Thursday, February 26, 2015

Deep Thoughts Thursday . . .



It is time for another installment of Deep Thoughts Thursday . . .

And it becomes apparent to me that there are a lot of people in my world who are stressed out.  

Yours too?

Is it the time of year?  Is there something about the approaching month of March that makes us want to pull our hair out at the prospect of another thirty days spent indoors because it is freezing, raining, windy, snowing or a combination of all of the above?

Or maybe someone sent a memo to everyone's boss to increase demanding, soul consuming and time-sucking tasks on everyone.

I spoke with a friend of mine recently who is obviously managing too much at this point.  As he spit out a litany of things that he is struggling with I just asked him,

"Hey are you stressed out, bro?"

He nodded his head shamefully.   I promptly gave him a hug.  It didn't help much but it felt like the right thing to do in the moment.  Which made me think . . . "He is suffering from being trapped in the moment."

If he only knew that this thing he was worrying about was going to turn out alright he wouldn't be stressing.

Think about it, if you knew the thing you were stressing about was going to work itself out in time would you be obsessing over it like you are?  Probably not.  In fact, the only reason you are stressing about it is because it belongs to the future and anything can happen in the future!

Which means we have no control over what eventually happens.  

But let's face it, doesn't it all work out in time?  Don't things usually work out?  Most of the  time life goes on, you have food to eat and at least one person in the world that cares whether you are here or not.  And isn't that what really matters?

Time is a condition.  If we were in eternity right now we would be content with the present because there is an unlimited supply of them.  But because there are things like uncertainty and disease and (eventually) death we are much happier when we are in control of where things are going.  

In a sense the future is one big secret.  The only one who knows it is the one who makes it.  
And then I stumbled over this earlier today:

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Dt. 29:29)

It was read in a devotional called "Jesus Calling" and it said something like God has all the secrets of the future - stop trying to figure them out, they belong to Him.  He likes it that way so that we can come to him with the things we need.  

Think about it.  We slug our way through time so we cultivate a dependence on the One who really cares for us.  The more we try to be in control, the further we are from benefiting from the one in control.  

Stop trying to figure out the future and spend your time on the best you can do for now.  Let God handle the big stuff and you might be less stressed out!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On The Other Side of the World . . .

As connected as we like to think we are in this world, as much as we like to talk about a 'global community,' it is morbidly fascinating what is taking place within hundreds of miles of each other.  

Cruise ships are pulling into and out of ports in the country of Turkey (or slightly West in Greece) while a few hundred miles away about seventy Syrians were yanked from their beds early Monday morning and forced into Islamic State encampments that are holding them hostage.  One man refused to leave his home and was burned alive in his house.  

This happened at roughly the same time Birdman won the Oscar for best picture in Los Angeles.

The seventy (and by some estimates up to 300) that are currently being held by Islamic State could be used as cover for US-led attacks against them.  It is the equivalent of bank-robbers grabbing some hostages as the police are on their way.  

No, on second  thought, it would be the equivalent of a gang of murderous thugs in several cities across the US have killed hundreds of innocent people and posted it online while the police talk about what to do.  Then they grab hostages in case the police come after them.  They have a fresh batch ready to show the world that no one can really stop them and what they are doing.  That is the equivalent of what is going on in the Middle East.

All this while Oil Producers send emails a few hundred miles away deciding the cost of crude oil.  

And chances are the climax to this will take place during March Madness.

Not to say we shouldn't take cruises and fill out brackets and watch basketball games . . . perhaps the world would be a safer place if we had more to root for rather than root against.

But it does become really interesting to think that there are completely separate realities that are taking place right next to each other.  

Of those that were taken captive, a good portion of them were women and children.  I have a nine year old.  I tell her stories at night before she goes to bed.  She loves to sing and dance and play piano and she has beaten me at chess . . . twice.  When I go to bed at night I check in on her curled up and sleeping.  Sometimes I sneak in and kiss her cheek.


The one thing that connects me in a very uncomfortable way to what is going on is that nine year old.  Chances are that on the other side of the world right now there is a nine year old who is in a prisoner camp awaiting her fate.  I am typing on a laptop at this very moment and she is over there wondering whether she will be made into a bomb-shield or a jihadist video.  All because she is a Christian.  All because a group of Muslims have a big idea that requires people to die.

