representation of most families habits on the morning of December 25th. I remember as a kid spending weeks (if not months) making out the "Wish List". I recall being fed some particular lie (excuse me, false truth) about someone who "sees me when I'm sleeping" - which now horribly creeps me out - and who watches my every move, checking off some imaginary list, coaxing & persuading me to be on my best behavior so that ultimately I could get everything I want. READING the truth - seeing this in print - makes it sound a whole lot worse than it felt back then. The truth stings sometimes.

As I've been forced to re-examine the heartbeat of this season - and my own heart for that matter - I keep finding myself going back to some painful words of exhortation found in 1 John 2:15-17. John wrote, "Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever."

Understanding now that as a child you are already tempted to think that the world revolves around you and that you are somehow entitled to receive everything on your magic "wish list", is it not horrible and sickening irony that the very day that we are meant to celebrate Christ coming into this world to redeem it (and us) from self-destruction is now the pinnacle of promoting and advocating the "lust for everything we see"? Do we realize as parents - as the people of God - that if we're not careful we will lead our children into a lifestyle of lust? We can begin to teach them to crave the very things that are fading away?

Think I'm being too critical? Think I'm blowing this out of proportion?
I'm 36 years old. I'm a pastor. I'm still recovering from this mindset and mentality.

If CHRISTmas is about CHRIST - and it is - then let's make it about CHRIST.
If you're scared to let go of Santa...if you think he's going to be offended or his feelings or going to be hurt...make sure that you understand that the real Saint Nicholas would probably vomit all over his white beard if he saw what we have turned him into. The great coaxer and persuader of pointless moral behavior. felt weird. But we told our kids the truth. And don't worry, they won't ruin it for your kids! Well, I take that back. If telling someone the truth - that Christmas is all about the One who came to pursue us, redeem us, love us, and save us - that Christmas is all about us shining the LIGHT of CHRIST to a dark world - if that would ruin Christmas....then I hope your Christmas is being ruined as we speak!

Dig Deeper:
John 1:1-14
John 3:16-21
Luke 2:32

November 26, 2008

Potholes on Memory Lane

Ah, memories. This morning I set out for a jog from my parents house. While I was in college they decided that the house I grew up in wasn't big enough anymore (not that it was big enough to begin with) so they built a new house a few miles away. Later, they decided that house was too big - at least having an upstairs that was empty was too much - so they built another house. This one wasn't bigger, just nicer. This house...I loved! But then Dad had his accident, the mortgage was too much, the yard was a headache, the pool - well, you get the picture. So finally, after living in someone's pool house, living in someone else's aging parents home, and a rental, they found THIS house. And it is exactly 1.5 miles from the house where I grew up. Need an example of things coming full circle!

OK, so why I gave the History of the Mayfield Homes lesson was to say that my morning jog took me past a lot of memories: my old house, my elementary school, the rec center where I worked for years and (more importantly) fell in love with the most amazing woman on the planet, Shipley's Donuts (yummy!), and a slew of old friend's houses. But holy cow, was it weird. 

I ran by one of my buddy's houses and saw some strange woman coming out, getting in her car, probably headed for work. I wanted to run up and say, "Hey, what were you doing in there?" Thankfully I didn't follow my impulse. (Awkward)
I knew he didn't live there anymore. He lives 3 hours from here! But my emotions didn't know what to do with some unknown imposer coming out of a place where my brain said she shouldn't have been.

I also noticed that so many of the places I used to think were huge had been reduced to smaller versions - like I was running through a mini-city, like the ones they make for those models of things they're going to build. And several of the stores and houses that used to be well taken care of and worth looking at now appeared as though someone had been dumping rust and mud on them and birds were using them for target practice. Things were not matching up to my memories.

As I worked through Haggai several weeks ago I was reminded that, while God takes us through circumstances & relationships for reasons and wants us to learn from them and cherish them, we cannot live in the past. The Israelites were so hung up on how the temple used to look that they were grieved by how much smaller and less spectacular the new sanctuary was shaping up to be. God comes walking into the cool of their day and tells them to "Take courage" because "the future glory of this temple will be greater than it's past...." He's trying to tell them, "I know the past was great...but you can't live there. It may be inconceivable to you, but what I have ahead for you is even better than what's behind!"

Don't let the good "then" cause you to miss the better "now".

I cherish and treasure where I'm from, the places and events that shaped me, and all that lies behind me - even if there are a lot of potholes on memory lane. I make the decision to learn from those times and places and people. But I can't live there. God is a God of remembering, but He asks and charges us to remember so that it shapes who we are and who we're becoming. He is the God of the NOW and the future. Jesus has not returned for us - His people - yet, and so we know that not everyone has heard the Gospel. Now is the time to live for NOW...and for the day that is dawning. Whatever may be anchoring your backside to the good old days, you better shake it loose and break free now! There is much work to do for the King. We have been given much is expected!

Tomorrow, I'm running in the opposite direction. In this town, memory lane runs through about 4-5 zip codes. Who knows what potholes I'll step in! 

Luke 10:1-12
Matthew 24:14, 28:18-20

November 14, 2008


Maybe you're a rare breed and you've somehow made it through the last 8-10 years without being sucked into the world of reality TV. If so, I congratulate you. Now, for the rest of us, here we sit. So many of us have been tossed aside into the ditch, we've sent in our applications, made our "I Love Jeff Probst" videos, sent in our sob story about why we would be the best candidate...blah blah blah. And all most of us have to show for it is that we've discovered something: call it what you want, it is ANYTHING but reality!

