Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Don't Look Back

Philippians 3:12-15

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

As this year draws to a close, if you are like me, you have that introspective self-diagnostic inventory thing going on. A state of the Onion of sorts. I tend to look back and grade my life's journey for the previous twelve months. I'm sort of linear like that - a left -to-right timeline kind of guy that sees a calendar in my head with a list of successes and failures and wins and losses along the way. Where was I when the year started? What kind of growth, if any, has taken place? What kind of dynamics have changed in my life? Am I a better person than I was when 2008 started?

Many things have changed in my life since last January. In fact, "change" has been the theme of '08 for me and it had little to do with an empty politcal slogan. One of my very best friends lost a daughter, another lost his mother, and I lost one of my favorite Aunts. I nearly lost a friend, and I just learned today that one of my uncle's had a heart cath and some stints put in. My youngest daughter turned 18 and just started driving this year. She promptly wrecked our car. No harm to her - thank God. I changed jobs within my company and am now working a different shift. My biology is still recovering to it's discombobulated sleep pattern. A close friend lost his job, found another, sold his house, and is moving soon. We started attending a different church.

So this is the time when we now look ahead to the coming year with hope and expectation and a disquieting resolve to face whatever comes our way with God's help, especially that coming diet. I have had a yearly resolution for the past few years that went something like "Purpose to thrive not just survive." I've not had much luck with it - at least as it appears on the surface if I were doing the grading. Each year seems to descend into simple survival at some point. If I can just make it through the day, or make it to the weekend, or make it to the next payday, etc. Do you ever feel like that? Just survive.

Is that really what we were created for - just survival? I have an "easy button" on my desk at work that when you push it, it says, "That was easy!" I push it every night when I leave work just to remind me that things could be so much worse so I should count my blessings. Blessed I am with good health, a great family, great friends, a good job, and a close friend in the Creator of the Universe.

I was talking with my bride about this today, and we know a number of people who are complacent survivors. For whatever reason, the fight isn't there unless thrust upon them, and even then sometimes it is AWOL. There seems to be this tendency to just take life as it comes rather than a proactive pursuit of it. Without intentionality, all that is left is the hope of the hitting the pick six lottery of happenstance. If we aren't intent on the mission then the mission fails.

One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-discipline, so why don't we more readily embrace it and appropriate it? Is it fear of failure? Is it the fear of what it will cost in emotional capital? Maybe it's the physical capital? Whatever it is, it robs us of our inheritances and blessings. So below I have listed a few of my favorite quotes, quips, and nuggets of wisdom I have learned over the years. They are not all original to me, but there is no way I could provide an accurate listing of their original sources, so my apologies in advance for that.

  • You get what you tolerate.
  • You can't see what's ahead while you're looking back.
  • Ground gained must be maintained
  • Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
  • If it were easy everyone would do it.
  • "Life is hard. It's harder if you're stupid." John Wayne
  • Kindness pays eternal dividends.
  • Live passionately, give generously, love unconditionally.
  • Stick to your guns as long as they are loaded.
  • The degree to which one is offended by something will usually be directly proportional to the size of the chip on their shoulder.
  • Own who you are and what you do - even when you're wrong.
  • Change is inevitable. Don't fear it - Faith it (face it).
  • Seek God's face.

Happy New Year.

May you thrive in the coming year as you purpose to move beyond survival.

Don't look back.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From Manger to Mirror

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:10-14

This Christmas season has been a weird one for me. I didn’t hang lights, haven’t done much shopping, and I haven’t watched my favorite movies of the season yet (Elf, Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story). This is mostly due to my new work schedule and the company’s need for their all-star talent to be there 6-7 days a week to oversee our respective areas of responsibility. A bunch of Scrooges I say! Ba-HUM-bug back at ‘em!

On my commute into work the other afternoon I was praying, and meditating on “Emmanuel” God with Us. Every time I consider the magnitude of that simple truth I am again blown away - The Creator of the Universe taking a road trip from Glory to grace. What a concept; the King becomes a servant. The Good Shepherd starts off in the stable laying in a feed trough. What a perfect symbol with the food for our soul (The Bread of Life) being born in Bethlehem (The House of Bread).

