Friday, January 25, 2008

On Being Rich

This story starts twenty one years ago with a set of Christian kids albums called “Psalty the Singing Songbook.” Psalty was a big blue hymnal with arms, legs and a steady tenor voice that went around teaching kids what praising the Lord from your heart is all about. My wife used to listen to those albums when she was a little girl and when she was six years old and left Tennessee with her family for China and the mission field, Psalty had already left an indelible mark on her little heart. On their way to China, Christy’s family stopped off in Italy to visit her Uncle Tom, Aunt Tina and cousins who were already missionaries in Milan. Tom says he’ll never forget seeing Patty, Christy and his kids singing this one particular Psalty song… He said he cried because he thought they didn’t even know how much they were about to need those words in China. The song is called “Child of the King” and goes like this:

“Lord I don’t have fancy toys like other little girls and boys/ My clothes are faded and torn, my shoes are scuffed up and all worn/ Though the world might think I’m poor, I am rich ‘cause I have You Lord/ And I am a child of the King, if I have You, then I have everything/ Though the world might think that I am poor, I am rich ‘cause I have You Lord…”

Okay, fast forward to 2003 when we found out we were having our first baby… Christy jumped online and found the entire collection of Psalty albums on 10 CDs and guess what… now our little girls are learning to praise the Lord from the big blue talking book! Well, the other day I was reading 2 Corinthians 6 and came to the part where Paul said that he was “…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” I stopped, wrote it down and thought about those words all day and just wanted my heart to be confident with that perspective. I wanted to stop worrying about bills, taxes, plumbing and savings and just know what it is to be rich in Christ.

When I got home from work Christy said, “Oh man, Anna said the sweetest thing today… She said, “Mom, I am rich because I have my favorite boy down in my heart!” (By the way, “my favorite boy” is what she’s been calling Jesus lately) Psalty is still rocking our world all these years later!

Sometimes I get so freaked out about things my Father has already told me He’s going to take care of. What if I took even a fraction of the time I spend worrying and used it to just think about how much I have in Christ? Paul said that even if I sometimes feel like I have nothing, I still possess everything! I want the faith and heart of that four-year-old girl who lets her Daddy worry about provision and just spends her time thinking about her favorite boy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On the Spot

With presidential election talk thick in the air it seems that so much of people’s conversation these days has to do with what they think of someone else… This week I’ve caught myself more than once asking that question, “What do you think of that candidate?” Every time this political process cranks up again, I am so thankful that I am a little-known dude in a little bitty town. I would croak if everyone in the country had an opinion about me! One thing that I find really interesting about the whole thing is just how freely people express their dislike of different candidates… of course this is made much easier by the fact that they will probably never have to say those things to any of their faces. It’s easy to crack on your math teacher when she’s up at the front of the room writing on the board, but could you say it to her face?

If you don’t think very highly of someone or the things they do, you probably only express it when they aren’t around to hear you, and if they straight up asked you, most people would probably lie and give a glowing report. And we get away with it, right? I mean, people can’t read our minds, so if we have to we say, “Sure… you look great with shaved eyebrows!” or “Oh man, that pickled zucchini and radish casserole was to die for!” or “No… I didn’t want anything for my birthday!” we play it off as truth and no one is the wiser. But what if people could ask you, “What do you really think of me?” and you had to tell the truth… like you were hooked up to a lie detector, or your nose would grow if you lied… wouldn’t that be the most awkward situation ever?!

There is a place in Matthew 16 where Jesus is with His disciples and He asks them who the people think He is. They told Him, “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say one of the prophets…” And then Jesus turns to the guys and asks them straight up, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Whoa… I mean, it’s one thing when one of your friends sings for you and then asks, “Do you think I’ve got what it takes to be the next American Idol?” But what do you do when Jesus looks you in the eye and you look back into His and He says, “What do you think about me?” You see, they had watched Jesus read the minds of some Pharisees back in chapter 9 when He healed the paralytic… They watched Him read the minds of some more dudes in Chapter 12 who thought He was employing demons… He wasn’t just putting them on the spot, but He knew what was in their hearts! They knew that Jesus would be answered not only by their lips but also by their actions… by their lives.

You probably know how Peter answered that question, but that’s not really what I want to focus on… Here’s my question: What if Jesus had popped in on you at 4:15 PM yesterday and put you on the spot? How would you have answered? How would your heart answer? How would your life answer? Who do you say He is? He’s asking and whether you know it or not, you’re answering. If He’s not very important to you, He knows; but if you love Him (even if it’s way down there somewhere) He knows that too…

Friday, January 11, 2008

Norah's on the mend and felling tons better!

Enjoy It!

As I type these words, I am about to close up shop on what has been an awesome day. Now, it wasn’t exactly a perfect day… I didn’t get my way in everything that happened and I didn’t get all the things done that I intended to. I didn’t win the lottery or hear my favorite song by happenstance. It was just a petty run-of-the-mill, work on stuff and meet with people kind of day, but it was awesome. Why? Well, it was an awesome day because I don’t have the stomach flu!