And there is nothing I can do about it.  

So we turn to you, God.
We ask that you save those who have been taken captive.
Please don't let them wind up on TV as victims.
Do something about this and deliver us from the evil that has a grip on Christians in the Middle East.
We acknowledge your timing and your plan as we intercede.

Amen.

Monday, February 23, 2015

An awkward moment at the Oscars

Short disclaimer . . .  I didn't watch the Academy Awards last night.  Not for any high-browed reason.  I didn't watch it because I don't have cable and I spent 25 minutes trying to see if my aerial would bring it in.  It didn't.  You should have seen me try really hard though.

So I got on with other business last night resigning myself to reading about it in the papers in the morning.  Yes I still read newspapers and I have an antenna.


So anyhow, I was looking through some of the headlines this morning and this little gem popped up - a spat between the star of Fifty Shades of Grey and her mom.

Her Mom.

How ridiculously awkward



They asked her mom if she would see a movie in which her daughter has a series of very intimate and deviant sexual moments with a man.

"no . . . I don't think I can, I think it would be strange."

Understatement of the year.  Maybe the decade.  Do you think anyone raises their child with the hopes of seeing them intimately involved with someone else?  How about intimately involved in twisted sexual behavior?  Do you think anyone raises their child with the hopes that the whole world will see those moments?  If you can find one mother who looks forward to that, she needs counseling.  Like now.

It is the connection of mother and daughter that makes this so weird.  Connection.  When people see this woman on a screen there is no connection in real life.  It is easy to place her in a characterized (and objectified) box.  If you spent a weekend getting to know her and her family it would make seeing the film that much closer to 'strange' (as her mother puts it).  

And it was priceless when she says, "she's a really good actress - I don't need to see that to know how good she is."  Yes.  A thousand times yes.

Perhaps that is a filter that we need to have when we think about what is appropriate for us as people to feed our minds.  What I am about to see . . . could I imagine my sister, mother or daughter starring in this?  If it is anything like the movie "Fifty Shades," my guess is 'no. . . It would be strange."  That is because we are connected to it.  It is the lack of connection that de-humanizes and de-sensitizes us to what is 'strange.'

In the end, it comes down to whatever we see in a movie is someone's little girl (or boy) on the screen.   

Click HERE for the interview



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Deep Thoughts Thursday . . .



By now most of us have heard about a group of radical Muslims who have decapitated 21 Egyptian Christians on the beaches of Syria.  They made a short video of it and posted it with a threat to the west that they are coming for us.

You may not have heard that in the days that followed they burned another 45.

66 people dead within a week.  Pretty savage.  Definitely evil.





The Islamic State sees themselves as a group that is doing the work of Allah - positioning themselves to help usher in an age in which Allah's followers will help the world submit to his rule.

To be honest, it really doesn't matter whether these are misguided zealots when you think of the rawness of hacking through someone's body to sever their head.  How can one human be so cold-blooded in the name of their god?

And this is a deep thought - everyone I have spoken with about this agrees that these people need to be stopped through killing them.  Not one person has talked about rehabilitating them.  The punishment for their acts needs to be swift and decisive.  "Bomb them off the map.  They should burn in hell for what they have done."

I get that - and in some ways I feel that, but here's the thought - God has this same sense of what ought to be done as well.   I mean, God - who is infinitely more righteous than us - has more of a right to be devastated at the 60 plus families that no longer have a son or a husband or a father.  He alone is left with the aftermath of brokenness - the millions of prayers that He has to deny all in the name of free will (and the loving empowerment that He gives us as humans to make our own sinful choices).

Now think of this - we are horrified at beheadings because it is so brutally sinful.  We, who struggle with our own sin, are devastated by the bloody viciousness.

Imagine being God.

Imagine having the holiness of God - who doesn't even consider sin as an option - and yet who daily listens to our prayers that are sometimes oozing them.  Imagine the kind of love that it takes to overcome the distance that our sin creates.  How much God must intervene on our behalf while we are still far from perfect ourselves.  How hard it must have been to take on our human form and move among the cesspool of our selfishness.

