About Me

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Telling Buy-Buy, "Bye-bye"

I heard on the news about a few days ago that over 100,000 people in Texas have signed a petition to secede from the United States.  I read a column a week ago that said more than 375,000 people from 47 different states have signed petitions of secession.  These figures tell us with certainty that we are a nation divided (as if the previous week’s election were not enough evidence of that).
In the past few weeks, we have also been bombarded with “Black Friday” promotions from what seems like every retailer on Earth (and perhaps a few from other planets).  And for too many of us, our sorrows will be drowned in excessive retail therapy as we are looking to fill the holes in our hearts with “stuff”.
In the middle of all that, a virtually neglected holiday whispers, “Give thanks.” 
Thanksgiving is so hard to commercialize, so we cover it with overindulgence in food and football.  And then, after a nap and a big belch, we are ready for shopping so we can have all the things that will make us happy.
So, we go buy-buy.  And then we have to tell some of our older stuff—the stuff that failed to make our lives complete—to go bye-bye so we have room for this year’s stuff.
In the middle of all that, there is a whisper, “Give thanks.”
In response to all the uncertainties and frustrations of the days in which we live, will we respond with the paralysis of anxiety?  Or with the self-imposed isolation of secession?  Or with the intoxicating rush of buy-buy?
Many of us grew up going to church singing an old hymn, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost; count your many blessings, name them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
Can you hear the whisper, “Give thanks.”?
How might our lives be different if we simply sat down in a comfortable chair in our home and began naming one by one the things for which we are thankful?  Maybe we could begin with the actual things we see in the room and the unseen people and blessings that those visible things represent.  From where I am sitting at this moment, I see a family photo, a handcrafted table made by my father-in-law, a grandfather clock that was a gift to our family from a dear friend, an American flag … I could go on and on.  These all remind me of the blessings of God.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Our lives matter so much to God that He does not want us to settle for the temporary anesthesia of buy-buy.
Listen carefully.  Can you hear it?  “Give thanks.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lessons from an Old Lamp

It has finally happened!  Last Saturday we spent our first night in our new Sweetie Suite.  I wrote the final check to the general contractor on Thursday.  Now, only 238 more payments to the mortgage company and we will be debt free again.
From the groundbreaking the third week of August until completion the second week of November, it has been really cool to come home each day and see what the various contractors have accomplished.  Now they have all gone and I come home each day and see what all I need to get done before I can enjoy my bed.
When it was finally time to start moving in, we decided that the first item to go in should be something significant and meaningful.  After tossing around a few ideas, we decided to go with a lamp; not just any lamp, but an antique 6-way lamp that resided in my grandparents’ living room in Abilene from the time my dad was a boy.  It has been in storage in Dad’s barn since Granny died in 1990.  Earlier this year, we brought it to our house and Mrs. Sweetie went to work polishing, restoring, finding a replacement diffuser, and painting a custom designed lamp shade.
This old lamp is a symbol of what matters most to us. First of all, it represents family and heritage.  I don’t know how old it is, but 80-100 years is not out of the question.  Many of my childhood memories happened in the illumination of that lamp. When I think of Granny and Grandpa Lewis, I think of how blessed I am.  Perhaps one day, we will make memories with our own grandchildren in the light of that same lamp.
This lamp also represents restoration.  If you could see the “before and after” photos, you would be amazed at how much work and love went into restoring this old neglected piece to its original glory.  We want our home to be a place where the restoring power of love is the rule rather than the exception.
This lamp represents light.  When we carried it into our empty room, we brought the Bible that belonged to my precious mother-in-law and I read from Matthew 5:14-16:
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Then we prayed that every person who comes into our home would experience the light of Jesus Christ and that we would live always for His glory.  That old lamp reminds us again that our lives matter to God.
Now, if I could just figure out where to put the rest of this furniture ...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Over! Now What?

It’s Sunday evening as I compose this.  It seems like something important is supposed to happen in a couple of days.  Oh, now I remember.  We are electing a president. 
I can’t wait for Wednesday!  Certainly the outcome of the elections will be important.  But I think I may be most excited about television with no campaign ads.  Have you seen the viral video with the little girl crying because she is tired of Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney?  I’m with her.  By the time you are reading this in the newspaper or online, the decision will have been made unless we have a repeat of 2000.  Boy, I’ll bet anyone named Chad is really hoping to avoid those hanging jokes.
So how much will our lives change now that we know who will be our president for the next four years?  I suspect life will change much less than we imagine.  While there are vast differences between the candidates, neither brings to the Oval Office a magic wand that will solve unemployment, health care, the national debt, or what’s wrong with the Dallas Cowboys.  Certainly many of us are praying for a renewal of the Judeo-Christian values on which our country was founded, but real change requires more than election cycle promises.  It is easy to change personnel, but unless the system changes, the best personnel can hope for is to have a measure of influence.
So, here’s a deeper question for those of us who are Christ-followers.  If our lives really do matter to God, what do we do now that the presidential election is over? 
 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'   This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'   All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40) 
No election loopholes here. 
Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  (Matthew 28:18-20) 
Not here either. 
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2) 
Seeing a pattern yet? 
Neither a change in personnel nor a change in system changes our mission.  So let’s pray for our president and our nation and get back to the business of living lives that make God proud.  
His office is, after all, permanently and eternally filled.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