I want so much to go beyond ingestion to digestion and assimilation. I keep eating. I am hungry for His Presence. The promise of Emmanuel is once again stirring in me beyond the season and the song and onto the sojourn. I think I needed to have the glitz of the holiday set aside so I could refocus of the babe in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Not exactly like this…

I’m so glad there is no naughty and nice list with Him. Quite simply the family gets the benefits of the inheritance, behavior aside. I love that we can be adopted as heirs and sit at His side. Talk about a GIFT! Try and top THAT one Santa!

What gift can I bring? Gold? Frankincense? Myrrh? How about my heart?

My prayer is that I bring a yielding heart that continues to surrender to His rod and staff. My desire is that when I look in the mirror and take inventory that I can see a little bit more of him each time. My hope is found in Him. He began something in me that turned me into a babe and a bride. If I’m honest, neither of those roles are ones I like to embrace. Regardless, I know He will bring me past all of that into the fullness of His Grace at work in me.

What a plan – God WITH us. I rejoice and I blush thinking of the comfort when I need Him and the disappointment when I fail Him. God with us. Something to consider. Something to treasure. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh for a Father, a Son, a Holy Spirit. Three for He. Three for Thee. Three for me.

Merry Christmas


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Lone Ranger and Tonto

My friend Cody preached this sermon recently…great Word my brother!

Mark 2 :1-5 Jesus Heals a Paralytic
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

I remember when we first met. I had been “set up” by a murderous clan that wanted me to be the fall guy. You came along and with words of wisdom helped me see a clear path out of that cave of frustration. Mining for silver, I found trouble, and a friend. In your youth and vigor you were fearless and selfless (mostly). You showed a propensity of the love for Justice driven by mercy. Where did you go?

In pursuit of righteousness with a gang of brothers you were ambushed by the enemy shot in the back by cowards. Wounded you bled and then I, Tonto, came along and nursed your wounds. You saw your friends and brother die in that ambush, yet something in you willed yourself to carry on and live the pursuit.

You used your brother’s vest to fashion a mask to hide your identity. Motivated by portions of fear and justice, you went about righting wrongs for others and that became your way to deal with the wrongs done to you. The concept of justice is worth fighting for and worth the risk of losing everything, including your soul. Salvation is not found in surrender – it can’t be because evil wins when we do nothing.

So many times you rode off into the sunset a winner, and a loser. Your pride intact, your cause defended, yet your soul was fragmented. You justified your actions because of the greater good. Eventually the fight became too much and you surrendered. Salvation was lost. No cause, no justice, no peace, just the stark reality that your mask and guns only provided a temporary medicinal rush for the bitter pain within.

You walked away. The cause seemed hopeless, the people were plastic, the posse indifferent, the life a myth. You checked out and rode off into the sunset because people were, well, people, and full of themselves, masked by the cause, driven by “purpose” yet void of virtue.

“F_ck it! F_ck it all!” you said. The badge has no honor only the self-serving agendas of the few. The pursuit is not worth the trouble. Too many dusty roads, too many broken lives, too many fights with outlaws, too many cold rainy days without shelter, too many sleepless nights, too many heavy bags, it’s just too…damn…hard.

Tonto shows up again; the faithful friend. The faithful one who fights the fights with you, nurses your wounds, travels dusty roads, rides through the rain, stays up with you through sleepless nights, and helps carries your baggage. He loves his Keemosabe.

He says little, but when he speaks you know it is truth. He is the trusted friend that finds you in your time of need. He is the scout that helps you get pointed in the right direction. He is the rear guard that has your flank when you stumble or get off course. His clothing and skin may look like the same material, but inside He is gold.

Your relationship was forged from times of hard work and the search for the precious metals found deep in earth and rock – our earth – HIS Rock. Now you need him. What you may not understand is He still needs you too sometimes. There should be no a-Lone Rangers or Tontos. We cannot go it alone; we weren’t built for that.

Call me.


John 14: 16-20 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.