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

Monday, May 26, 2014

Oh, Grow Up, Ya Big Baby!

(photo credit: multiplemayhemmamma.com)

Grow up!  I’ve both spoken those words and had them spoken to me. Sometimes (rarely, I’m sure), it is because I might have been behaving in a slightly juvenile manner.  One of my friends used to say, “Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.” 

I’m pretty sure that, “Grow up!” whether aimed at me or from me, says more about the speaker than it does about the target.  It likely means that the speaker is irritated, inconvenienced, or maybe embarrassed by the actions of another. And it rarely results in growth. 

Try these out sometime: (1) Tell your grass to grow and see how it responds. (2) Tell a puppy to grow up and stop chewing your shoes and tinkling on the floor. (3) Tell a baby to grow up and stop crying. (4) Tell a middle aged preacher/writer to grow up and stop using the word “tinkling” in public.

I had an “Aha” moment during my devotional reading this morning. Along with my Bible, I also read through a devotional book each year.  This year, it is the classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.  Here is a quote from this morning’s reading:

“So often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our own conscious efforts to be consistent and useful.  Jesus said there is only one way to develop and grow spiritually, and that is through focusing and concentrating on God.  In essence, Jesus was saying, ‘Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.’ In other words, pay attention to the Source, and out of you ‘will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38). We cannot discover the source of our natural life through common sense and reasoning, and Jesus is teaching here that growth in our spiritual life comes not from focusing directly on it, but from concentrating on our Father in heaven.”

I can’t tell you how many times, as a pastor and church consultant, I have wanted to tell people to grow up and stop being spiritual babies.  I’ve preached those sermons and heard those sermons preached.  But here’s the problem.  People don’t grow physically, emotionally, or spiritually because someone told them to try harder to grow.  Healthy people with healthy habits will grow in all those ways, not because they are focusing on growth, but because they are focusing on a lifestyle that will result in growth. 

Spiritually, that means focusing on obeying God and following Jesus … Reading the Bible and praying, not to grow, but to converse with God … Going to church, not to grow, but to worship God together with His people … Getting involved in various ministries, not to grow, but because we love Him and want others to know Him.

Our lives matter so much to God that He never tells us to “Grow up!”  He just shows up and shows us how.

Look up, child!  

Question: What is hindering your growth?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Let's make our own conspiracy

(photo credit: diabetesmine.com)

I was driving through a small town in the Texas panhandle a few days ago. It was already past my bedtime, which means it was dark.  (I get up early, so I go to bed early. Some have suggested that age has something to do with that. I suggest that they mind their own bedtimes). Now, back to my story.

So, driving through this town, I saw one of those scrolling LED signs outside a business establishment.  The date was May 13.  Here’s what the sign said: “Happy Holidays!

My first thought was, “Wow!  They really need to update their sign.”  My second thought was, “OMGoodness!  The same Secularists who have stolen Christmas are now out to get Mother’s Day!  First, they won’t let us mention Jesus!  Now, they are taking away Mama!  What’s next?  Let me remind you that, after bedtime, my SQ (sarcasm quotient) really ratchets up. Let me also remind you that this is not necessarily good news.

For anyone who doesn't know, I should tell you that I am not offended by “Happy Holidays.”  I wrote a couple of Life Matters columns back in December, 2011, where I addressed that. (Happy Holidays, Dec 5, 2011 & The Truth About Happy Holidays, Dec 12, 2011)  So, I’m thinking, just like the “Holiday Season” starts with Thanksgiving in November and runs through New Year’s in January, maybe this business was celebrating the season between Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day?

Some wag once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not all really out to get you.”  I guess that could be adapted to say, “Just because you’re a conspiracy theorist doesn’t mean they’re not really conspiring.” Maybe there really is a conspiracy to steal Christmas.  There is certainly an undeniable dismissiveness (at best) or loathing (at worst) for evangelical Christianity in many of the upper echelons of government and academia. We are certainly made to look like total dolts and/or hypocrites in most Hollywood productions.

I’m still not much of a conspiracy theorist.  My third thought, on seeing the “Happy Holidays” sign on May 13 was, “Maybe they just put that up to draw some attention.”  Maybe some of the people who are angry at or dismissive of Christianity just really want some attention.

So, let’s start our own conspiracy.  Let’s take seriously the words of Jesus: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)

What if we conspired together to give attention to enemies like Jesus gave attention to His?  What if we conspired together to give skeptics and critics a reason to believe that our lives, and theirs, matter to God? What if we conspired together to give people the impression that their ideas matter as much to us as we would like for our ideas to matter to them?  Maybe our holidays would be a little happier and maybe we would have more impact on our culture.