That being said - yes, we've all figured out that Big Brother stands for Big Load of Crap - as I sat and watched my own personal reality TV guilty pleasure tonight I came to a realization. While these shows - all 384 of them - create scenarios, environments, and civilizations that are totally unreal, they do accurately and honestly reveal one thing: the human condition.

By no means do I expect to be stranded with 17 other people on the continent of Africa, only to stumble upon a nice straw hut, a bag of rice, and a team flag, all conveniently located beside the river where there's an abandoned canoe. But what I do expect - every day of my life - is for my patience, pride, and compassion to be tested by the people that surround me. What I'm saying is, while these people on these shows may not be in realistic circumstances, their real life, stripped down, honest, dirty laundry gets thrown out of the hamper for the world to see. And for some of them, it can be a big shocker to see just how dirty things have become.

Arnold Palmer once said, "Golf doesn't develop reveals it." The same can be said about the character display (or lack thereof) that's often exposed on so-called reality TV. Why do I even care about all of this? Is it not just entertainment? Well, I guess. But I think it's our responsibility to attempt to see the redemptive quality in the things we're wasting (I mean spending) our time consuming. If you find no redemption - nothing to move you toward your Redeemer or toward living like Him - then I would argue that it's probably not worth your time.

My reality - I have 2 children. They test, expose & reveal my character every day. And I know that what they see will influence theirs. "I must decrease so that He can increase" - and I'm praying what Charlie Hall sings in his song "Thrill": "More of You and less of us God...." That's the reality I'm living for.

November 6, 2008

"Faith & Politics" OR "Faith IN Politics"?

The last few days have been a pretty predictable ending to this long-lasting political season. Predictable in that they were very telling of the actions and attitudes that had been building over the last year. On one hand, I am very excited and ready to see what happens here in our country - we are in need of change. On the other hand, some of what I've seen from "God's people" has been like a knife through the heart. Let me explain myself.

In my 20 short years of voting I have never spent so much time laboring in prayer over the decision of who to vote for, why I should vote for them, and the baggage that comes along with it. I was still not totally at ease when I pushed the button! But one thing that did NOT drive my decision-making on any level was FEAR. I will be the first to admit that I have stepped into the voting booth before and mainly voted "against" someone - frightened of what might happen if they actually won. Not anymore. You see, I can't preach, teach, and moreover BELIEVE that God is sovereign - that He truly does "place all governments in power" - and at the same time be terrified that if a certain someone gets elected that the world is going to go to hell in a handbasket. My philosophy doesn't jive with my theology!

This is why I was angered and insulted when I received an email last week from someone working with Focus on the Family. This message was a 12 page speculation (supposedly a letter written from the year 2012 after Barack Obama had been elected) that was driven and motivated by fear and judgement. This letter took all kinds of issues to the extreme, leaving no room for the intervention and sovereignty of God, or the hope & faith that God's people would continue to rise up, move out, and penetrate our culture and world for the Gospel of Christ. It was blatant fear-mongering and it made me sick! And it was an undeserving and insulting slap in the face to many believers who spent countless hours in prayer over this decision.

The question I keep coming back to: WHY? Why are so many driven by this attitude and heart? Why are there still so many people out there - followers of Christ, mind you - who are consumed and obsessed with thinking that the morality and ethics of this country we live in are going to be (or even should be, for that matter) dictated and legislated by Washington? Politicians can legislate, lobby, and even pass laws for that matter - but God has made it very clear that if His heart is not written on OUR heart, we will go on living in darkness. The reason there is still a vast army of "Christians" driving and fueling the "moral majority" is because (as God's people) we are lazy, obese, complacent, apathetic, and spiritually wanting and waiting someone else to be the "light in the darkness" and the "salt of the earth" we are called to be. Our politics are often a window into the depths of what we personally don't want to take the time and energy and effort to stand up for in love and confront ourselves. We want someone else to do if for us. And if you're getting defensive let me make sure you understand something: standing on a street corner with a sign that tells everyone what you're "against" is NOT being a "light in the darkness". Sorry.

Somehow, some way, God's people have got to begin living lives that are so entrenched in loving those who "have not yet believed" that we're ready & willing to roll up our spiritual sleeves, get messy, and live out our faith. And I am becoming more and more convinced every day that the reason we are falling short of this is because we keep forgetting the ditch that we were in when Christ found us and redeemed us - we keep dragging ourselves back to the Law and wanting the easy way out - for God to just spell it out for us in black and white. Hang on to your hat friend, but the reality is that our faith is still in the moral code. 

What was your life like before Christ? Where were you before he pursued you, rescued you, redeemed you, and traded your "filthy rags" in for garments made of white? Have you forgotten that YOUR stains were as "red as crimson"? Have we forgotten that the "love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" is the ONLY thing that will ever save or redeem anyone? Politics and politicians and legislation won't do it. And at the same time they can't redeem anyone...they aren't going to destroy anyone either. And make no mistake, I am not saying that we shouldn't care about WHAT our elected officials do or say or vote for. And I'm not saying that they shouldn't be held accountable for what they promote, how they vote, and even how they go about doing all of that. What I AM saying is do NOT lose sight of the big picture. God is in control.

Whether you voted for Barack Obama, John McClain, or you wrote in Elvis's name...God is in control. Romans 13 is truth. Read it and claim it. Pray for our new President. Thank God that He is a believer. Pray that the Lord steers, guides, and convicts him as he leads.