Thursday's deep thought is the next time we feel like the God of the Old Testament is cruel or judgmental that we consider the holiness of His perspective.  Is God just as repulsed by sin as we are by the sinful and savage acts of the Islamic State?

If so, it makes we really thankful for Jesus.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Islamic State Part II - A little more raw

Over the weekend a radical Jihadists who call themselves the Islamic State released a video in which they beheaded 21 Christians from Egypt that they kidnapped in December and January.

They made threats against the rest of the world saying that they were coming for Rome next (and presumably the rest of the world). 




Okay, so think about it.  There is a reason they are called terrorists.  They want us to be terrified that they are coming for us next.  The Islamic State is using fear to get what they want, but it isn’t working.

Consider this:

·  1.  Muslims in the region are not aligning themselves with IS.  Egypt launched air strikes.  Jordan is mobilizing militarily.  Clerics and leaders in the Muslim world are actually condemning the group and seeing it as a threat to Islam.  We don’t hear those voices because it doesn’t make our news cycle.  IS is at war with Christians and certain Muslims.

·      2.  More importantly, the killings show resolve.  They are killing Christians because Christians are holding to their convictions.  They have all been given the opportunity to change to Islam and they have not.  Let their convictions that led them into death for their faith be the basis for our conviction that we should not live in fear.  If anything else, we owe it to them to live out our faith in fearlessness.

·     3.  Ultimately the Islamic State will be defeated with how we respond to their terrorist threats.  Terrorists will always get more recruits after an air strike but our resistance to fear is not anchored by our guns but our grace.  Christians have a long tradition of sacrifice in the face of threat.  This is because we know that the game is not over at the end of this life.  Terrorism has no hold over people who live forever.

I know how this might all sound – all platitudes and attitudes.  But if there is anything we can do in America as this group does more and more to inflict damage on our way of life, we need to let our faith guide our response.

We cannot fear this group when Jesus Himself said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  This is more than ‘keep a stiff upper lip.’  This is Christ Himself telling us to refuse fear and the hate that comes with it as a way of making us feel better.  Don’t let news broadcasts and conversations about ‘us versus them’ rob us of Christ’s mandate to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. 

Because what our enemies have most miscalculated is that they can interrupt our lives here on earth . . . when the truth is that our lives have not even yet begun. 


IS and grace

A group of militant Muslims identifying themselves as part of the Islamic State (IS) beheaded 21 Christians that they kidnapped back in December and January.  On the shores of Libya, in Africa (only 300 miles from the shores of Italy) they recorded the deed on video with the title: "To the Nation Signed with the Blood of the Cross."

Yes, that is a threat aimed at Italy and all of Europe.  They refer to them as Crusaders.

So what is IS doing in Africa?  Aren't they from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon?  At first they called themselves ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).  They grew.  The US government tried calling them ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).  They outgrew this title as well.  Now they call themselves the Islamic State.

Apparently IS is taking up shelter in Libya - a nation who is so unstable right now that two governments are claiming legitimacy in two parliaments.  No one is coming for IS on the shores of Libya at the moment because they can't.  And apparently Italy has no response ready either.  Matteo Renzi - the prime minister of Italy - shook his fist and talked about retaliation and retribution but quickly backtracked the day after calling on the UN to do something.

That may be because as of right now Italy has 5,000 troops ready to do something of this magnitude.  Not the kind of numbers you want going into something like this.

So how do we even begin to deal with this?

The more we practice retaliation and retribution the more it comes to visit us.  I hear a lot from those who would love to just 'nuke em' and be done with it.  A lot of criticism of world leaders for not rolling up their sleeves and going in there and obliterating the jihadists.  

On a heart level I totally agree.  I wish this whole thing was as easy as sending in large numbers of soldiers and weaponry that would expunge the entire area of extremists.  Bomb them back to the stone age.  Crush those that are evil and wipe them clear off the face of the Earth.  It would be great if we could live in a reality as black and white as that . . .

My head has a series of questions about that.  Isn't that what we thought we were doing when we started the war on terrorism?  The more involved we get the more we get drawn into revenge and revenging the revenge.

