Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Better Swing More Than That

My wife talked me into it. She said they needed a swing set. And I believed her. She said the kids would love it. It would keep them occupied. It would keep them in our back yard. And since I had tore down their previous metal set (circa 1992) when we moved, I felt compelled.

So we purchased a swing set that came in pieces delivered in three big boxes. We spent many hours sorting wood and nuts and bolts. I learned a new language known as written direction, probably jotted down by the last guy to ever successfully build this apparatus, one that Columbus might have been able to sail over on.

Then the building began. I read and I studied and I hammered and I drilled. I measured and I twisted and I cried and I wiped sweat from my brow. The first 146 steps went well, but did not produce anything that actually looked like a swing set.*

Entering the thirteenth hour of physical labor, with sweat pouring and appendages lost*, I was getting close. The kids were getting antsy, as the middle section of their fortress was complete. I only needed to add the outer sections, i.e. the stuff they would actually play on.

For the last two hours, the questions did not stop. 'Can we slide? Can we swing? Why is it taking so long?' As I brought down Thor's hammer* to another resistant nut I thought ahead to how much they would play out here and give me a break to check my Facebook.

At precisely 1:30 in the afternoon, I finished. Aside from my wife and some help, there was nobody there to celebrate this achievement of mine as my two girls were now watching cartoons and my son was playing video games.

Did I miss something? I lost blood over this ordeal.* I skipped meals.* I worked through the night.* I labored through sleet and snow and hail.*

Do my children actually know what they want? Then again, do I? I wonder if I sound like this to God when I ask Him for stuff. Do I stop to consider what I already have and what He has already given? Am I patient enough to wait for God's timing? As I continue to read through Old Testament history and the prophets, it occurs to me that I may sound just as whiny as they, crying to God in need and forgetting Him in plenty.

How about you? What do you have that you often overlook?

*Sarcasm used to the point that the story may not accurately represent reality.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: Sacred Unions

It was an interesting twist when MTV took relationships and over-sexualized everything. We in the Church argued that they were twisting what God intended for men and women. Then, subtly, we began to use what MTV offered as a framework for relationships. Guy/Girl relationships all became filtered through what we were scared to let happen.

This book asks the question; what would happen if we started over with a Biblical definition instead of our society's definition? There is a lot of blame, if not all the blame, placed on Freud, who definitely had mommy issues. Freud sexualized all relationships, both cross-gender and same gender. Thanks Sigmund!

This book goes on to describe a bit of Church history and give several examples of purely platonic friendships that would be looked at with great suspicion in our current culture. But simply because we have issues does not mean that everyone has issues, right?

The question should be asked; if we view marriage as the epitome of relationships, where does that leave single people? With nods to Jon Acuff and his view of the Church and single-hood, we can't just ask this for single adults. Are we saying that children and teenagers are incomplete until their parents let them out of the house to find a mate? Are we to forever segregate boys and girls from each other until they are mature enough to pursue a marital relationship?

Dan does a great job of making references to data throughout history, even including these couple of gems when discussing how men view women. Quoting Nancy Tuana, "a woman left uncontrolled was one of the greatest dangers to mankind." So felt the Greeks. Even Aristotle believed that women should not be left to their own. Something about great destruction and damage left in their wake. Those silly philosophers. Dan balances it all out by showing how Jesus, as usual, was ahead of His time. Ahead of ours as well.

To me, it seems obvious once it is pointed out, but how much of my married adult life has been lived blind to this reality. Marriage is a choice. It's not the better choice. It's not the inevitable choice. It's simply a choice. But in the midst of redefining terms and changing our view of the opposite sex and appropriate friendships, let's make one thing clear. I still believe all girls have cooties.

http://danbrennan.typepad.com – Dan Brennan’s blog

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Depends on the Name

What would you do if you heard God telling you to go share your faith with the biggest bully you've ever seen? Oh, and God warned you ahead of time that the bully would cause you severe pain. Would you still listen?

What if, after picking your teeth up from the ground, God asked you to go share your faith again? Same bully. Same result. Lots of pain. What kind of conversation would you start having with God?

That's what I wonder about the prophet Hosea. He's told to go take an adulterous woman for a wife. 'Oh, thanks God, a wife...what kind again?' I never want to be accused of taking a sermon illustration too far again. Hosea does what he's told and goes and finds Gomer. First, what kind of female name is Gomer? Second, can you imagine the proposal? 'You seem like the cheating kind...how about we give it a go?'

The sermon illustration that is Hosea's marriage continues as kids come and are named. They have a daughter, which Hosea is instructed to call Lo-Ruhamah, meaning Not-Loved. I mean, that has to have some affect on the girl growing up, right?