I know that sounds super random and all, but on Sunday afternoon Norah exploded with the stomach flu out of nowhere and as soon as I saw it start I thought, “Oh no… here comes our family’s whole week!” I just knew that we would be passing that bug around through the whole house from one family member to the next just surviving and trying to take care of each other… at least, that’s how it’s always been in the past. We were doing all we could do to help Norah be as clean and comfortable as possible while at the same time getting our minds, hearts and laundry baskets ready for the doom that lay ahead… We prayed, hoped and watched the clock for over 24 hours, and praise the Lord, Norah got better and no one else has goten sick... yet! I thought we would be spending the week in our PJ’s wishing we could just go on to heaven, but instead we’re up and at ‘em and having a pretty normal (and awesome) week.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 8 the teacher tells us, “I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat, drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun."

Just enjoy life… I think this is a great New Year’s verse for 2008. Ecclesiastes talks over and over again about how life is 'meaningless,' and when it says that, it doesn’t really mean that life has no point; it just means that life is hard to understand and there’s no way you can make sense out of all of it on this side of things, so just trust God, love the people around you and make the best out of what ever is in front of your face… This hasn’t been ‘the most awesome day ever’ or anything, but hey, I don’t have the stomach flu, and even if I did, it would be over in 24 hours.

So, how can you do this? How can you just toss up your hands and say, “I’m gonna enjoy this life!?” Well, you can’t do it by trying to make sense out of all your stuff. Why not just start out by thanking God? “For what?” you might say… Well, here are some awesome facts that I am going to try to carry around in this New Year: 1. God loves me more than I’ll ever understand and is working absolutely everything out for my good. 2. I will never, ever, ever be punished for my sins because of the mercy and grace of Christ. 3. I don’t deserve anything, but am outrageously blessed in so many ways by the tender kindness of God. 4. No matter what happens now or ever, no matter how terrible, I will be in heaven one day and all the troubles, pains, striving and tears will be distant memories like inside jokes from Middle School. I can praise my God and enjoy this day... and you can too.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Norah's 2nd Birthday!

Here she is feeding her new puppy with a bottle...

Norah and Trusty!

We took the kids to the Marina where it was approximately 743 degrees below freezing, but Norah had fun swinging in her new ski suit!

Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr went out on a win...

Blocking and Tackling

On New Year’s Day college football got a bit of an old-school shock… You see, for the past few years more and more college football programs have migrated away from traditional offensive schemes and have adopted the quick-paced and flashy spread sets where you might find a running back if you squint and you’re sure to see a shotgun quarterback throw for a billion yards and run for a bunch too. Like Rubik’s cubes and slap bracelets, the spread offense is a fad that will have its hey day and then eventually fade just like the wishbone and option have done… meanwhile you have crusty old teams like Michigan up in the snow and cold of the Midwest running the same old block and tackle, three yards and a cloud of dust they always have, and behind these worn-out systems you have crusty old guys like Lloyd Carr who just can’t bear to fix what they don’t believe is broken.

When Michigan drew Florida for their bowl game opponent, the nation collectively laughed out loud. I mean Florida kills opponents by forty points with their spread offense run by Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and Michgan has struggled with the spread all year. In fact, in our local paper 24 people made bowl picks and only one picked Michigan to win. It was Michigan coach Lloyd Carr’s last game and everyone knew it would be a blowout, but it wasn’t. In fact, the old-school Wolverines came down to the Gator’s home state and whipped them by blocking and tackling. The big boys stuck in the past showed Florida that maybe new ideas aren’t the best ideas just because they’re new… maybe the best ideas are the ones that work.

Within the past few years here in the states a bunch of new ideas have been springing up and becoming increasingly popular about what it means to be a Christian man. They are ideas about the spirit of masculinity and what God really has in mind when he thinks of a man. It has been said that men should lay aside quietness, gentleness and meekness and embrace the warrior spirit of the Christ. They say men are born fighters and that our culture is taming us to be “Mr. Rogers Christians.” At coffee shops, churches and conferences all over the U.S. Christian men are getting together to talk about all that they have lost in trying to be a tender and weak Christian when the thing they really need is to embrace strength and valor… in my opinion it’s the newest Christian fad and although it may stick around for a while, I can’t find it in my Bible.

This Christmas I got an audio Bible and the thing that is so cool about it is that I have been taking in tons of Scripture all together at one time without chapter/verse markings and without stopping to analyze individual verses… I’m just hearing the letters as letters and the stories as stories and the thing that has absolutely overwhelmed me in doing this is how much Christianity in the New Testament is all about everything Mr. Rogers was. As I have taken in huge chunks of Paul’s writings at a time I have been blown away by how sweet he was…

He is as mushy as a brother can be, gushing and doting on those he wrote to, reminding them over and over again the importance of humility, peace, gentleness, righteousness and of course love. The Apostle glories in weakness and talks of how he was mothering when he could have been assertive. He absolutely forbids retaliation, anger, arguing and arrogance. He prizes patient endurance, tenderness, quietness and singing! He would have loved Fred Rogers (who by the way loved Jesus like crazy!)

In Romans 14 Paul said, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.” In Ephesians 4 he says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” And by the way, our Lord Jesus only describes Himself once in the New Testament… remember what He said? “I am gentle and humble in heart.” Spiritual fads may come and go, but the old-school bread and butter… the blocking and tackling of the Christian life is all about tender, sweet, quiet, humble and patient love.

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