Remember: "Some trust in chariots, some trust in horses (and governments and politicians and military might and weapons and money....), but WE trust in the name of the Lord our God." Psalm 20:7

October 31, 2008


Riding in the Jeep this morning Nathan announces to me, "Dad. I just counted to 28!" And then he asked me the most confounding question of all time - "Is 28 a lot?" I thought about it for a second and then said, "Well...sort of." And if you know my son (or any 4 year old for that matter) you know that this answer - sort of - is in no way satisfactory.

As I sat there, driving down the road in this contemplative trance, I began to wonder to myself, "Is 28 a lot?" And I began to realize that it's all about perspective.

First of all, if we're talking about money - dollars to you and me - we would say, "No way. 28 is chump change! 28 won't fill up half my gas tank or even pay my cell phone bill." But then you begin to realize - if you're paying attention, that is - that 28 will pretty much feed and clothe a child from World Vision or Compassion International. 28 will buy a wool blanket for a person living in poverty. 28 can provide 2 families with bed nets to protect from Malaria - the nastiest child-killer in the world. Holy cow. 28 just got a lot bigger! And that's not even the beginning.

What about 28 gallons of water? How does that measure up? Well, to put it into perspective, the average family home uses about 68-69 gallons of water a day. That's from the shower, brushing teeth, running the dishwasher & washing machine, watering the yard, and of course, flushing the toilet. And this doesn't sting as much until you realize that there are still people walking 4-5 miles a day just to get 1 bucket of water (about 4-5 gallons max) for their entire family to use. And that water is usually contaminated, viral, and slowly killing them. 28 keeps growing.

If this is making you want to curl up in a sad ball on your sofa and watch Feed the Children commercials, sorry. Not the point. The point is: DO SOMETHING!

"What, you might ask?" Great question.

Here's a small list of places to start:

1. Take $30 a month and sponsor a child (

2. Give to blood:water mission ( and help a family or even an entire village build a well. In the last year, Olivet has paid for at least 5 wells to be built!

3. Stop flushing the toilet! I know - "GROSS" you say. Well, when we go to Mexico we have a saying: "If it's yellow let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." Again, I know some of you find the thought of this detestable, and maybe you shouldn't practice this the night you're having dinner guest. But quit wasting water! You use approx. 3-5 liters of water EVERY SINGLE TIME you flush the toilet. (I drink 3-4 liters a day!) Turn off the faucet while you're brushing your teeth. MEN: when you go to a public restroom and use the urinal, WHY flush it? You're wasting H2O and putting your hand on that nasty handle. Stop wasting water!

4. Start making Christmas what Christmas is all about - Jesus Christ! It's HIS birthday for cryin' out loud. Give something away to someone else. Give your time. MAKE a gift for each other. Make the decision as a family to change to way you think...and take action. Visit

5. Educate. Make sure everyone you know understands that lives are at stake...and that we can make a difference. Every single one of us can make a difference.

And in the middle of the chaos of your busy day, when the world is rushing by and time is running out and you're starting to feel like you're overwhelmed and don't know what to do...remember: 28 is a LOT!

October 28, 2008

Think Fast!

This day has been one of those that (ever since I made the decision at 5:45 to get back in bed rather than go running) seems to be stuck in the mud. Everything I've done today has felt like I had weights attached to me - sort of like trying to sprint in quicksand. Good luck.

Needless to say, on days like this you probably don't find yourself on the lookout for God to speak to you or to radically smack you upside the head with some fresh thought that puts a kick in your step. But just moments ago - while I was minding my own business - the Lord interrupted my day with a disturbing realization. I have utterly and completely forsaken the need in my life for fasting. In fact, as I've thought about it, it seems the only thing I'm good at fasting fasting!

The rest of this day will be spent asking the Lord for conviction and discernment about WHAT He desires me to fast from, HOW often & long I need to partake of this, and WHO I need to share it with. I'm beginning to feel like God is already pressing his finger in on the sore spot - the thing He is going to ask me to set aside and release for awhile. We'll wait, pray, and see.

Are you fasting? Have you given anything up for the sake of prayer? Have you allowed yourself to walk through this experience that reminds us that HE is all we need? Or are you simply fasting from fasting? My encouragement to you...think fast!

Matthew 6:16-18
Isaiah 58:1-7
Acts 13:1-3

October 24, 2008

Politics & American Jesus

Over the last year I have thought many times, "When is this election going to hurry up and be over?" And now, ironically, I can't believe it's already here. As we have lived through the debates, the campaigning, the sucking up, the promises made, and everything that comes along with a presidential election, I have done more soul searching and praying about the issues and candidates than ever before. I have come to some realizations.

First of all, I hope that everyone (and "Yes" I mean YOU) has come to the enlightening conclusion that NOTHING is really what it seems. Most of us at this point have hopefully begun to focus in on the candidate that is going to receive our push of the button on November 4th. But make sure you know that 1/2 of what you think you love and support about your candidate is probably a facade or mirage. And in contrast, 1/2 of what you think you hate about the other guy is probably misperception, misinformation, or just plain flat lie. Because if you've gathered your information from the mainstream media or these ridiculous mass emails that circulate from one-track minded psychos then you've probably been duped. In politics, nothing is as it seems. Period.

