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Blogger, Christ-follower, Encourager, Friend, Husband, Dad

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Invisible Friends and Spiritual Rebar

I don’t remember it, but I am told that when I was small I had an invisible friend who was my playmate until my little brother was born and I finally had someone else to play with.  Of course there were times when I wished that my brother were invisible and I’m sure he wished the same about me, but that is a whole other story.  My own son found an invisible friend when his big sister started to school and he was at home by himself during the day.  That friend disappeared when he started to school.
This is number two in a series of blogs about “life building” that I am writing in conjunction with the construction project at our home.  This week I am thinking about invisible friends and unseen support systems.
The forms are in for the concrete foundation that will be poured toward the end of this week.  Before that happens, rebar has to be in place for reinforcement.  The plumber has to install pipes, fittings, and drains.  When those tasks have been completed, all that skilled workmanship is going to be covered up with a thick layer of concrete, never to be seen again. Completely unseen. But without it?  What a mess!
The blessings of my life are too numerous to count, and I haven’t deserved a single one of them.  Sometimes I feel a little bit like a turtle on a fence post.  You know about that, right?  If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn’t get there by himself. 
No matter how hard we work for it, no matter how much skill, initiative, and energy we have, none of us achieves anything of true worth without some invisible friends.  I’m not talking about the “imaginary” friends of childhood.  I’m talking about people who will not be standing on the public stage of life with us when we celebrate our accomplishments, but whose prayers, moral support, encouragement, and perspective have provided the unseen support systems that have empowered our successes and mitigated our failures.
The paradox:  Anything worthwhile that you see in me can only be explained by support systems you will never see.
One example of that is found in Romans 15:13. “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
How is it possible to overflow with confident hope?  As for me, I can only explain it by my Invisible Friend.  Our lives matter so much to God that He doesn’t want our best to be the best that we can do.  He provides us with Himself, and with other support systems (seen and unseen) to be the spiritual rebar that strengthens the foundation of our lives. 
If you see my talking to my Invisible Friend, please don’t interrupt. We might be on a roll.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Demo for Life

Earthquake!  Air Strike!  That’s what it feels and sounds like at my house right now.  Walls are shaking, dishes clattering, and the loud booms are pounding, pounding, pounding.
No, it’s not another summer thunderstorm.  It is the demolition of the enclosed porch on the back of our house in preparation for a new master suite. Since Mrs Sweetie and I will be moving in there, one of my friends has dubbed it the Sweetie Suite.
Today’s noise is the removal of the bricks across the back of the house.  I knew it would be loud, but the pounding and shaking got bad enough that I unloaded all the breakable dishes from the cupboard that is on the inside of that wall.  Who needs this many dishes anyway?
As we embark on this project, supposedly to last a couple of months, I am thinking about the similarities between building a house and building a life.  When you look at the finished product, you sometimes don’t realize everything that went into it.  So, for the next several weeks, I am going to observe this process with a reflection on “life building”.
When we moved into this house 21 years ago, that back room was already partially enclosed.  We finished it out and it has been used as a guest bedroom, a recording studio, a safe place for dogs to hide during thunderstorms, and a general place to toss and/or pile things that have not yet found a place to live in the rest of the house.  In other words, a junk room.
With the vision for the new space, the junk room had to go.  Consequently, we are now in day two of DEMO.  I could have saved some money if I had done it myself, but to do it right I would have had to have a demo demo, which would have slowed the process considerably.  Demo by professionals is much more efficient, not to mention the potential added costs of repairing things that should not have been demoed.  I guess we could call that the difficult dangers of deficient demoing.
So what does that have to do with “life building” (other than bearing strange resemblance to an alliterated sermon title)?  Sometimes there are things present in our lives that actually become a hindrance to progress.  We keep trying to add more and more, but failing to demo the things that are in the way. 
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.”
Even if we figure that out, we demo deficiently by trying to do it ourselves.  Our lives matter so much to God that He has not left us to the best that we can do.  If we will let Him do the demo, it will be done right. 
Losing some of those things may be unsettling at first, but the result will be the life for which we were truly made