It reminds me of the God of the Old Testament that gets routinely chided by intellectuals who can't believe in a God who would be so barbaric.  Like Isaiah says in chapter 5:20-21


What sorrow for those who say
    that evil is good and good is evil,
that dark is light and light is dark,
    that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
 What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes
    and think themselves so clever.

And on again in verse 25 . . .

 That is why the Lord’s anger burns against his people,
    and why he has raised his fist to crush them.
The mountains tremble,
    and the corpses of his people litter the streets like garbage.
But even then the Lord’s anger is not satisfied.
    His fist is still poised to strike!


We are uncomfortable talking about a God who punishes evil and has to pronounce judgment but we are perfectly fine cheering on a squadron of planes from Egypt who respond to these violent acts with their air strikes.  Evil like IS reminds us that we are ultimately unable to rid ourselves of the darkest parts of our humanity because we are so caught up in it.

And yet at the crux of this verse is Isaiah is the image of God's hand not yet punishing.  He is still patient.

Evil is something that has to be purged from us from the outside - and that is why we need judgment one day . . . but more importantly grace for today.

Monday, February 16, 2015

flip things around . . .

Marcus Aurelius said time was like a river . . .

"as soon as a thing is seen, another comes and takes its place; and that will be carried away too."

. . . and who is Marcus Aurelius?

The fact that we don't know only solidifies the point that every second is owned by novelty and then it passes into obscurity.  We are creatures who pay attention to everything that is new but value the things that last for decades.

When we pay attention to the present but really value things that matter far into the future, it creates a problem for us later in life when all we have is a collection of trivial moments that really don't matter to us.  

So it is very likely that when we are 85 years old we will be destined to watch something like Wheel of Fortune and wish our children were around again.  Scratch that - we'll wish anyone was around.

. . . unless . . .

We make a distinct effort - this day - to flip things around.  

Nothing monumental - no great changes, just simple ones.  Call a friend you haven't talked to in years.  Turn off the TV and play games with your kids once in a while.  Take your spouse out for coffee tonight just for the heck of it.  Read the book you have been meaning to read.

And here is one that is most interesting . . .

Make a routine each morning to get up in the quiet and listen for God's voice.  

First 2 minutes read some scripture . . .

Next two minutes - "God I am open to your lead, what are you teaching me?"

Just listen . . . write down what you feel led to do.  This takes practice . . . give it time.

Remember what you have been told and take it into your day with a grateful "Amen."  Not "Amen, now let's get on with the day"  but rather "Amen, God - I am taking this into my day, thank you for your presence."

This practice will change you because it will make you hear God's voice each day and that will cause you to thirst for things of value.  And this will be a treasure chest of good things that will keep you as long as God sees fit to keep you here on Earth.  

And that's pretty cool.



Friday, February 13, 2015

T-Minus 1 day on 50 Shades

When I was a kid I remember Christians getting up in arms over the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ."  The uproar was over depicting a very weak and confused Jesus that had a last temptation that included marrying and settling down.  The movie included a scene in which Jesus Himself imagines what it would be like to enjoy the love of marriage.  It cuts away before anything extremely blasphemous takes place but you got the idea that he had children.

The activism of the Christian community got the movie more attention than it should have.  The boycott was an attention beacon.

This seems to be surfacing again.  There are lots of Christians who are really upset about the movie "50 Shades of Grey" hitting theaters tomorrow.  I have already seen boycott efforts underway on social media. 

It is my deepest hope that next week we see the numbers come in and it is obvious that very few people went to see this movie.  And no, I have never read the books.

How can you say this?  If you have never read the books then how do you even know what you are talking about?

It is untrue that you need to experience something to know whether it is harmful.  In fact, the hallmark of wisdom is knowing how to keep out of damaging situations, not the accumulation of damage.  I don't need to have lived like Keith Richards to know that heroin will ruin your life.

So when I hear that a series of books detail the descent of a young woman into the life of a psychologically unstable, manipulative, controlling and abusive person, I think 'that's sad.'  When I hear that it is being made into a movie I know I don't want to see it.  That is really end-of-story.  No boycotts needed.  Everyone has their right to read or see what they want.

