Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nocturnal Narcissism

Lamentations 3:22, 23 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning...

So I have this privilege of being one of the first people in our time zone to thank God for His mercies that are new every morning. I’m often walking out to my car a little after midnight and try to make it a point to do just that – Thank God that I am starting a new day with His mercies in full view.

As I ponder the mysteries of His love for me, it challenges me to greater heights and depths of my journey with Him. Some of it is based solely on scriptural application and revelation, but much of it just overflows from our walks and talks together.

This past Monday night I was heading down the aisle toward home when He spoke to my spirit and said, “You are entering a period of repentance.” Wow. I began to confess aloud my sin and it echoed the halls of a near empty production facility. It made me think how a “house of production” can still be void of life. Sometimes that is me.

Romans 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

I often make the point that “activity does not equal productivity.” We can do the wrong things and cause set-backs. We can do the right things for the wrong reasons and erase the deed with motive. These are all things that challenge me in my journey. I can win many battles while losing the support of others. So with this simple “word” from the Father my confessions and repentance began to flow, starting with dead works.

Hebrews 6:1 …not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.

Most of my sin, it seems, is about “self.” Go figure. My confession went something like this: “Lord I repent of selfishness acts, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, self-gratification, selfish ambition, self-sustainment, selfish pride, fear, lust, envy, gluttony, greed. I need You to fill the places and spaces of my heart that those things occupy. I realized in a moment in time that those things had crept in on me, even in small ways, like a snake slithering into a henhouse bent on theft and destruction – a nocturnal narcissism if you will. It is still all about me.

John 1 Light dispels the darkness.

Isn’t it interesting that no matter how deep the void, or dark the night, the smallest ray of light penetrates it and pushes it back? That is the relavent revelation of God. When He shines His simple Light on my soul, it saves, delivers, and heals. He brings life to the party. His blood filters my sin from His throne, and He makes me feel at home once again.

I know this is simplistic fundamental stuff for we “veteran” Christians, but we need these reminders to curb-check us back to the straight and narrow. It’s easy to let the cares of this life choke out our joy, or the decietfulness of wealth and riches keep us from being fruitful. Our soil can be soiled with rocks and weeds and deeds and me, so we must tend the garden.

Ground gained must be maintained.

As I enter another season of repentance, I am grateful the pursuer has never stopped chasing me. I’ve been tagged again to chase Him back. Like a Dad playing with his kids, He lets me catch Him pretty quickly and we tumble in a heap of laughter and love. What a Savior. What a friend.

Psalm 51

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on "Change"

Inauguration Day - A rare politcal/social/spiritual commentary for this space...

Psalms 75:7 But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.

We have a great and wonderful tradition in this country of a peaceful transfer of power from one leader to another. People that were once political opponents on this day find a way to set aside those differences to change the guard. Even so, not all change is good.

Change for change sake doesn’t necessarily bring forth good fruit. Sometimes men trade in their wives for a younger model for selfish reasons only to find they (as my friend Byron says) traded in their “treasures for toys.” I fear we have done this as a nation.

Change should never be the goal. The goal for the journey is progress. Progress is not found in slogans or even “hope.” Hope is the passive emotion of most cowards. A message built on it alone is empty platitudes. Faith, however, is substantive. Progress is found in wisdom mixed with faith working in concert with corresponding action. Absent any of those ingredients, failure is assured.

Looking back at the Bush presidency, there were many failures that led us to this moment in history. For many conservatives, President Bush’s support of campaign finance reform, (illegal) immigration reform, and his unwillingness to openly defend the war effort cost him their support. These 3 points alone not only cost he and the republicans their base of support,but ultimately the congress and the Whitehouse. The other grave unintended consequence may be final dissolution of American capitalism. For a conservative this is unforgivable.

There are many things Bush did right as documented in this article: With the promise of “change” starting today, we can be sure that the tectonic shift of political power will result in policies that will have the ignorant swelling with pride as our country swells deeper into debt. To some this has the sinister scent of a totalitarian conspiracy driving us headlong over a socialist cliff where only the centralized government can be the end-all answer to any problem we face. It seems we may have already arrived.

The young messiah is preaching his sermon of government bailouts and salvation to the masses, while the rest of us go about our business working and producing. The promise of free healthcare, free school lunches, free college education, free homes, free cars, free gas, free this, free that , etc., etc., is a myth that for some is too much to resist.

Anyone who is in the target zone of being told how to run their business, who they can hire, or how much more they will have to give to others understand the price. The very policies that brought us the economic crisis and failures of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the very policies that are being prescribed to treat the illness. That is like prescribing arsenic to treat arsenic poisoning.

So here we are at the place or “equality.” A President elected because of race and “destiny” unscrutinized and lionized by a biased media that I dare say will refuse to criticize when the real crisis takes place. Instead they will just blame Bush because after all, to them he is evil incarnate. Well, just so you know, I will be here as the faithful opposition to socialism and the advocate of capitalism. The former has never worked and the latter always has, so why we would try to “change” that is beyond me.