Also, to those of you who are followers of Christ, are you still voting on the grounds of ONE issue? Hear this loud and clear: Abortion is wrong. It is murder. It damages, belittles, and wounds the hearts, souls, minds, and bodies of women. And I believe the doctors who perform these operations will one day answer and pay for it. But it seems to me that maybe the "HOW" has finally come back to haunt us. Is it possible that "Christians" have been standing on street corners with signs and bullhorns for so long, pointing fingers and spewing hate, that many of us have failed to realize that countless numbers of these same people are advocating the death penalty and totally OK with the collateral damage of war? Does this make any sense to you? Is it possible that the church is producing the greatest army of hypocrites to ever assemble?

And have we somehow allowed it to slip past us that the TRILLIONS of dollars we have spent fighting this war (to protect and defend OUR way of living) could have already eradicate the world's water crisis and put a very large dent in the fight against hunger and poverty? And before you get all "You're anti-this & that" on me, make sure you understand that I am all for us defending others, who can't stand up for themselves. I am all for liberation and protecting freedom. But what I'm not all for is us becoming so obsessed with defending the American way of living and claiming that it's a "God-ordained right" to live the way most of us live. FREEDOM - God ordained. Wealth in the face of poverty, obesity in the face of world hunger, drunkenness in the face of someone dying of thirst, consumerism in the face of an economic crisis...NOT God ordained. Some speak of a "moral compass". What moral compass? Some ask "What Would Jesus Do?" Well, that depends. Are you talking about the American Jesus or the one in the Gospels?

And make sure that if you're even tempted to think this is a political endorsement for anyone, you're mistaken. No matter who receives my vote on November 4th, it will be cast with much conviction and a prayerful burden along with it. But at the same time, there's another mistake I beg you not to make. Don't begin to think that if one man or another fails to be elected that it's all going down the toilet. Because if you think this way - if you allow yourself to buy into that fearful reaction - then you must be following American Jesus. The Jesus I know didn't come to defeat Rome - He came to defeat sin. Jesus called us to a NEW way of standing up, protesting, defending and doing things. And Paul said some things about this in Romans 13 as well. Don't panic. PRAY. Don't fear. TRUST.

I believe the Church here in the West has spent way too much time demanding and coercing legislation and way too little time investing in people's lives. We want the government to do our job. We want the government to demand what people can & can't do so that the burden of example is not on us. We have taken Matthew 25 and Luke 14 and said, "Surely you're not serious about this Lord!" All the while not realizing that even questioning the authenticity and demand of what's being said and asked...that questioning negates our ability to even call Him "Lord". 

It is time that the Church - the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ - start awakening to a NEW way of living. It is time that we start radically loving the world and stop expecting Washington to set the moral tone for HOW we should be living. 
Because if we start loving...they might start listening. No, some won't. But some will. And they are the reason that we're still here. At least, they're supposed to be.

For more:
Matthew 5-7
Luke 14:25-35
Matthew 25
Romans 13 & Daniel 2:21
Mark 12:29-31
Matthew 28:18-20

October 19, 2008

"You can do this!"

Yesterday I ran the KC Marathon. I've been training for months and have felt more confident and prepared going into this one than my first one last December. But somewhere around the mile 17-18 the mental battle began. 

First of all, there were not near enough port-a-potties on the course. I'm talking 6-7 mile stretches with no relief in sight. If you're a runner you know that for most this will ultimately result in creating your own restroom. No biggie. It's a runner thing. And to add onto the pressure buildup in my bladder for 8 miles there was the issue of bad pasta the night before. Or maybe I should say bad sauce. Not sure, I just know that Pasta la Vista was not the greatest Italian cuisine I had ever put in my mouth or stomach. A marathon is not supposed to be a 26 mile intestinal fight. But things happen.

Morgan and I saw our friend from the Y at home a couple of times. And Faith came out and brought me a dry hat and took some of my stuff I didn't need anymore. This was a total blessing! But back to the mental battle. 

I don't even know how to explain it, but somewhere along the way you just begin to start wondering, "Did I train enough? Holy crap! Could there be any more hills!? Are my legs still there underneath me?" And the war of speculation goes on. I began to feel like I just needed to hear someone yell my name - I needed to see a familiar face again and hear them say, "GO! You can do it!" And then it happened. As I was coming up this hill I saw some friends. I had no idea they were going to be there. And they were yelling for me, yelling my name, people I knew were encouraging me on, to keep going. Heather even jumped out and ran with me for awhile. (I tried to convince her to carry me, but she wasn't buying it). Carolyn was taking my picture. Allie was handing me Skittles (most of which I dropped on the street). But this was all I needed!

It was such a vivid reminder of Galatians 6:2, that we are to "carry each others burdens". We so often take for granted the blessing that we are to each other and we forget that the encouragement we find in being part of the body of Christ is almost unexplainable. Just to see each other. Just to hear someone say, "You can do this." To know that you're not alone.

And when I crossed the Finish line, there they were. I staggered over to them to try and explain how much it meant to me to see them and hear their voices at just that right time. It was powerful. And my 4 hour goal - I crushed it! 3:53:23.

We ran back down to the final stretch, waited for Morgan (who was not far behind me), and cheered her on to the Finish. This is what the body of Christ should look like. I'm thankful for the reminder.

October 13, 2008

Cleaning Out Cages

Over the last 6 weeks we've set out on a mission to expose the "elephants" in the church - these issues that are on our minds and are affecting our walk and our relationships, but we don't want to talk about. We had to hunt them down, drag them out into the open, and expose them for what they really are. We talked about legalism, authenticity, transparency & hypocrisy, consumerism, sexual purity & sin, gossip and apathy. To many (including myself) it sort of felt like a prolonged punch to the face. Glad that's over!