'Hey, you're Lo-Ruhamah, right? Do your parents hate you?' And that might be the comment from her youth pastor. 'Yes, I'm Not-Loved, and this is my brother Not-My-People. We think God isn't very happy with our family right now.'

Gomer cheats, Hosea buys her back, a nation is warned. But along the way lives are likely changed due to their names. God goes to great lengths to make His point. We should probably pay attention. He has called us His children. We should probably act accordingly. Lives will be changed due to our names.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Amazing Ahab

I must admit I'm somewhat fascinated by King Ahab of Old Testament Israel. Maybe it's similar to my fascination with the early auditions of American Idol. The worse they sound, the more I laugh. I think Ahab's reign over Israel was like one long, horrible Idol audition. If ever there had been a competition to find the next king of Israel, Ahab would probably fall somewhere between William Hung and that guy who sand 'Pants on the Ground'.

Is it just me, or is Ahab that guy at the party who's only there because he's hosting the party. Like the guy that never realized what he had or what part he should be playing. Lest we forget, this is the king who let his wife do all the hard work, though most of that work was sinful; 1 Kings 19:1-2, 1 Kings 21:8-14.

But maybe Ahab was more unlucky than evil. After all, he did know how to play people. When he & Jehoshaphat went into war together, Ahab convinced his good buddy Jehoshaphat (king of Judah) that he should wear his kingly robes while Ahab went incognito. Really? Why Jehoshaphat did not think for himself in this issue I'll never get, but that's what they did. Because no one ever aims for the leader of an army, right?

But through randomness (1 Kings 22:34-37) or by God fulfilling prophetic words, Ahab died. That's too bad. He brought such great times to Israel. Mind you, nobody recorded those good times, but I'm sure they were there. After all, Ahab was hosting the party.

What do you think? Who's your fave loser from the Bible?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Smell of a Dad

One of my favorite lines in the old movie City Slickers 2 comes when all the guys are out in the middle of the wilderness and Duke Washburn says he can tell his dad has been there. (For those who have not seen it, or have forgotten, they are all out in the wilderness looking for the Washburn treasure, which Duke's dad hid.)

Two of the city slickers, Phil and Mitch, start having a conversation about this.
Phil: How can you tell your dad's been here?
Mitch: It's just like how we always knew when dad had been in the bathroom.

Well, I'm a dad now. I want to say this appropriately for all my internet fan out there. Sometimes I am guilty of passing on biological unfriendliness. I suppose everyone does, but my 3-year old, never at a loss for being cute, experienced this more closely than I would have intended the other day.

I let one fly, and much like a burglar, I fled the scene. 30 seonds later my wife is gagging while my 3-year old calmly states, 'I can feel it on my cheek.'

I'm not really sure that's a good thing, however, I'm going to spiritualize it for a moment. Wouldn't we all like to feel our Father that close all the time? I mean that for even the parts of God that don't smell nice to others. I had a dad that could cause some smells that would make the stink fall off other smells. Aside from that, I took great comfort in knowing he was around. There are still many days when his presence would be comforting.

But no matter if your earthly dad has been gone for 4 years or 40 years, you can find comfort in a Heavenly Father who can be sniffed out wherever you are. Consider feeling for Him near your cheek, then asking Him into your heart.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wives Who Get it Done

I wish I had a wife like King Ahab of Israel. Not only is Jezebel a fine sounding name for a young lady, but this woman knew how to get things done. You can read about one of her greatest hits in 1 Kings 21.

It appears that Ahab had nothing better to do than find new places to garden. He must really like to plant and eat vegetables, because he even went so far as to ask a fellow countryman to give up his family's inheritance to do so. When the guy responded that the Ahab was a whack-job, Ahab went back home and pouted. But since his mommy wasn't around to cry to, he cried to his wife Jezebel.

My wife does many great things, but Jezebel took matters into her own hands. Forging the king's signature, she lies and cheats and has Naboth (the owner of the coveted garden) murdered. Voila! Free garden for Ahab!

Never mind that Elijah the prophet was sent to condemn Ahab and Jezebel for this incident. When you can find the right land and get tomatoes to ripen just so, consequences don't matter.

Yep, I wish I had a wife like Ahab.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Social Spark

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sarcasm and Preaching

If you enjoy snarky, I have found your role model. If sarcasm is your thing (to deliver or to receive) then Micaiah is your guy. His story is found in 1 Kings 22.

The story involves King Ahab, who has to be the poster-child for retarded kings of Israel. (I may devote a whole week to Ahab just to fit in all his shortcomings.) King Ahab is teaming up with King Jehoshaphat to attack the Arameans. They get the 400 whatever-you-say prophets of Israel to give God's blessing on the mission. But King Jehoshaphat sees that they're a bunch of weasels, so he asks for a true prophet. Enter Micaiah.

