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