So where do we stand now? Hopefully we're cleaning out the cages where our elephants use to live. In all fairness, they've taken up too much of our time and energy and we've been cleaning up the mess they leave behind for far too long. All that being said, have you honestly said goodbye and good riddance? Or are you just cleaning out the cage and getting it ready for the next elephant to come and make himself at home in the middle of your heart? There's one way to know.

ACCOUNTABILITY. Have you found it yet? Have you finally reached the place where you've demanded of yourself that you not go another day without finding that someone (or someone's) who can speak truth into your life and with whom you can confide and confess your sins and struggles? Have you finally decided to quit playing church? Has God convicted you or challenge you over these last weeks about something in your life that needs to change? If yes, fantastic. But have you shared that with anyone? ANYONE?

Let's just be clear about this: if you're still limping through life and telling yourself, "I'm fine. I don't need your accountability" may think you've shown these elephants the back door...but they'll be back. And when they come back they'll be bigger, fatter, louder and nastier than ever before. Until you demand accountability of yourself - THAT is your elephant. ACCOUNTABILITY is your elephant. It's the thing you know you need to do and somehow keep refusing, putting off, and excusing away. The ignorant and outright LACK of accountability between the people of God is the elephant of all elephants in the church. And until it truly goes away, we're just cleaning out those cages for nothing!

James 5:16
Ecclesiastes 4:12
Galatians 6:1-3
Proverbs 27:17

October 9, 2008


We're sitting in the airport the other day, waiting to board our plane, and I hear the Delta agent across the hall spewing some blah blah blah about waiting for our plane to arrive and then I hear her utter that famous word that Delta and American are so famous for: OVERSOLD! Have you heard this word before? When you're waiting for your plane? This is the airline's way of letting you know, "We sold you a seat...but not really." They sold you a ticket for a supposed seat that doesn't technically exist until they figure out if everyone who bought "supposed" seats has shown up when they then somehow reserve the right to inform you that someone (voluntarily, mind you) is going to have to give up their "supposed" seat. OVERSOLD.

When I talked to Enterprise Rent-a-Car on the phone and asked the question, "So, the Suburban on your website means that you actually have a Suburban or the equivalent - something I can put 6 people and luggage in?" And the answer I got was "Yes Mr. Mayfield!" I love being called Mister. Only to arrive at Enterprise yesterday and have the lady explain to me that a Tahoe (which you all know is NOT a Suburban) available for me. Again, the communicated reality is not really the reality at all.

Fast forward 4 hours. We arrive at the hotel. I have booked 2 Suites - those are rooms with 2 double beds and a sofa bed - 2 Suites that would sleep 6 people. I have 6 people. They give us our keys, we go to our rooms, open the door...NOT suites. I go back down & explain to the men at the front desk the situation. We concur that there is a dilemma. One of the men begins to explain to me that because I booked my reservation at Travelocity - not directly with the hotel - that my reservation was secure, but not the TYPE of reservation. In other words, we could put you in the Janitor's closet if we wanted to. Are you serious? Is anyone seeing the pattern here? Is this the largest conspiracy in the history of the world? Are there travel agents thinking this up and selling the idea as a scam?

It's just begun to bake my bagel that all these people and companies and organizations call sell you something that's not really what they say it is. People want to know that they're not being sold a bag of goods and that at least to some level of decency things ARE actually what they seem. People are hungry and desperate and longing for some integrity in this world. And they're not finding it overflowing from the walls or the fabric of the American dream or from this capitalist haven we call home. It has to come from US! The people of God have got to be determined and set on being WHO and WHAT we say we are! We can't be the one selling the bag of goods. If we're not the genuine article...who will be?

So, don't be the one adding to the facade. Don't be caught pawning off a varied version of reality. And don't - I repeat, DO NOT - expect a Suburban to actually be a Suburban or a suite to be as sweet as you think. And the next time you arrive an hour early for your flight...expect to hear the magic word: OVERSOLD.

October 6, 2008

Putting Out the Fires of Frustration

Ah, the Whispering Elephant...the "dainty morsel"...the cancer of gossip. For far too long it has run amuck in our midst. Yesterday we talked about the need for the people of God to grab this unity-killer by the scruff of the neck and toss him out the back door. Gossip has NO place in the body of Christ.

This morning I was reading in Joshua 22 where Joshua blesses the Eastern tribes (Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh) and finally allows them to return home. They have served the rest of the Israelites and it is now their turn to take their land, their families, and their tribes and make a home for themselves. But something interesting happens when they're exiting Canaan - they build an altar. This seems harmless, right? What's the big deal? Well, the rest of Israel hears about this - in other words, they got 2nd and 3rd hand information - and they were furious, gathered everyone together, and "prepared to go to war against their brother tribes." Apparently, this is about to get really ugly, really fast!

But some smart, level-headed, rational person (or group of people) suggested, "Maybe we should send a delegation to talk to them and find out WHAT they actually built and WHY." What a genius! So this delegation crosses the river and lets the people have it - they hit them with the "How dare you's" and "What were you thinking" and then someone finally shut up long enough to let them explain. "...let all Israel know...that we have not built an altar for ourselves to turn away from the Lord...but as a memorial." Oh....uhhh....right. Well....carry on then!

