Have you ever read something that you wished YOU wrote?

Laziness Here's a blog post from the "Stuff Christians Like" blog.  Click here to see a little about this guy who wrote it (Jon is his name).  He's written some other stuff…but he is a prolific blogger.  I browse his blog posts regularly (along with over 100 others that I subscribe to)…call me nuts (don't go there on second thought) but it is something I like to do.  I have friends who blog, acquaintances who blog, total strangers who I call friends who blog, total losers who I call friends who blog, and…you get the point.  Anyway, I liked this post…and Jon deserves some props because of it.  He asks a VERY good question in the blog post…if you miss it, let me point out that it has to do with the issue of the intersection of trust and responsibility…excellent and poignant question.  If you want to chime in, post a comment.  If not, this article may actually be good fodder for some discussion with friends, reflection and study on your own…or any number of other creative uses. 

Being lazy for the Lord – Stuff Christians like blog

“Guess what my favorite sky spirit is? There are three: wind, water and sun. Guess which one is my favorite?” Oh boy. My four year old McRae said that in the back seat of our car the other day and I almost drove off the road into a gully and/or a holler.

It wasn’t a difficult theological issue to address. My wife and I didn’t flinch, we just weren’t expecting the Nick show, “Penguins of Madagascar” to teach our daughter about sky spirits.  That was easy issue, but there are harder issues to deal with when you are an adult, trickier faith plateaus to navigate. One of them is “being lazy for the Lord,” a phenomenon you can see expressed in statements like this:

“I’m not going to send out any resumes. I’m just going to pray and trust God to find me a job.”

“I want to be married, but I’m not going to try to meet a spouse or get involved in the singles group at church. I’m going to pray God will bring that person into my life.”

“Our finances are a mess, but I’m not going to take a class in financial responsibility or make amends. I’m going to pray God will rescue us from this pit.”

Rarely will we or our friends so succinctly express our desire to be lazy for the Lord, but it happens. We tend to beat around the bush, we confuse the issue with more words than that. We hide behind ideas and theological sounding arguments about faith and hope. But the truth is, sometimes we’re lazy and we try to pretend we’re being holy.

But what does the Bible say? What does God’s word say about where trust in the Lord and human responsibility intersect? What does it say about the point where prayer and action come together? Where we are forgiven but still have some consequences to work through?

My favorite example is in Nehemiah, a book I’ve been digging lately. The summary of the story is that Nehemiah is rebuilding the ruined walls of Jerusalem. Many of his enemies are angered by this and threaten to attack.

This is the crossroads moment for Nehemiah. From the get go, this has been an exercise in prayer and faith. Chapter 1 starts with a long prayer. In Chapter 2, Nehemiah actually stops to pray when the King asks him what he wants to do about the wall. This is the moment when you’ve lost your job. This is the moment where you feel like you’re the type of person who wants to get married. This is the moment where you think you should write a book or become a missionary or a million other things.

What does Nehemiah do about the threats? Does he pray and move on? Not exactly. He starts that way, by telling everyone in chapter 4:

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord …”

And for some of us, that’s where it ends. We say the prayer and then wait. Waiting can be an important part of faith and sometimes action feels selfish and sinful and prideful. But Nehemiah isn’t done. A few verses later, he deals with the threat of violence this way:

“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.”

I love that. His workers had a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other. The outcome is God’s, we remain grass in a field that will fade away, but Nehemiah knew it was not disobedient to protect himself from getting stabbed by one of his enemies.

He didn’t just pray the threat away, he prayed and also armed the people who were threatened. He didn’t just pray he wouldn’t struggle with porn, he installed a filter on his computer. He didn’t just pray his kids wouldn’t fall down the stairs, he prayed and put up a gate. He didn’t just pray he’d find a job, he prayed and got a part time job at Home Depot while he looked for something longer term. He didn’t just pray that a ridiculously hot and holy woman would deliver a pizza one night and fall in love with him, he prayed and went on dates and got plugged into his church.

He grabbed a hammer and a sword.

He wasn’t lazy for the Lord.

