Friday, November 30, 2018

The Greatest Thing Before Sliced Bread

Everybody, I think I’ve made a discovery. I think I’ve discovered the greatest thing before sliced bread. Everyone always talks about this invention or that creation being the greatest thing since sliced bread. 

To be honest, I’m not sure how sliced bread became the standard by how we’re amazed. What should be more amazing is that it took humanity so long to figure it out. It was 1928 when Otto Rohwedder invented the first single loaf bread-slicing machine.1 But it’s not like he cured cancer. He sliced bread. 

I digress. You’re here for the discovery of the greatest thing before sliced bread. I actually found it in the Bible, in the book of 1 Kings to be precise. The splendor of the King Solomon is being described in great detail. It includes the building of the Temple of the Lord. It details the building of his own palace, plus several other buildings he designed. 

We’re told of the riches that are brought into Israel every month and every year. King Solomon was the popular guy that everybody just gave stuff to. He made Israel powerful. They were the world power and everybody else knew it. Word spread to the Queen of Sheba and she came just to check it out. She even said the gossip didn’t represent half of the amazing stuff happening. 

Solomon’s wisdom was world class and the riches were second-to-none. 1 Kings 10 describes how silver was as common as stone. Solomon had stuff made of gold and plated in gold. Everything sparkled more than an episode of My Little Ponies. Yeah, it was glamorous. And who am to question Solomon’s thinking, but he had a fleet of ships bringing him more gold, silver, ivory, peacocks, and apes. Apes?2

My point is that the author here s not short in describing how amazing Israel was at this time. So I don’t believe he was willing to waste words or throw in meaningless details. If the description was included, it was because it was incredible. So what was the greatest thing before sliced bread? Check this out.

Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom. ~1 Kings 10:18-20

Did you see it? It’s arm rests! On both sides of the seat! Verse 20 seals it when it says “nothing like it had ever been made.” It took the wisest man who ever lived to realize just how comfortable we could be if we had arm rests on both sides of our chair. After all, don't you hate it when you're ruling your subjects and you have no place to put your arms?

So when you’re sitting in your Lazy-Boy, or even your desk chair with double arm rests, you can thank God for blessing Solomon with so much wisdom that he thought of everything. Double arm rests!

Oh, and in case you’re looking for something a little bit more spiritual from me today, here it is.   1 Kings 10:1 tells us that Solomon’s fame brought honor to the Name of the Lord. I don’t know what you’re asking for today, but the end goal should be bringing honor to God. 

1 Don’t pretend not to be impressed. Sure, I looked it up on Google, but that was more effort than you were going to put forth.
2 I’m picturing Planet of the Apes,, but where everyone gets along.

Monday, November 19, 2018

How Important Are You, Really?

Very few of us, when asked, would confess to believing we are the most important person in the world. The person, who above all others, deserves the time and attention of everyone else. Literally everyone else.

Rare also would be the person who would say they are even the most important person in their chosen field of focus. There can, mathematically, only be one #1 doctor, teacher, firefighter, etc.

But let’s narrow the field down a bit more. Would you say you are the most important person where you work? I don’t mean that the company couldn’t do what they do without you.

I’ll grant you that every part of every machine serves a purpose, but you should admit there are other people who could do your job. Every person in every company has a role to play, but to believe you cannot be replaced means you may want to re-read the first few paragraphs.

Also, I would suggest that if we think every part is equally important, understand the appendix has been removed from thousands of people who continue to live their lives, wondering what the appendix was ever doing in the first place.

This isn’t about discouraging you. I’m addressing how we think and how we see ourselves. Let’s tighten the circle a bit smaller, shall we?

Would you say you are the most important person in your friend group? How about your family? Unless you’re the Mom, you shouldn’t even have to think about this. But, with apologies to all the mothers out there, you shouldn’t narrow in on yourselves either.

So why do I spend all these words on a rating system that I believe we all lose in? Because of prayer.

One morning as I dragged myself before the throne room in Heaven, it occurred to me how many other people God had to focus on besides me. How many other, more important, people were also approaching God with their needs.

This caused me to do two things. First, I thanked Him for noticing me at all. I acknowledged my small place in the vast universe and I thanked the Creator of it all for even noticing me.

Secondly, I asked for help in doing the same. I’m in a season of life with a very busy schedule. Very little margin. To call it a season anymore seems absurd, because I can’t remember a time I would have referred to as a slow season.

I asked God to help me slow down from all the important things I do so I would notice the moments when someone else needs my attention. My focus. My encouragement or help.

The fact is those moments will be gifts. But not from me to others. Those moments are gifts from God to me. A reminder that others exist. A focus on where I fit in the grand scheme of things.

I am not the most important person, in any group of which I am a part. Not in any realm I exist in. Not by any stretch of any imagination.

And that’s a good thing.

Monday, November 12, 2018

What was your Word for the Year?