But what makes this different is how it is being offered as an acceptable alternative to traditional romance.  This is where it becomes something to talk about.  We should not be offering men and women the opportunity to be aroused by an attractive man that inflicts pain on another person as a way of expressing desire.  This is irresponsible.

And what about those NFL ads that told us to say "No More" to violence against women?


  

Where are the voices that should be leading the debate on this?  Where are the feminists that should be decrying the storyline that has a man possessively controlling another woman's weight, food intake and decision-making?  

How many teenage young men and women will be opened up to a whole new way of looking at sexuality because of this film?  How many years of damage will this inflict on confused young men and women who will wonder why this film caused them to think in new and unhealthy ways.  I mean, there is a reason the books are popular . . . it is appealing to something to millions of people who have read it.  The question is whether it will cause more damage  than wholeness.  

And if you think that just because it has an R rating teenagers won't see it you are naive.  

So I get it that making too much of a fuss will cause the opposite reaction - I don't want that.  But how can we not call something evil that is evil?  Perhaps that is up to us in our personal conversations with people who are willing to hear the whole story . . .  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Three Valentines Day Options for a great Valentines Day

Valentines Day is just around the corner . . .

And as usual, life has crept in and you have no plan . . . yet.


This is where I can help.  Below are 3 ideas you can borrow to make this Valentines Day incredible.  Skip the traditional chocolates.  This year you are going to win an award for how you made it so special . . .


Option #1:  Fun.  This option is a stripped-down, "lets skip the big fancy dinner and have fun tonight!"  Start with picking up dinner at your favorite Chinese Food place (or Chipotle or what have you).  Have a picnic on the floor with candles and cheap food.  Bring out the board games (Yahtzee, Checkers, Old School Chutes and Ladders).  Give a simple gift (Silver Locket or nice Cologne from Kohls - 30% off coupons rule).  Open up the Sparkling Grape Juice and proclaim your love by crafting a love song at http://www.song-lyrics-generator.org.uk/  (this website allows you to build your song on the spot - lotsa fun)!  Pop in a Redbox movie and its a night!  Total cost:  $45.


Option #2:  Romance.  This option is a little more on the romantic side with a splash of fun.  Start out with a quick trip to a small cafe near you for a simple dinner.  Like Bohemians, you will munch on a sandwich or a salad and get ready for the rest of the night.  Now travel outside town a bit to a hill and look for the constellation Cassiopeia  - you can find it with the help of this website:  http://earthsky.org/tonight/cassiopeia-high-in-the-north-on-winter-evenings.   Cassiopeia is in the shape of a crown.  You can say, "For Valentines Day I bought you a very large crown."  The perfect gift - guy or girl.  Then give a real gift (something simple like a necklace or perfume/cologne).  Spend some time walking and enjoying the beautiful view.  Chances are it will be cold so get inside somewhere with some hot chocolate (with marshmallows).  Say, "let's recite some poetry" and go to http://www.madglibs.com/  for some fun with Madlibs.  Finish off with heart-shaped cookies and maybe a Redbox Romantic Comedy.  Total Cost:  $55


Option #3:  Fun and Romance.  This option is definitely for the marrieds.  Grab some dinner at the place of your choosing.  Stop by a cafe on the way back for some hot chocolate and fun conversation.  Then head back home where you have spent time earlier in the day preparing a good old-fashioned fort.  I got this idea from our Young Married ministry at church.  Basically make a tent out of blankets and cushions.  You can even set up a legit tent.  Either way - make it awesome.  Candles, food - whatever just make it warm and cozy.  Go to this website to grab a series of questions http://www.families.com/blog/play-a-game-of-20-questions and play "20 Questions." The key here is to have fun opening up and talking.  Total Cost: $50


Go for the Gold and quote this from Song of Solomon 4:9-11:


You have captured my heart,

    my treasure, my bride.
You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes,
    with a single jewel of your necklace.

10 Your love delights me,
    my treasure, my bride.
Your love is better than wine,
    your perfume more fragrant than spices.
11 Your lips are as sweet as nectar, my bride.
    Honey and milk are under your tongue.
Your clothes are scented
    like the cedars of Lebanon.

This plan will make you both happy campers!  (wink)


Well there you have it!  Make memories this Valentines Day!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Where we get Valentines Day from


I never knew Valentines Day came from such weird origins . . .