In all seriousness, even though this "delegation" appears to have approached with a bit of an assuming attitude, they came nonetheless. And THAT is the point. The Israelites got this bad information based on someone's ill-conceived idea of WHAT their brother tribes were doing and WHY and spread it to the people. They were ready to go to war and throw down judgement and wrath in one fail swoop. There wasn't going to be anymore of this rebelling against the Lord and placing all the people in jeopardy. But instead of acting any further on assumption - instead of passing on this "fire of frustration" and allowing it to escalate into a full fledged inferno - they went to the source. They did the right thing. They acted with integrity and allowed the people whose integrity, character, and actions were in question to answer and defend themselves. And thousands of years later, we can all thank God! And hopefully learn from their courage.

"Today we know the Lord is among us because you have not sinned against the Lord as we thought. Instead, you have rescued Israel from being destroyed by the Lord." And they never would have known this if they had let the gossip go one step further!

So the question for us is, will we allow the people of God - the Body of Christ - to be torn down and torn apart because we fan the "fires of frustration"? Or will we put our foot down and demand that if it doesn't "build up" that we're not going to "put up" with it any longer, from ourselves or anyone else?

Remember: the Whispering Elephant is really just a BIG FAT CHICKEN! 

Proverbs 29:11, 26:20-22

October 2, 2008

Convenience And His Cousin

Convenience. That's what life is all about, really. Am I right or what? I mean, seriously, we live & breathe & function to constantly find a better way to make everything in our life this well-oiled machine of squeaky clean convenience. "Yes, I need my oil changed. And while I wait I'm going to get a manicure, have some lunch, and go buy a new garden hose and some cat food." Praise you O deity of convenience, who makes our lives so sweet!

OK, so maybe you don't need a new garden hose and if you're like me, you definitely don't have any need for cat food, but if you have any objectivity and any guts you have to admit...this is US! And it's not that there's something inherently wrong with convenience - we're just trying to be efficient stewards of our time, right? No, the problem exists when we allow our quest and obsession with our own convenience to blind us with ignorance to the rest of the world. For instance, is it ever convenient to pull over and help that person you've never met change the flat on their Toyota? No. Is it ever convenient to take 1/2 the day off and help a friend re-route the flood water out of their backyard? I don't think so. Or how about spending an hour listening to someone who just needs a compassionate ear - where does that rank on the Convenience Scale? How about a 1 out of 10!

The Book of Ecclesiastes is possibly the most erratic and bizarre book in the Bible. It could actually be used to make a case that Solomon took hallucinogens. But in all seriousness, it is packed full of these very sporadic but truthful and insightful messages that are still painfully relevant even today. In Ecclesiastes 8:5-6, Solomon says, "Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right. Yes, there is a time and a way for everything, even as people's troubles lie heavily upon them." Excuse me while I catch my breath from being slugged in the gut and called a slacker! Do these sound like words of convenience? Does this sound like a message that is ringing very loudly or clearly in our Walmart World of Wonder? I read this and think, "When was the last time I got out of my own way, saw a need in someone's life, forgot about whether or not my Levi's got dirty, and stepped up to the plate?" And let's add some insult to injury by erasing and invalidating all my excuses like, "Oh, I'm sick" or "I had an appointment to get to" or even "That just wouldn't have been safe!" That's my favorite.

Our lives can become a string of days and events and decisions that, all linked together, might be called a journey. How bad would it sting to reach the end of the journey and realize that your destination was convenience? Break out the champagne! Have a cigar! We've done it! We've reached the ultimate destination! We're there man!

I don't think so.

I think our new best friend's name would be Regret. Yes, Convenience is the road to Regret.

And up to this point in my life, Regret and I have not been the best of pals. In fact, I pretty much hate his guts! He laughs at me and calls me names and points out all my fears and flaws. Jerk! Why in the world would I want to be friends with him?

Yes, the secret's out. Convenience and Regret are related. Their cousins; sort of like Bo & Luke Duke. (Sorry, couldn't resist!) And if you're like me, you don't want them in your day, in your home, or anything to do with them. So how do we avoid them? Solomon says we're to "...find a time and a way to do what is right." There you have it. 

And make sure you just go ahead and realize that while the remote and the snooze button will not be happy with this decision, there not the ones who have to live with the Regret.

September 29, 2008

My Pet Gray Elephant

Just a few weeks ago we talked about the "Gray Elephant" of legalism - our tendency to take what God has purposefully and intentionally left "gray" and try to make it either black or white, right or wrong. We have historically fallen into this temptation corporately on issues like drinking. We've been professionals at sort of publicly reacting to issues rather than carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully responding as Christ would. This has to change.

Over the last few weeks since I preached this message I have seen the Gray Elephant exposing himself in more ways than one. It's as if I taunted him and made him mad, and now he's got something to prove. I've seen and heard discussions about things like "I can't believe he's wearing that..." and "he can't seriously be considering letting them do that". I've witnessed grown, "mature" Christians dragging the Gray Elephant behind them, refusing to just let him stay outside where he belongs, in the ditch. What gives?

Are some of us just convinced and determined that "we" have all the answers and that "we" were burdened by God with the responsibility of levying out the list of do's & don'ts to everyone outside our circle of thought? Are we seriously still hung up on what people wear, how their hair is combed (or not), and whether or not they have 2 earrings or 10? Are we still seriously clinging to this "You can't do this or that in God's house" bologna? Are you kidding me? Because if we are - if we're going to go that direction and hold fast to our "traditional" guns - then it's time for us to take a dive into 1 Corinthians 11. 