Just a theory.

Question: How would joining this conspiracy affect your life?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.

Monday, May 12, 2014

I'm just sayin'

(photo credit: twitter)

“Christians should not be whiners or jerks. No, I am not referencing anyone in particular. Yes, you can quote me.  That was my Facebook post Friday morning.  I said it in a conversation earlier in the day and it seemed worth sharing.  (Writer’s occupational hazard).

Some of you know that Life Matters appears in both blog and newspaper column format.  Some may not know that I write another blog almost every day. Dr. G’s Morning Cup of Encouragement is posted every day except Friday (pretty much).  You can find it at www.drgencouragement.blogspot.com . I’d love to have you join my community there.

When I wrote that blog this morning, I thought it might be worth sharing with my Life Matters readers.  So, here it is.

"But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, 'Do not answer him.'" (Isaiah 36:21)

There is a long back-story to this verse that is beyond the scope of this post. (It may, however result in a good sermon sometime). For our purposes today, let me just say that sometime around 700 BC the Field Commander of the Assyrian army was publicly taunting the representatives of the king of Israel. He basically told them that their God could not save them from the might of the Assyrian army. Instead of getting into a shouting match, or a negotiation, they listened and said nothing (following orders given by their king).

A few days ago, I heard some good advice to leaders: "Sit down, shut up, and listen." In our increasingly strident and argumentative culture, there seems to be a belief that arguments are won by volume and/or violence. We feel that we must shout louder or hit harder. And if we don't hit harder physically, then we must hit harder with our words. After all we have to stand up for what we believe!

The responses that we often give may actually call some of our beliefs into question. I am wondering today how some situations might be different if we were to pause and pray before we speak in these situations ... If we were to ask God what we should say ... If we were to ask God IF WE SHOULD SPEAK AT ALL.

What if "just sayin'" were preceded by "just prayin'"?

Question: What are some strategies you might employ to be sure that your words are guided by God?

I think that’s a pretty good question.

I heard another good quote this week:  “Choose being Godly over being great.”  There may not be a better example of that than the words we choose. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks … But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:34; 36)

Our lives matter so much to God that He cares about what and how we speak. I’m just sayin’.

Monday, May 5, 2014

How to never have another bad day

(photo credit: entrepreneur.com)

When my kids were little, we often read to them the classic children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

We've all had those days, right?  The day starts off with a malfunctioning alarm clock or a headache or an early morning phone call or text message.  It gets us off on the wrong foot. As Mrs. Sweetie says, “Some days I wake up grumpy. Other days I let him sleep.”

And the day continues: late for work … intolerant boss … insubordinate employees … unreasonable customers … unreliable vendors … indigestion after lunch … spilled coffee … speeding ticket on the way home … you get the point.

And then there are those days that put the previously mentioned events in perspective:  a bad medical report … death of a loved one … divorce papers … civil litigation … really bad days.

What if there were a way to never have another bad day?  Well, sign me up!

Actually, I’m already signed up.  If you were to ask me when was the last bad day I had, I couldn't identify one. If you don’t know me, you might think I’m either exaggerating, flat out lying, or that my life has been amazingly trouble free.  Not so.  I have experienced every one of those things I mentioned, with the exception of civil litigation (and the divorce papers were my parents’, not mine).  If you've read my columns over the past few weeks, you know that I have suffered deep loss and grief recently.  And yet, I can’t think of a bad day.  How can that be?

The secret is perspective.  My perspective is that life is not made up of days, but of moments.  Even in the darkest days (and I have had some stretches that were so dark that medication was necessary), there are still moments where I can see God’s grace.  On the worst of days, there are God-moments: a note, phone call or email of encouragement … an unexpected hug … encouraging words from the pages of Scripture … words of affection, appreciation, or affirmation … and sometimes nothing more than remembering some of God’s promises to those who belong to Him.

Joshua 1:5 - I will never leave you nor forsake you ... Matthew 28:20 - I am with you always, to the very end of the age … Philippians 4:7 - The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus … Jeremiah 29:11 - I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future … 1 Peter 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Our lives, and our days, matter so much to God that He invades our moments with reminders of His goodness.

Goodbye, bad days.  Hello, God-moments.

Question:  How can you begin to shift your focus from days to moments?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear your perspective.