Like you, I assumed it was largely a passive church holiday that Hallmark turned into a twenty billion dollar-a-year business but I was wrong.

I figured the sappy, romantic guy-chases-girl thing was a modern invention to pass the time between the Superbowl and St. Patricks Day.  Again, I was wrong.












It turns out that the genesis of this holiday goes back to Roman times.  Apparently ancient priests climbed up the hill of Rome to a small cave where they sacrificed a goat and a dog.  The goat symbolized fertility and the dog symbolized cleanliness (of course).  After killing the animals they put on a loin cloth soaked in the animals' blood and ran around Rome spanking young girls with strips of that goat flesh soaked with blood.

Girls apparently lined up for this thinking that it increased their fertility.

It gets even more interesting . . .

Then each young lady put her name in a large urn for young men to draw from that night.  The young man and the young woman paired up and engaged in . . .  'friendly' . . . activities for the rest of the week.

Yikes.

So when things changed and early Christianity was in charge, the early church thought it might be important to get rid of things like 'bloody spanking' and an R-rated version of "Seven Minutes in Heaven."

Can you just imagine that happening today?  Me neither.  So yeah I'm still not a big fan of the church over the centuries (google The Inquisitions or The Crusades).  But lets give a hand to someone at some point that changed bloodsport to giving chocolate.  I like that a lot better.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Get a hold of yourself . . .


"I 
have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

You weren't invited . . . again.

She isn't returning your texts.

You are not ready for that exam and it is tomorrow.

Someone found out that you weren't reporting your tips.

Looks like the car repair is going to cost a lot . . .

All of us have trouble.  It comes whether we want it or not.  Some of it is self-inflicted.  We pushed when we should have prayed.  Sometimes trouble comes from friends who meant well and sometimes it just hits us blindside.  No matter where it comes from, it is never welcome.

Trouble can make us feel like we will never get out from under it.  

We might never get out from under, but we can get through.  God Himself told us that we will always have problems.  So get over it.  There will always be trouble (period).  But really it isn't the trouble, it what to do in the midst of it that is hard.   

What are the next steps?  
How do I proceed?

Looking at the verse above, it is plain to see that getting through difficulty is a relational thing. We get through it with the help of God.  How?  One one-step-at-a-time.

You can have peace in the midst of trial by taking small, righteous steps.  Get a hold of yourself.  God knows everything about you, this will not defeat you.  Stop panicking - you know exactly what to do.  Wherever you are in your problem, make sure that every step you take from here on out is small, prayed for and good.  No amount of conniving, lying, deceiving, manipulating and coercing will get you where you need to be.  

Take a deep breath.  Turn away from trying to control the situation.  Now, pray about your next move and make your next steps small (so you can pull back if needed) and righteous (so that you know God purposed it).  If you take ten small, righteous, prayed-for steps you will have taken one huge step in the right direction.

And you will never be outside of God's will.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why do we even care about Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown's daughter?

Bobbi Kristina Brown . . .

Most of us have no idea who this person is in real life.  We have never been to Starbucks with her.  We have never passed her in the hall or waved to her pulling out of our development.  Chances are we wouldn't recognize her if we were sifting through the same 60% off rack at Kohl's.

Okay, chances are she has never seen a 60% off rack at Kohls.

That is because she is the child of Bobby Brown (member of the ancient 1980's R&B/pop group New Edition).  He was the 'bad boy' who married up with the addition of golden-voiced Whitney Houston.  The consensus of culture-watchers is that Brown dragged Houston into a drug habit that eventually killed her.  The whole thing was and is tragic.

So that is the only reason we know about Bobbi Kristina.  This tragic story of unrealized potential as people and a relationship haunted our headlines and now their daughter lies comatose at the doorstep of death.

And I am very sorry to admit that when I heard the news about Bobbi Kristina I was so disgusted at the entire story of 'bad boys' and drugs and unrealized potential that I said out loud, "who cares?"  Who cares that this person is close to death - with everything going on in the world right now.

My guess is perhaps you had the same reaction.  Who cares about this tabloid celebrity that overdosed and then drowned in a bathtub?