If we're going to let the Gray Elephant run the show and we're going to impress and impose on everyone else how we "feel" about things and the way we've "always done it", then it's time to answer some questions. Questions that Paul answered for us. "Is it right for a woman to pray to God in public without covering her head? And isn't it obvious that long hair is a woman's pride and joy? For it has been given to her as a covering. But if anyone wants to argue about this, all I can say is that we have no other custom than this, and all the churches of God feel the same way about it." (italics mine)

This is one of the most culturally-contextual statements made in scripture. It is by no means a mandate for churches to live by today, at least in a literal sense. It is referring to the call for us to be culturally sensitive. So my question to the "mature" believer is, "Are you being culturally sensitive?" Not traditionally sensitive, or comfortably sensitive, or preferentially sensitive, but culturally. Do you know what is or isn't acceptable in your culture? And when I bring up your "culture" are you objective enough to even realize that we are talking about something way outside of just your little world and the way you see things? Is this ringing any bells?

I don't think I can encourage believers enough to go back to Romans 14 repeatedly and frequently to ask the Lord to give us compassion and grace for other believers around us. We get so hung up on everyone else's garbage that we seem to be forgetting our trash is stinking up our own front yard. And if you're not a fan of the Gray Elephant and you don't own one for a pet, don't be caught dragging one around behind you.

"Who are you to condemn God's servants?"
Good question.

September 23, 2008

Imaginary Eggs Make Crappy Cookies

All this talk about the economy and who's to blame for the state of the economy and wondering how in the world these major American financial institutions are having to be bailed out by the government (or wait, excuse me, bailed out by us!) has really got my head spinning. I'm sick of it honestly! And yesterday morning as I'm hearing about AIG being the latest victim, I see Dave Ramsey on GMA, telling anyone listening of his advice during these times.

First off, if you need any financial advice, Dave Ramsey is a great person to listen to. But I don't want to talk about him. What I want to talk about is how idiotic and perplexing it is that Americans are wondering, "Why are we in this state? How did we get here?" I think the explanation is pretty simple. We spend what we don't have. Period.

Americans (on average these days) not only have no concept or idea of what it means to save, but we spend money that we don't even have...and we spend it like it's going out of style. We're in credit card debt up to our eyeballs, paying for our kids braces, adding more packages to the cable bill, renewing our cell phone contracts, paying Booster Club fees, and on and on...and then wondering, "Where did all my money go?" Are we serious?

And then we wonder how institutions like Fannie Mae and AIG get into trouble. Because WE are borrowing money from them. And who are THEY borrowing money from? US. The government. We're spending money we don't have and "borrowing" it from institutions that, in all reality, don't have it either. We're nuts! 

And I know, all my financial friends are going to give me some kind of lecture on the macroeconomic principle of it all, but here's the way I see it: If you come over and ask me, "Can I borrow some eggs" and I say, "Sure, let me go grab a few" and I go to my refrigerator to regretfully find that I have no eggs, I can come back and tell you I have some eggs, hand you a piece of paper that says, "EQUALS 2 EGGS" or whatever I want to do. But if I don't HAVE the eggs, there is nothing there to borrow. And what are you going to do? Go home and finish baking your cookies with the imaginary eggs I gave you? I think not.

So for me the lesson is simple: If I don't have it, I don't spend it.
But stating this principle and actually living by it are two completely different things!

September 22, 2008

The Knock at the Door

Do you screen your calls? Liar. We all do. If we don't want to talk to someone...we just don't answer. If you get an email from someone about something that you'd just rather not talk about or address you just don't respond. Or if you see that neighbor coming up the driveway and hear the doorbell ring, you just sit really still, pray the garage door isn't open, and wait for them to go away. Welcome to America. But what if the option wasn't there? What if you had to answer? And what if it was Death knocking at the door? "Everybody quiet! Maybe he'll go away."

Nope, sorry. There's no hiding, screening the call, pretending the email didn't come. When he comes knocking - and he means business - he usually doesn't wait for you to open the door. He just kicks it in.

My Dad - after falling through a ceiling, being in a coma, slowly recovering, and battling the enormous load that comes along with being a traumatic brain injury survivor - has now had the distinct privilege these last 2 years of fighting cancer. Once the Nerf football sized tumor was removed from his hip, it was on to chemo, radiation, and every other variety of drug and remedy you can imagine. And according to the assessment of the doctor at MD Anderson, as of today, my Dad has already outlived his prognosis. Some might call this "living on borrowed time" or other insensitive poetic descriptions. I don't find the need to label it or categorize it. This is my Dad's life for cryin' out loud. Mortality is a lot less metaphorical when it gets personal.

My Mom is not only dealing with the indescribable weight and stress of my Dad's frailty and illness, the unbelievable truth of ecclesiastical bureaucratic decision-makers who determine who's worthy of a certain level of insurance and who they'd rather just retire than have to float the bill for (yes, this goes on in churches), but she's also dealing with knowing that my Dad's desire is to hang on "for her, and for us." Are you kidding? How are you supposed to carry that weight? Are you supposed to live with the idea that YOU are the one in the course of history who is going to manage convincing Death that he should actually go away, find someone else whose door is unlocked, and come back to our street later? Sorry. No one can carry that load. Not you, not me....NO ONE.

I think for my Dad the prospect of Death is a little easier to swallow because he was medically dead 3 times after his accident. According to many, after that fall, he was never going to have "life" back. In your face! And so when it comes around again, it's not like the person has this experience that says, "Wait. I've been here before. I know how to beat this, to get him to go away and never come back." No, I think it's more like, "Here's the thing: I was for all intents and purposes dead already. God gave me a second chance. He gave me years that I might not have had. So, in all honesty, I'm not scared of hearing that knock at the door. I knew it would come eventually. The question is, are you going to cover your ears, pretend you don't hear it...or will you bravely come with me to answer the door?" 
I think we think that people facing Death (especially people we love) are scared of Death and in actuality it's us - the ones who haven't faced him down or heard him knocking - who are scared out of our minds. We're not ready to let go!