An Ordinary, Imperfect Example

If God had a wife, it would be my Grandmother.  At least that’s what I thought when I was a kid.  She probably did more ministry than any preacher in the little community of Grandfalls, TX.  Her skills as a Registered Nurse were pretty valuable in that west Texas community.  She visited the sick and also visited on behalf of the little Baptist church there.  Rumor has it that folks were afraid to miss church on Sunday because Mrs. Pollard would be at their house on Monday to check on them.
She was a saint in the Biblical sense of the word.  What that means is that she was a follower of Christ and understood that God had selected her for a purpose.  That’s what the word means: “One who has been set apart for God’s purpose.”  And just like those other Biblical saints, she wasn’t perfect.
When my mom was in college, she went through a rough patch.  Grandmother was worried about her and went out to where Granddaddy was working out in the west Texas oilfields.  As Granddaddy told it, she expressed her concern to him and he had an answer for her.  “The only thing wrong with that girl is that she inherited your temper and my temper and the combination of those two is pure hell.” (His words, not mine).  According to his recollection, Grandmother stuck out her chin and said, “I’ll have you know I don’t have a temper!” And then she stomped over to her car, got in and slammed the door, and sped off throwing gravel all the way down that oil patch road.
Grandmother has been gone for 36 years and Granddaddy has been gone for 12, but that is one of the many stories that get repeated, and laughed about, when Mom and I start reminiscing, as we did last weekend. I think I enjoy hearing about the funny predicaments and foibles of my ancestors more than I enjoy hearing about their successes; partly because they are funny and partly because it reminds me that God shows up in ordinary, imperfect people who follow Him.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  As one who wrote more than two-thirds of the New Testament and who evangelized most of his known world, he might have been tempted to just say, “Follow my example.”  But his focus was pointing people to Christ.
Grandmother pointed me to Jesus.  An occasional temper flare up can never negate that.  I hope that when my future grandchildren remember the quirks of their ordinary and imperfect grandfather, they remember someone who loved them, pointed them to Jesus, and helped them understand how much their lives matter to God.
I once commented that my kids got their temper from their mother.  She said that must be true because I still have mine.  Oops!
I guess if it works that way, they must have gotten their good looks from me.  After all, she still has hers.

Absolute Certainty

I missed church a couple of Sundays ago.  It happens occasionally due to travel, but this was a miss due to illness.  I think it was only the second one of those missed Sundays in the past 25 years of ministry.  Because I was scheduled to pinch hit for a vacationing pastor, I had to find a pinch hitter for the pinch hitter.  During my couple of hours of text messaging for that purpose, one of my preacher friends gave me a new term for the ailment that I was experiencing: “intestinal uncertainty”. 
Now you know why I was afraid to leave the house.
If you have been reading my blog for more than a week or two, you know that my mind sometimes goes in unexpected directions.  I started thinking about other “uncertainties” that might make you want to just stay home in bed.
First, there is “educational uncertainty”.  This happens when you choose to hang out with friends instead of studying on the night before mid-terms.
Then there is “vocational uncertainty”. This happens when you have a difference of opinion with your employer.  And you realize that only one of those opinions matters.
There might be “relational uncertainty”.  This happens when you suspect that your in-laws might be coming for an extended visit.
That could result in “matrimonial uncertainty”. This could happen when you make too many in-law jokes.
Finally, and mercifully, there is “compositional uncertainty”.  This happens when you think you may have exhausted the patience of your readers.
Life is full of uncertainties.  Sometimes we are keenly aware of them. I have had conversations recently with people who are not making any significant decisions until after the presidential election.  They are almost paralyzed with uncertainty over the future.  For those who suffer uncertainty paralysis, I am reminded of a passage of Scripture that I have often used as an anchor.  Psalm 20:7-8 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.”
The upcoming election is important and there will certainly be consequences that accompany either candidate’s election.  But neither of these candidates holds the world together.  God does that.
There are also uncertainties that are not so obvious.  James 4:13-15 says, “Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"
There is nothing wrong with making plans.  But what do you do when the life you planned doesn’t happen?  The answer is the same.  Trust God.  Your life matters to Him.
You can be certain about that.