The question is rhetorical - like "who really cares?"  But imagine it is a real question.  When we ask the question it becomes clear who really does care . . .  and it also convicts us.

All the celebrities, all the junkies, all the rejects, all the team captains and the loud mouths.  Every class president and dropout.  Those who sing on the stage and those ignored on the backstep somewhere.  All the adored TV stars as well as those trapped behind the plate-glass of autism.

Who cares? Who cares about all of them?  We do.  We should because He does.  One of the glorious centerpieces of the scriptures is that God knows and loves each and every person.  Not the sometimes plastic knick-knack-inscribed "Smile! God loves you" sentiment.  No, the Bible is clear that God knows us.  And this knowledge does not drive Him away (as it probably should).  He knows the depth of our shallowness.  The fullness of our selfish ways.  He sees my arrogant and condemning heart that writes off another human being who died in a bathtub . . . and yet still chooses to love.

That is because each and every heart.  Every soul.  Every person is dear to the Creator.  We are made in His image.

So I probably won't start a candlelight vigil.  I probably won't shed tears.  But I will marvel at how God's love for each and every one of us is deeper than I can ever know.  And every time I see another Bobbi Kristina headline I will take a moment and pray for those who are on the brink . . . and for a less critical soul.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Second Chances . . .

Brian Williams didn't get the whole story right.  He was traveling in a group of helicopters and the one ahead of him took a hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG).  The way he told the story, however, was that his got hit and was forced to land.

So technically this is a lie.

I don't know why, but this seems like such a small thing.   I mean, yeah, he lied about it, but does it really mean that we are going to doubt everything that came out of his mouth for the last ten years?  Does the fact that one story he shared did not square completely with the truth make me shake my head the next time I see one of his newscasts?

"There's that liar . . . I bet he made up that whole thing about Osama Bin Laden . . ."

I wonder if we are going too far on this one by demanding his resignation.  He told a fish story.  It was rooted in some form of fact.  I am not sure I want him crucified over something this small.

But maybe it isn't small - maybe it is crucial that your integrity is spotless as a new reporter.  If we can't trust him with a little, we can't trust him with a lot.  I get that.  I just hope he is not one more casualty in the cycle of "build 'em up and tear 'em down."  

Unless this is a pattern that goes deeper, perhaps this is a great moment for a second chance.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

You are complete as you are . . .

With Valentines Day right around the corner, it is important to remind us all of something very important.  Here we go . . .

You are not incomplete if you don't 'have' someone.  If you are dateless or boyfriend-less or girlfriend-less you are not lacking anything.  Especially at this time of year we get weird with our preoccupation with fatalism.

Say it with me again - this time with feeling: "my life is complete with or without a significant other."

Go ahead and search the scriptures - there is nowhere that it says, "God has made a soulmate just for you and it is your life's work to find them or you will die an unhappy person." No.  This is called Christian romantic fatalism.  Plato in his Symposium introduces the idea that men and women were once joined and then cut in half by Zeus.  This is why they search for their 'other half' - it was Plato, not God who introduces the idea of 'completion.'



In fact when you look at the New Testament it looks like getting married is an option that really has nothing to do with finding or missing God's will.  You can be a great follower of Christ with or without someone in your life.  Paul actually advocates singleness if anything . . . If you don't believe me look at his letter to the Corinthians.  Regardless of what Jerry Maguire said, you are complete with or without someone in your life.

Put it this way:  if we are incomplete without a significant other then Jesus was an incomplete person.

He wasn't.  And you aren't.

Now the Bible does say that it is good for people to get married and be together.  Genesis says, "It is not good for man to be alone."  However it does not say that you are no good without someone else.  Being coupled complements our lives, it does not complete our lives.  There is a big difference.

An iPhone is a complete piece of machinery.  It gets even better with apps, a case and earbuds that actually play low frequencies but right out of the box it is complete.  You might choose to complement it in whatever way you see fit, but it lacks nothing to get going right out of the box.

Yes, someone in your life might complement your life, but stop living your life like its a romantic Easter Egg hunt.  You have too much to live for.  Live your life as a complete person looking to fulfill God's will and perhaps someone will enjoy complementing you in that direction.