He realized that it’s OK to mix prayer with purpose, acceptance with action, surrender with sweat.

If you’re being lazy for the Lord, my hope is that you’ll remember it’s OK to have your hands full. It’s OK to clasp them in prayer even as you clasp them around a weapon.

Today, grab a hammer and a sword.

Today, quit being lazy for the Lord.

Nothing like GREAT resources for FREE – Children’s Ministry alert!

Henri Z – the big Children's Ministry dude I follow from T-Bay, Ontario Canada has published a free E-book on Children's Ministry.  First of all, Henri is a good guy…deep, thoughtful, creative…besides that, he lives his ministry life within the flow of Redwood Church in T-Bay which is one of my fav faith communities in the world.  Don't hold it against Henri that he is leaving Redwood to go to school, of all places, in California.  Something about getting a doctorate…yeah, I've been there for that journey!  Anyway, Henri puts together a great e-book resource for people who love kids and love God and want to see God's life invade a child's life in a manner that forever changes the course of their lives.  Even if you don't have kids or don't work with kids on any basis, pass this on to your favorite children's ministry leader.  That's all I can say about that!


Something I wouldn’t normally blog about…wedding that was “sweet”

DSC_0003 Ok – here's the deal – drive to Riggins, Idaho.  Stay in a cool hotel, Salmon River Lodge right on the Salmon River (people catching HUGE salmon by the dozens right down the hill from where we are having dinner).  Get in a bus…drive over an hour to the Pittsburg Landing on the Snake River of Hell's Canyon (the deepest canyon in the US – even deeper than the Grand Canyon)…get out of the bus and jump in a Jet Boat (3 X 375 horsepower diesels) that holds over 30 people…go up and down the rapids of the Snake River for over an hour…arrive at the confluence of the Snake and Salmon Rivers…have a wedding on the beach with pals and family…all I can say is "priceless".  Congrats to new pals, Mike and Ann…thanks to old pals, Brad and Marcia for hooking us up with this party! 

Yes, I look at other cartoons…

Look familiar?  It should…many faith communities are disconnected from real life…people live their lives in the culture with little or no exposure to what happens in the "holy halls" of churchworld.  If only those followers of Jesus would not only find ways to connect via worship and intentional communal actions within our congregational structures BUT ALSO live in the real world alive with the passion of Jesus, the power of the Spirit and eyes to see and ears to hear how God is moving.  Getting involved in what God is already doing in the world…that's our call and challenge to action.  Wasn't it Jesus who said, "I only do what I see the Father doing"?  Christ followers are called by Jesus not to places of safety but to be sent to the world to disciple others, teach everyone about what it means to be responsive and obedient to the voice of God and participate in the mystery of "summing up all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10).  

A great story with meaning beyond the words…

PB_MG_7171Skylark-10x15 Parable of the Skylark and Worms – thanks to Alan Hirsch and Deb Hirsch's book, Untamed for this story:

One day long ago, over the hot sands of a Middle Eastern country, a white skylark flew in joyous loops about the sky.  As she swooped near the earth, she heard a merchant cry out, “Worms!  Worms!  Worms for feathers!  Delicious Worms!”  The skylark circled about the merchant, hungry at the mention of worms, but puzzled about what the merchant meant.  Little did the skylark know that the merchant was the devil.  And seeing the skylark was interested, the devil motioned her nearer.  “Come here, my little friend.  Come!  See the lovely worms I have!”

Cautiously, the skylark landed and cocked her head to the merchant.  “Come!  Taste the juicy worms!”  The skylark became aware that she was, indeed, quite hungry.  And these worms looked bigger and tastier than any she had ever dug for herself out of the hardscrabble ground of the desert.  The skylark hopped closer and put her beak close to the worm.  “Two worms for a feather, my friend.  Two worms for merely one!”

The skylark was unable to resist.  And she had, after all, so many feathers.  So, with the swift motion she pulled out a feather – just a small one – from beneath her wing and gave it to the merchant.  “Take your pick, my little friend…any two, your heart’s desire!”  The skylark quickly snatched up two of the plumpest worms and swallowed her meal with delight.  Never before had she tasted such wonderful worms.  With a loud chirp, she leapt into the air and resumed her joyful flight.