I have told a few people about my family’s word of the year. You know about this trend, no doubt. Equal parts resolution and trendy reminder to oneself of something you want to achieve.

For my family, it came almost as a whim. We had chosen the word adventure the year before. It fit within the context of what we were going through. 

Honestly, the adventure hasn’t ended, but I felt a need for us to grow in the place where this adventure had taken us. 


It was fun to me because of how my teenagers were using the word. Extra. If someone is doing anything they view as unnecessary or over the top, they are considered extra. You'll have no problem imagining that my kids see me as extra several times every day. If you want to see extra, come and watch a teenager react when you tell them something they don’t want to hear. 

But we chose the word extra. We said we wanted to engage in life more than we had before. We wanted to represent Christ as we related with other people in our world. 

Were we doing this before? Maybe, but life's adventure had caused us to cocoon ourselves for a while. It was a much needed respite in between periods of our lives. 

So what would extra mean for my family?

It meant we wouldn’t say no when approached with an opportunity to be involved, to serve, to give. This didn’t mean we would always say yes. We still try to have some balance in our lives. But it did mean we would attempt to recall our stated purpose and goal. Remembering that, we would strive to live...extra

What we are learning is that living extra is difficult. But it’s not the most difficult thing. Anyone can choose to do more. Anyone can make the choice to stand when they want to sit. Anyone can choose to go when they would rather stay. 

What is difficult is choosing to live extra with joy. It does no good for anyone if I live extra and tell you how much I despise living that way. 

To live extra with joy is to live how Jesus modeled for us. 

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. ~Luke 9:51 For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:2

It means the calendar is often full. It means we do our best to love people in ways that matter. In ways that make a difference. We choose to make an impact. Because when the status quo is all most people know, we want to be extra.

Monday, November 5, 2018

We Can Do Better

Suffice it to say that in this technological age of streaming and DVRs, my kids have likely watched fewer commercials than when we were kids. They have seen ads. We all deal with ads, but when we're focused on trying to get past the ad, how much do we really pay attention?

But we recently switched from Dish to YouTube TV, something I don't regret. While watching a show as it was being aired, my kids saw a political ad. Their shock at the shade being thrown made me wonder if they've never seen a political ad before.

They laughed out loud as the smear campaign was played. Not in an amused way. No, it was the sort of nervous laughter that happens when you wonder if you really just heard what you think you heard.

It's the recognition that these are things we hear in TV shows, but didn't realize that, in this case, Hollywood imitates real life.

Are my children sheltered? Is that what happened? They go to public school. They remind me every day that I force them to a place where they see and hear worse than what's in the movies I refuse to let them watch.

They were surprised. After all, they heard an ad run pretty close to election day, which means the dirt being flung is getting pretty grimy. Do adults really talk this way about one another? Isn't this exactly the kind of behavior we teach our children not to participate in?

Is this really what it takes to 'win'? Are we satisfied that our 'winner' is only slightly less dirty than those who won't win? And these are the people we trust to lead us? To make important decisions for us?

I know this is insane to even expect. It has been for years. But our political leaders on both sides of the aisle are not representing any sort of adulthood or maturity that I want the next generation to assume is normal. Or acceptable.

We have disagreements. We need to learn how to treat one another with kindness. We need to learn how to disagree and still move forward together. It needs to be modeled in the Church first, where we can show the world how to love one another in the midst of our differences.

My teenager's reactions are telling. They laugh, because though they know this isn't how they're being raised to act, they see this immaturity lived out every day amongst their peers. Now they're seeing this behavior continues, and not just on Reality TV.

What if we were to show this to younger children? Would their questions of why adults can act this way be enough to move us towards something different? Because, needless to say, whomever wins on election day, it won't be our society.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Let's Create Something Better

My youngest daughter is in sixth grade, which around here means it is her last year of elementary school. I'm not sure how I can be so young and have children so old, but I guess crazy things still happen.

When the papers started coming home, asking for parental involvement, I said yes. This is why I found myself in an elementary school one day, playing games with sixth graders. And it was fun.

Exhibit A
The challenge was simply explained. The students had to get in pairs and sit back to back against each other. One student was given a simple drawing, like Exhibit A here. The other student was given a pencil and a piece of paper. The student who could see the drawing had to explain to the other student what to draw.

There was to be no peeking and no stating what the drawing was. So, in this instance, the student could not tell their partner to draw a dinosaur.

While the challenge was simply explained, it was not easily performed. As you can imagine, there was some frustration as the one explaining would give instructions and the artist would reveal a mess of lines and circles that did not represent the original. Not even a little.

There were so many lessons in this exercise, most of them likely lost on these sixth graders who simply wanted to be done. Primary among the lessons would have been realizing that what I say isn't necessarily what you hear. Communication is so much harder than that.

But there was a second lesson, perhaps one just for me on that day. The goal of the exercise was for the artist to be able to draw a close representation of what the one explaining described. Honestly, isn't this 90% of education? We want students to be able to replicate the knowledge and skills we're passing down.