Monday, August 13, 2012

You May Need Some Extra Napkins

“You can’t sit there.”  That’s what the lady in the restaurant told us when we came in out of the 112 degree heat and sat at the table closest to the air conditioning vent.  It happened to be a large table and there were only two of us.  “This table is for large groups,” she informed us. 
We would have been happy to give up the table if a large group needed it.  We’re not hard to please.  We were just really, really hot and since there was only one a/c vent AND since it was the time of day that the dinner crowd should have been at its peak AND since there was not another customer in the room AND since it was a buffet and we would have been out of there in less than 30 minutes, we figured we were safe.  “You need to move,” was her answer.
So we did. To the restaurant down the street.
A week later we were driving through the same little town again.  We saw a classic looking drive-in with a drive-through and swung in for a burger.  The lady at the window offered a suggestion on their most popular entrĂ©e (the BBQ Bun) and told us how they chopped their meat, removed all the fat, and covered it with the sauce from the same recipe her grandmother used when she opened the place in 1971.  Grandmother retired a few years back and now Dad owns the place.  She was so obviously proud of her family’s heritage in this little business and did everything she could to make our visit pleasant, including putting in lots of napkins because of their generosity with that tasty sauce.  Besides the fact that it was just the BBQ sandwich I had been craving, her attitude and enthusiasm made it a meal and a place to remember.  The next time I am driving through that town at a meal time, I know where I’m stopping.
My purpose here is not to criticize the first place.  The lady there was just working within the system of their establishment.  She was probably doing just what she had been told to do.  The lady at the second place was probably doing the same.  They just had a different system.  You can draw your own conclusions about which system is better.
We all have our systems.  We have them at work, at church, at home. What do our systems say about who we really are?  Do our systems highlight the reality that people matter to God?
1 Corinthians 13:13 in the Message translation gives a “system” for living well.  “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
Our lives matter so much to God that He wants us to love extravagantly, not live efficiently, as a picture of His extravagant love for us.
So live with extravagant, messy love today.  And throw in some extra napkins.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Practice Makes ... Better

Have you been watching the Olympics?  It’s about to kill me; not the drama of the competition or the hyperbole of the announcers, but getting up to go to work in the morning after staying up late watching what I have recorded because I don’t have 14 spare hours a day to watch the Olympics!
I have to admit my preference toward objective victories like crossing the finish line or touching the wall first. I get bored, and frustrated, quickly with anything that requires judges.  But I remember an amazing Olympic moment that took the world by storm when a petite Romanian gymnast made the first perfect score in Olympic history.
It was the summer of 1976 and the Olympics were in Montreal.  Nadia Comaneci was an introverted and intensely focused fourteen-year-old who had taken up gymnastics at age six.  In the opinion of the sporting world she was an amazing athlete.  In my opinion, being fourteen myself in the summer of ’76, she was also pretty cute.
When she scored her first “perfect” 10 on the uneven bars, the scoreboard showed 1.00 because it was designed with only one digit to the left of the decimal.  The “perfect” 10 was unthinkable!  Nadia went on to score six more of them. 
Was she perfect?  Nadia herself says she could have been better.  In 1997, the International Gymnastics Federation changed the scoring system so there is no longer a possibility of a “perfect” score.
“Practice makes perfect.”  Most of us have heard that at some point in our lives, usually when we were tired of doing the same thing over and over again. The reality is that no matter how hard we try or how much we practice, there is always room for improvement.
Frank Perretti is one of my favorite authors. In his latest book, Illusion, one of the characters states, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make better.” 
In real life, there is no “perfect”.  There is only better.  The goal is to be a fraction better today that we were yesterday. That’s why world class athletes, musicians, speakers, and technology developers spend thousands of hours achieving private victories before the public results are seen.  And that’s why they continue to practice even after the crowd cheers their accomplishments.
Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
In other words, get your mind and heart focused and put that right thinking into practice over and over again. Our lives matter so much to God that he doesn’t want us to be satisfied with applause.  He wants us to keep moving forward.
Enough reading for now.  Get back to the “gym” and practice.