Day after day the skylark returned.  And always the merchant had wonderful worms to offer:  black ones and blue ones, red ones and green one, all fat and shiny and iridescent.  But one day, after eating her fill, the skylark leapt again into the air – and to her horror, she fell to the ground with a thud.  She was unable to fly!

All at once with a shock she realized what had happened.  From eating the delicious worms she had grown fatter and fatter; and she had plucked her feathers one by one, first her body, then her tail, and finally her very wings had grown balder and balder.  Horrified, she remembered how slowly, imperceptibly, day by day, it had been getting harder and harder to fly, and how she had told herself it was no matter.  She could always stop before it was too late.  Now suddenly, here she was, trapped on the ground.  She looked up and saw the merchant looking at her.  Was that a small, sly grin spreading across his face?  He grabbed the now helpless bird, put her in a cage, and walked away laughing. 

Followers of Jesus were meant to “fly”…to let the winds of the Spirit lead them to where they can love, serve and glorify God with their very lives.   To “cage” a Christ-follower by keeping them “well fed” even if it is within the confines of church is to rob them of their created purpose and identity in Jesus.  What is our intention in discipling those whom Jesus loved and empowered through His Spirit?  Is it to keep them pump and flightless or to enable them to be follow the Spirit on a spiritual quest that embodies the very dream of God? I think you what the Lord would be saying about that!  There is a good reason for us to be in spiritual community…but never is it to get those God intended to fly all plump and flightless!

Moments? What are they?

Last_moments_of_a_beach_day “The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information but to face sacred moments.  In a religious experience, it is not a THING that imposes itself on man but a spiritual presence”  Rabbi Abraham Heschel

“God still speaks today as he spoke to our forefathers in the days gone by, before there were either spiritual directors or methods of direction.  The spiritual life was then a matter of immediate communication with God.  It had not been reduced to a fine art not was lofty and detailed guidance to it provided with a wealth of rules, instructions, and maxims.  These may very well be necessary today.  But it was not so in those early days, when people were more direct and unsophisticated.  All they knew was that each moment brought its appointed task, faithfully to be accomplished.  This was enough for the spiritually-minded of those days.  All their attention was focused on the present, minute by minute;  like the hand of a clock that marks the minutes of each hour covering the distance along which it has to travel.  Constantly prompted by divine impulsion, they found themselves imperceptibly turned towards the next task that God had ready for them at each hour of the day.  There remains one single duty:  to keep one’s gaze fixed on the Master one has chosen and to be constantly listening so as to understand and hear and immediately obey His will.”  Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment

We’ve all made life so complicated.  “To-do” lists, smart phones, apps, calendars spread throughout the house…more and more and more stuff to do.  The fact is, we are so busy with living life that we never have a chance to savor a moment.  Most of us would say, “a moment…what’s that?”  For most of us, we have to look up the word in a dictionary to really know what it means.  Seriously and practically, we can’t take pleasure in any one moment because we are either exhausted from the past moments that blew by or we are worried about future moments that are upon us in weighty manner.  Have you ever fantasized about what life must have been like in days gone by?  Ever wondered what your life would look like without commuting, television, electric lights, alarm clocks, computers, shopping malls, grocery stores, and all the other modern “conveniences” that rob you of capturing the sacredness of any given moment?  Did you know that there was a study that was present to the USA Congress back in the 60’s that said we would become so technologically sophisticated before the year 2000 that we would have to work only 5 to 6 hours a day.  The “experts” said that the big problem of the 21st century would be what to do with the over-abundance of leisure time.  Right?  We’ve been meaning to confront you on your leisure time! 