Please hear me loud and clear: I do NOT want that knock to come to my Dad's door. Who would? But I also don't want my Dad to think that he has to screen the call or ignore the knock for my sake. I don't want my Dad to fight for existence...I want him to live! After all, we know the One who is the "first and last...the living one who died...alive forever and ever...who holds the keys of death and the grave." And because of Jesus Christ "Death is swallowed up in victory". Hello. Did you catch that? "Death is swallowed up in victory". And if "swallowed up" means what I believe it means, he has no right to be standing on my front porch!

So, who is that knocking at the door? Who is that inevitable visitor that will come calling on each of us at some point? Well, one thing I know for sure: for those of us who know Jesus Christ, it's not Death out there knocking. I'm pretty certain it's the One who "holds the keys". And that is what we hope for!

Revelation 1:17-18
1Corinthians 15:54-55
Romans 6:9
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

September 19, 2008

Wood Choppers & Water Carriers

I was talking to a friend last night who was sharing frustration over dating someone that (in hindsight) didn't turn out to be who he thought. And of course there's the added frustration that everyone else seemed to see it all clearly. Why did no one say anything to me? That's a story for another day - you know, that we're all a big bunch of chickens and scared to really confront and admonish each other. But how is it that so many wind up looking back on decisions or circumstances and thinking, "Why didn't I see this before?" Enter God.

This morning I read in Joshua 9 how Israel was getting ready to attack all the other people west of the Jordan. They were going to make what they did to Jericho look like a calisthenics warmup next to the whoopin they were going to throw down on these other kings. But one group of people - the Gibeonites - got smart. They knew they couldn't withstand an attack from Israel. They heard what they did to Jericho and Ai. So they used their heads and deceived the Israelites (Joshua included) into thinking that they were from a very distant land and had traveled a long way to come and be their servants. They stretched and aged their wineskins; they waited for the bread to get moldy; they even scuffed up their clothes & sandals. This was delicate deceit.

Here's the problem: Joshua 9:14 tells us that "...the Israelite leaders examined their bread, but they did not consult the Lord." And Joshua went right on ahead and signed a peace treaty with them. In one fail swoop, binding friends with the enemy. And here's where we enter the picture. There are times in our lives when we forge these relationships - whether what we perceive to be a simple, harmless dating relationship, or even more serious and binding - and we consult our eyes, we consult our hearts, we listen to our longing for someone to affirm us and validate our worth...but we forget to "consult the Lord". And eventually, as it was with the Gibeonites, "the facts" come out; we see who they really are and what we've allowed ourselves to do. And this can be indescribably painful, for us and everyone around us.

Joshua and the Israelites forced the Gibeonites to "chop wood and carry water". When we realize that we've taken steps like this without consulting the Lord we often put the other person through hell - we make them "chop wood and carry water". And this puts us in a position where our calling is crippled. WHY? Hold on to your hat. It's because once we've slept with "the enemy" we relinquish our ability to reach them. Once we cross over into a realm we were never supposed to go with someone, it makes it virtually impossible to love them the way we were intended to. When we fail to "consult the Lord" it just seems to always end badly.

If you're thinking of judging my friend, you best stop dead in your tracks. I have nothing but amplified respect for him (or maybe it's a her?). The courage to confess this and openly repent is HUGE. My admonition to you - before you let your heart do the thinking or your eyes persuade you on - is to "consult the Lord". And don't wait for your heart to flutter to make this a natural, daily part of your life and who you are. After all, there are a lot of wood choppers and water carriers out there who still need to know the King.

September 18, 2008

September 17, 2008

One of THOSE Days!

Let me just be blunt - not for your benefit, but for my own therapeutic longing. This was one of those days. Actually, it's just one in a long line of many, but it happens to be the one at the end of the long line where finally something on your insides just finally says, "I've had enough of this!" Maybe it's what you refer to as the "end of my rope". That sounds a little drastic - a little too final - for me, but to the point nonetheless. 

I don't know how to rub shoulders with this infectious, unenthusiastic, hum-drum, middle of the road, 10 minutes behind, irresponsible, spectator, "whatever" attitude that seems to be permeating and penetrating so many people on the planet. And that's a problem because many people on the planet who happen to be near me are eating from the "whatever" menu and super-sizing their meal. I don't want to look at that meal, smell that food, or even sit in that restaurant. Check please!

I know that sometimes we just have "those days" and there are times when more than one person "drops the ball" at a time - welcome to life! But when those days just keep pelting you like rain in the face you eventually want to close your eyes and scream, "CALGON, take me away!" Yeah, right. Like I really ever wanted to scream that. Bath soap is NOT going to help me at this point. 
"SERENITY NOW!" Nope. Didn't help either. If you're waiting for me to get to the big spiritual point please stop reading now because I am seriously doing nothing more than venting my frustrations to a MacBook. I don't WANT spiritual insight - I want things to go right and people to step up to the plate and care and start looking outside the circle of "ME" and things like that. Am I crazy? Don't answer that.

At the end of the day - the one at the end of the long line of days where it really does feel like the "end of the rope" - I have a few things to cling to, rest on, and to find peace and comfort in. They are as follows:
Philippians 4:6-7
Jeremiah 29:11-13
Matthew 11:28-30

Good night.