Micaiah is encouraged to go with the flow. It's at this point that I'd love to see the interaction on YouTube. Words do not do this scene justice, but picture this; Micaiah enters the room where both kings are waiting and he repeats the refrain form the other 400 prophets, "Attack and be victorious for the Lord will give it into the king's hand" (1 Kings 22:15b).

Ahab's reaction to Micaiah is not kind, showing us that Micaiah was speaking quite sarcastically. Then Micaiah deals the harsh truth. In essence he tells Ahab that it doesn't matter what he says, Ahab will ignore the word from God and go to his death in battle. Ahab has Micaiah thrown in jail until he returns safely from battle. But before being hauled off to a life of bread and water, Micaiah gives one last warning to everyone within earshot; 'Maybe you're hard of hearing Ahab. You're not coming back alive. Everyone be warned. Can I get my bread toasted?'

Micaiah is my new hero.

Read 1 Kings 22. You'll see that Ahab dies and Micaiah's word from God is found to be true. I'm not looking into getting any heads of state killed in war, but I do like to deliver truth. If people won't listen to it one way, then maybe they'll listen to it another.

I could see this becoming my preaching tool of choice. As people cower, I'll say something similar to an old western or 70's cop show, 'We can do this the easy way, or the sarcastic way.' But take the posthumous advice from Ahab, 'Better listen to that truth.'

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Facebook Maybe

Granted, I'm a pastor. I have Type-A tendencies. Ok, my tendencies border on freakish OCD behavior patterns, but...

Few things bother me more than the Facebook 'maybe'. I suppose I could go on and on about the grey areas of our society and the refusal of people to accept absolute standards. I could discuss the great need of people to accept that what is wrong for one person is likely wrong for everyone. I should certainly be concerned about mentioning that someone might have sin in their life.

But I don't believe the Facebook 'maybe' is quite sin. Perhaps if I were coming up with new sins, I would add this to the list. But alas...

Some might think the Facebook 'maybe' did not exist prior to the Internet, but they would be wrong. When I was in high school and asked a girl out on a date, I would normally be told that if they had no other plans, if nobody else called them, if there was nothing good on television and their hair did not need washing, then perhaps I would receive a call telling me that I could pay for their dinner and entrance to a movie. That's a Facebook 'maybe'.

Perhaps this is more akin to hosting a party. When extending invitations, if you are told that their presence depends on certain factors; type of food, music and other guests, you have been given the Facebook 'maybe'.

I have even had people help me plan events, then post a maybe as their RSVP. Am I missing something? Is there a cool factor here that I don't get? Are people simply avoiding stalkers by not letting predators know they will be at a certain party at a certain time on a certain day? Is this like showing up fashionably late?

I long for a world where people would reject you with seemingly no awareness of your silly little feelings. I think we would all be much happier if people told us they had no intention of being seen with us...ever. I believe it was a much nicer world when people laughed at you while walking away. At least then you knew. But today we live in a world where people prefer to keep you guessing. 'Your party may have 200 people. Or it may flop. You just don't know. And you don't know because I won't tell you.'

I don't understand a world that operates in this manner. The Bible I read tells me to let my 'yes' mean yes and my 'no' mean no. It says nothing of any 'maybe'. Does that make it non-Biblical? Will my words of wisdom stem the tide of non-commitment? Will the world come to its' senses and give a yes or a no? Will this line of superior reasoning make any difference at all?


Friday, June 4, 2010

Teens and Toddlers

It really does not matter what kind of day it has been. Once the day turns to bedtime, thirst and giggles make their appearance. In my home I have an 8, 6 and 3 year old. Every bedtime routine is the same. Baths (if needed), last drink, last snack, brush teeth, pj's, prayer and good night. But despite the activities or length of the day, the children have, without my blessing, added a few items to their to-do list. This would include (but not be limited to) coming back out for one more last drink, one more hug, one more kiss, one more question, one more joke, five more questions or another trip to the bathroom.

I've tried discipline, bribery, moving bedtime back, moving bedtime forward. Apparently they will end up tiring and falling asleep at least a half an hour after when I wanted to last see them for the day.

Oh. It also does not matter what kind of day it has been at work. Once the hours turn past when God wanted to be awake, I mention that the teens should be tired. After all, they haven't had food in about 16 hours. They are participating in the 30 Hour Famine to raise awareness and money for World Vision. They have somehow pushed themselves to this point and yet still desire to watch a movie, which we do. At 2am (19 hours without food, for those keeping score) they agree (or simply give up) and get around for bed. And then it happens.