Seriously, when was the last time you cherished a moment?  When was the last time that the only thought that crossed your mind in a moment in time was how you were going to be obedient and responsive to the will and  heart of your God?  When was the last time you didn’t need instructions on how to spend time with God because all you needed was the moment?  When was the last time you didn’t need anything around you (a bible, worship music, a journal, etc…although each of those are great things) but only “the presence”?  Tell the Lord, your God, that you so desire the fullness of His presence in the following moments on this, your Sabbath!  If you need a guide to fill the moments with His presence and the enjoyment of your relationship with Him, use the following as your guide:

Say “The Lord is my Shepherd – Jehovah-Rohi – the Lord, my shepherd”

Thank your Lord that He knows you by name and wants to spend these moments with you.  Talk to Him about cultivating an ever-increasing intimacy with Him.

Say “in Him, I shall lack nothing – Jehovah-Jireh:  the Lord, my provider”

Thank your God that He provides all your needs.  Ask Him to carry your worries, burdens, and cares. 

Say “He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters – Jehovah-Shalom:  the Lord is my peace”
Thank your God for His attention to the details of life that you enjoy.  Tell Him you want to see Him more clearly in the details of your life.  Let Him speak to you.  Plead with your Lord to give you His peace.

Say “He restores my soul – Jehovah-Rapha:  the Lord is my healer”
Thank your God that He understands everything you are experiencing in life.  Thank Him for being your healer and restorer.  Recall in these moments the times where His restoration gave you life.

Say “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake – Jehovah-Tsidkenu:  the Lord is my righteousness;  Jehovah-M’Kaddesh:  the Lord is my sanctification”
Thank your Lord for His guidance in your life.  Ask Him to reveal Himself in your life’s moments.  Thank Him for the complete acceptance that He has given you as a gift of His mercy and grace.  Ask Him for His righteousness to be revealed in your daily moments.

Say “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me – Jehovah Shammah:  God who is there”
Thank the Lord for His presence that calms every fear.  As Hebrews says, “I will never leave you are forsake you”.  Tell the Father how you feel about that truth.  Does it set you free?  Can you live it?

Say “your rod and your staff, they comfort me”
Thank the Lord for His authority in your life to discipline, correct and give you security within boundaries and limits.  Thank your God that you can never mess up so bad that you would fear punishment by Him.

Say “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies – Jehovah-Nissi:  the Lord is my banner of victory”
Thank the Lord for His strength and protection in your life!

Say “you anoint me head with oil.  My cup overflows”

Thank your God for His grace, mercy and favor.  Ask Him for the enjoyment of His presence during these moments of Sabbath.

Watch me…listen to me…let me tell you what to think, feel and do

I wonder if we really understand (I mean, really…) the power of television. I'm a child of the television-era. For me, as a kid – cartoons ruled. There were many other shows but not a plethora of choices and definitely an industry guided more by values that were more conservative than the "wild west" of television in the 21st century. I was there when MTV went live…and it wasn't long after that when many of us who are students of the culture proclaimed that it was "gloves off" when it came to the intentionality of the media not just reflecting but shaping culture. Now in the generation of the screen, everyone is conditioned to "look". No matter where the screen shows up, it demands attention. So, time for reflection – what does that mean? To the world? To you? I can think of many avenues from which to evaluate the impact of the screen…but you need to own your own perceptions as well as call attention in your circle of influence to the overwhelming power of media. How does a follower of Jesus live in a media dominated world? Is what is happening on the screen more attention-worthy than what is occurring in and through your life?

This is a good video from which to begin your reflection – because it is true – the television is demanding more of you than you can even begin to realize…it wants to be your "master" and "lord".  How do you respond to that prevailing voice?  Do you find the voice of media more interesting than the voice of God?  Does God's voice shape you and your actions/opinions more than that of the screen?  More to come…

Television is a drug. from Beth Fulton on Vimeo.

This just made me LOL!

I'm an Adjunct Professor @ a great University in SoCal (APU).  I'm finishing the semester this weekend..beginning the "fun" of grading papers and exams.  Well, I ran into this video – The Cognitive Bias song…written and sung by the Psyche Prof.  For a moment, really…just a moment, I thought "what a great pedagogical tool"…then I reconsidered!  No students…don't even go there!