For my “moderate” friends who sort of shrugged and said “He sounds nice I think I’ll vote for him,” or whatever other “core convictions” that don’t drive your decisions, might I remind you that John McCain was very much the “moderate” you all supposedly desired. So what is it that caused most of you to vote for the other guy?

Regardless, the peaceful transition of power is a pretty unique thing in a world wrought with regime change and unrest. Unrest we will always have as long as the peoples of the planet look to a human being for their well-being. The “change” must come from within based on our personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe. The created have fallen and we can’t get up without His eternal help. To look elsewhere for the answers to life’s problems is a futile exercise ending in frustration and disappointment.

I shall pray for our new President, first and foremost that his confession of Christ will be matched by his actions and policies. We’ve seen what professing Christian Presidents do when they compartmentalize their Christian ethics; we get such things as unregulated partial-birth abortion and an intern with a stained blue dress. Maybe this one will be better. I “hope” so.

My thoughts. I covet yours.


Monday, January 12, 2009

A Ruby Plus a Peppermint = a Gem

Matthew 13:45-46 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

I have recently begun to be more active on my Facebook account, and in so doing have started “reconnecting” with some old friends and acquaintances. Waxing nostalgic is sure to lead to two conclusions: 1. Those were the “good old days.” 2. I’m getting old and I can’t stop the clock.

Growing old seems unfair in the grand scheme of it all. My buddy Barry and I were talking yesterday about the irony of having the energy of thoroughbreds and the brains of a brick when we’re young, but as we age and mature, our metabolism plummets like said brick thrown out of an airplane. Oh the gravity of it all. What a waste.

When we actually have the brains to make a difference, it seems our bodies relegate us to “supervision” as we try to convince the youngsters they don’t have a clue and should really listen to our instruction – you know – like we listened to our parents. Snort – cough. The only revenge is the “I told you so” and the threat of spending their inheritance, which in our case includes a box full of expired Sonic coupons and some old clothes the Goodwill wouldn’t take.

This past Christmas I had an opportunity to visit with some relatives I hadn’t seen in a while. My cousin’s widow Renay was there and she entertained us with a couple of stories about her mom “Ruby” who is 84. Allow me to share a couple of those priceless stories with you.

Recently Ruby needed to update her photo-I.D. so they took here down to the DMV to have her picture made and her profile updated. When it was finally her turn, the clerk asked Ruby if she was ready to which Ruby responded with a “flip-of-the-bird” and a hearty “yes!”

Holding middle-finger in place she sported a smile that everyone but the clerk appreciated. She apparently found the only clerk in existence that showed restraint. That is a pic that I would have taken immediately – just before the “do-over.” This has apparently become Ruby’s modus operandi as seen in this pic below of her and her great grandson.

Ruby’s other “new thing” is her ever-increasing fondness for peppermints. This has become such an issue for her that Renay and family have had to start rationing these little gems out to her. She has apparently begun hiding them from others to ensure the integrity of her stash and an uninterrupted supply.

On a recent trip to Carrabbas Restaurant, Ruby spotted the giant bowl of peppermints at the hostess stand as they entered. The plotting immediately went into motion on both teams. Ruby began to wonder how she could score some of those mints while Renay began to worry about the obsession.

As mealtime came to a close Ruby told Renay to make sure she got her some peppermints. Renay took the bill up front and asked the hostess to hide the bowl of peppermints so her mom wouldn’t see them on the way out. After she paid the bill, she brought back 3 (count ‘em 3 and only 3) peppermints for Ruby.

Ruby was having none of that so time to implement Plan B – The Frontal Assault. As they headed for the exit, Ruby executed the veer offense and headed straight for the hostess podium as fast as the walker would crutch along. With every step closer you could hear the scoot and plop grow faster until the scoot-plop scoot-plop rapid-fired into scooplop-scooplop.

Finally reaching the stand she, with the forcefulness that would have made Bonnie and Clyde cringe, demand the booty! “Give me the peppermints!” she ordered. With the deer-in-the-headlights look of a deer-in-the-headlights, the hostess responded with, “Um…we’re all out.”

Shoving her walker into the podium as a hockey player checking another into the boards, and raising her voice to the proper decibel level in which to gather enough uncomfortable attention from the other patrons, Ruby replied “The hell you are! I saw a whole bowl of them when I walked in! Now give me the damn peppermints!”

Hesitantly reaching beneath the podium, the hostess retrieves the bowl and hands it to Ruby, no doubt assuming Ruby would take a handful and be on her way. Ruby takes the bowl and empties the entire contents into her purse. Success!

While these anecdotes are funny there are many principles one could glean from them, one of which is to never underestimate the savvy ways of a grizzled veteran. What we lack in energy we make up for with shrewdness and/or determination. An old KLIF sports analyst Leon Simon used to say “‘want-to’ beats ‘can-do’ every time.”

Obviously there are things in our lives that seem insignificant to others that we find worth the fight. The challenge is determining whether or not they give us a real benefit or is it something that is truly a problem for us that we should eliminate or limit in our lives. So what is your peppermint? Is it fault or a gem?