But what if we're teaching the wrong thing? What if some of the problems, both in our society and in our individual lives, are perpetuated because we continue to try the same things, while expecting different results?

This doesn't look like the original.
It's better!
What if, in my life, I am trying to make sense and order out of what I have previously known to be true, while God is really wanting to do a new thing in me? What if I am too like the sixth graders, just wanting to be done with my current challenge, instead of embracing the new adventure I am being called to live?

What could I be missing by my refusal to try something new? And what could I experience, if I was less concerned with things looking like everyone expects them to look? What could be created if I was open to forging ahead into unexplored territory, even if only for me?

Because sometimes when we're trying to do what everyone else has done, we create something better.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Will You Have a Good Seat?

There are many benefits of the job I have working for a Christian college. One of them is to pull out the trump card and say, I thought you loved Jesus, whenever they say something I don’t like. Ok, I’m kidding. I don’t actually say it out loud. 

The real benefit is working among like-minded believers who know we are all in this mission together to serve the King. Oh, we surely forget from time to time, and we all have our levels of maturity in the faith. But when we stumble, we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who can pull us aside and say, I thought you loved Jesus. (Kidding. Again, no one says it out loud.)

But here’s something that, seriously, does keep us all grounded. The faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the chapel services alongside the students. Yes, we all have much to keep us busy and it would often be easier to keep plugging away on a project or two. 

Yet there is no greater equalizer when people of different levels of authority gather with students who have no authority and we join in singing the only real Authority. 

Sitting in a recent chapel, singing The Revelation Song, I was struck with a few thoughts. 

Where we worship, we sit in a half circle. I enjoyed looking around and seeing that everyone’s focus was on stage. (Ok, maybe everyone except mine. Don’t be so judgy.) Everyone was focused on worship.  Everyone was singing to Jesus. 

Since we were singing The Revelation Song, my thoughts turned to the day when we will sing, all of redeemed creation, to Jesus. 

It’s a powerful image, thinking about everyone focused on one thing. Everyone focused on Jesus. 

But then I wondered what the venue might look like. Would there be seats? Would Jesus be in the middle? And if He is in the middle, would I have a good view? I swear, if my eternal seat is behind someone tall or with an unusually large head...

I digress. The fact is there will be men and women and children from every tribe and nation will be there. I don’t know the last time you read Revelation, but it’s going to be a crowd. I don’t want make this about me, because just being there, when you know you don’t deserve to be there, is still good enough. 

After all, I will join the countless number in worship. We will sing with pure hearts. We will sing without need of being heard. I assume we will all sing on key. Most importantly, we will sing to the One who saved us all. 

So maybe I should admit that just having a seat will equate to having a good seat. Will you have a good seat?

Thursday, July 26, 2018

What do you know?

Have you ever paused to think about what we know to be true? If you are the type of person who is quick to judge, as I am prone, then you know that sometimes we only think we know what’s true. Oftentimes we have only to wait a little bit to be given more information.

Something like this is happening in Luke 8. Jesus appears to be going non-stop from town to town healing people. In fact, for the people who lived this story out, that may have been the only detail they actually knew for sure. 

In fact, He is on His way to the home of a dying girl, at the father’s request, when a woman intentionally touches Him and is healed. I say intentionally because it causes a scene. 

If you can imagine the kind of roving mosh pit that was the crowd clamoring to be close to Jesus, then you realize many people would have been touching him. Because, you know, some people are close walkers. 

They trip over your feet and accidentally bump you because of their proximity. Some people do it on purpose. Others are simply oblivious. But this woman intentionally touched Jesus, looking to be healed from her bleeding. 

And it worked. But Jesus knew something happened. He knew healing power had left Him. He knew this touch was different than the others. In fact, because of her faith, this woman knew the same thing. 

I’m focused on what Jesus knew because it’s about to come up again. 

This crowd had been traveling to the home of a sick girl. But before they get there, servants come and tell the man his daughter is dead. They knew it. They had watched it. 

But this doesn’t deter Jesus. Let me say it clearer. 

Death doesn’t deter Jesus. 

They get to the home where people are wailing. And I get it. We would all agree. Twelve year olds shouldn’t die. It’s too soon. 

But the crying turns to laughing when Jesus tells them the girl isn’t dead. She’s sleeping. 

The crowd laughed because they knew she had died. They knew it. Jesus wasn’t there. He hadn’t seen what they saw. The girl died. And we all know death is final. That’s what we know.

Now, I know what everybody is thinking about. Naturally you’re thinking about that scene in Men in Black where Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones, had this conversation with Agent J, played by Will Smith. I know, it’s crazy how alike we think!

People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Give hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone On this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

It’s amazing how seeing something new will change what we think we know. We only talk about certainty. Death and taxes, right? We know what death looks like. We know it’s final. 

But what do we really know? Because Jesus laughed right back by looking at the girl and commanding her to get up. And she did. 

Well, what do you know?