I actually had a teen ask for one more drink. After granting his request, I lay myself down, thoroughly exhausted. Just 10 minutes later, I have 3 guys storm into my office where I was going to sleep. Why you ask? To giggle like little school children and tell me they wanted to do one more thing before going to sleep. Apparently they will tire about 5 hours past when I wanted them to.

I love my children. I love my teens.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Take Me Literally

I am quite certain that my children have learned it from me. Whether I should be proud or not is a discussion for another day, but when my children choose sarcasm over a straight answer, I can’t get mad at them. They’ve seen it modeled and they are learning the trade. Because, to me, the only thing funnier than imagining what kids will say in response to outlandish statements is actually finding out. There’s only one way to find out.

Luke: How long until Mommy comes home?
Me: One week.
Luke: But…? How…? Why?
Me: She’ll be home in 5 minutes.

Jacie: Can I have earrings?
Me: Sure, anything for my little princess.
(But Jacie is catching on to how sarcasm works.)
Jacie: Really?
Me: No.

It goes both ways. When I ask Jacie how much homework she has, she may respond with ‘5 billion pages’ or a blank look as if she’s never heard the word before. And as I think about this, I realize that at times the Bible uses language that we’re not meant to take literally. Consider Hebrews 10:24.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Can you picture this? If we took the Bible literally here, we’d have a lot more cowboys in Church. Plus, we’d have a whole lot of people with spur marks on their body.

Spurs hurt. That’s why we don’t just use them right away. Actually, we don’t use them on people. But maybe we should. We’re told to consider how to spur one another on. Let’s face it, sometimes we need to be jolted in order to get something done.

Love and good deeds don’t just happen. They have to be acted out. And they should be acted out by us. We should be loving and doing good deeds. This doesn’t make it about us. Rather we do good deeds to point others to God so that they can draw near and we can watch as God repeats the process of cleansing others so they can hold on and spur others on. So take some time and consider how a little pain now may cause some good later. It may hurt now, but pain produces action.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review: Wisdom Chaser

A friend gave me a copy of Nathan Foster's book Wisdom Chaser. I was interested for two reasons. First, he is the son of Richard Foster. While it may not have been the most exciting read, Celebration of Disicipline was a good read. Second, he's a prof at Spring Arbor University, my alma mater.

This book proved to be a quick and easy read with (wait for it) lots of wisdom. In it, Nathan recounts a decade of stories where he climbed mountains in Colorado (the fourteeners) with his dad. As they begin, they do not have the greatest of relationships, but a few fourteeners later, that seems to be well resolved.

The story-reveals-truth style of writing is nice, but the use of shock value I found distracting. Color me prude if you wish, but I found his choice of verbal crassness unnecessary. It took me away from what he was attempting to communicate and left me wondering why he chose to use those words.

Understand that I am not perfect in this area and I truly understand the sometimes scientific effort that writers will go through in order to grab the attention of their readers. But to speak something quickly and without thought seems to be on a different level than writing something down for generations to come.

I suppose my thoughts on cursing aside, the book was well done. I was left curious at a few points that did not seem to fit in the timeline or mood of the book. I also was left wondering how Ziggy the dog did on those mountain journeys. Perhaps these mysteries will be left for another book.

The afterword by his father, Richard, was also interesting to read, since he was the subject matter of most of the book. I would recommend this for anyone that has ever had daddy-issues, though the wisdom is certanly not limited to that. This is worth a read as long as you can look past a few written indiscretions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Knowing What You Got

I was with a group of teens at Taco Bell. This is good because I enjoy teens and tacos (not necessarily in that order). One of the teens dropped a quarter in the Coin Drop Game and the coin miraculously fell on the bottom platform. My eyes got big when I saw this because I think that wins you a prize of all-you-can-eat tacos or $5, whichever is greater.

But before I could even say congratulations, this teen spun the knob that controls the platforms, sending the quarter flying off the platform. He did all this while asking, 'What am I supposed to do here?' My jaw dropped and all the other teens took turns telling him how not-awesome that was.

I wish I were joking. I've never actually seen anyone win that. This unnamed teenager tried, without hope, to repeat his lost good fortune. Sadly, he is not alone. I think many of us walk blindly through life wondering what we're supposed to be doing.

We do this and try that and wonder why life works the way it does. We're oblivious to anything resembling a natural consequence. We walk blindly through our days, happy when we happen to come across some good fortune. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.

Even worse, those who claim to follow Christ are not an exception to this kind of living. We wander aimlessly here and there, all the while not knowing where we are going and what we are supposed to be doing. But we serve a God who knows. So here are a few promises to keep in mind.

John 8:31-32 "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Galatians 3:26-27 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

Psalm 39:7 "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you."

This is by no means a large sampling. It is but a dip of your smallest toe into the ocean of what God has to offer. If you're searching for what you have and where you're going, open your eyes. Know what you got.