September 28, 2009

Lettuce Spray

The second pastor I worked for was a jokester. At a banquet he was introduced to say the prayer before the meal. As he stood he produced a head of lettuce and spray bottle and he held it up. The looks of befuddlement that appeared were answered with his announcement\invitation, "Lettuce Spray" and with that he bowed his head began to pray.

Lots of folks treat prayer like lettuce obligatory religious exercise that is more for the good of the person praying than for the impact on the situation prayed about.

But if you are serious about God's Word, there is no denying that the first and most powerful place to address any circumstance is by saying, "Let Us Pray!"

"Let us pray" is the invitation for you and someone else to join your faith before the throne of the living God of the universe, the real one, the listening one, the loving one, the mighty one. Together, whether with two or two thousand, you lift up your faith to the Father and "make your requests known to God with thanksgiving" (Phil 4:6)expecting in faith for your prayer to actually impact the situation you are praying about.

Praying alone is powerful also but there is no doubt that the text and the example of scripture is that US is stronger than ME. (Matthew 18:19,20)

What a powerful privilege this phrase, "Let us Pray"...much more effective than LETTUCE SPRAY.

September 25, 2009

Fios Minus TV

They thought I was crazy.
"You want FIOS, you want internet and phone but NO TV? Do you understand TV is included? Everybody loves TV!"

When I told him we had been TV free all of our married lives and for now our intention was to stay that way...he fell over the rest of the way.

I have to say I was tempted this time. "Tempted" is not the right word because I am convinced it would NOT be a sin for me to have a TV. I have a TV in our vacation home. I never have one second of critical thoughts about those who do have TVs.

But I was "tempted" in the sense I thought it might be nice to have a new friend in the house. This friend could be there to "veg" with me when I was tired, "inform" me when I was feeling out of touch, "educate" me with the history channel, "entertain" me when I was bored, "school" me so I would know what was cool and how to pronounce "Pelosi". I could really use a friend like that.

But then I hesitated. "Would my new friend be true to me?"
OR Would they end up robbing me blind, like a repairman who seems to be a help and ends up scooting out with your diamond necklace?

What if they stole my time?
What if they mesmerized me into inactivity and love affair with the recliner?
What if they lied to me and convinced me of what I knew wasn't true?
What if they attacked my family and tied up my time, my heart, and isolated me?
What if they said no more scrabble or dominoes with the kids?
What if they rolled seductive pictures in front of me and made me covet a woman other than my wife?
What if they convinced me that I needed a newer car, a better computer, a bigger TV? What if they made me miss an unrepeatable sunset or a moonlight walk with my sweetheart?
What if they talked and talked and talked and talked and never listened, filling my home with meaningless words and silencing Bach or Jazz or conversations or the beauty of silence?
What if a great idea for a sermon or book or ministry was lost because I was empty mindedly watching someone else's bright idea?

TV, even on a big flat screen, even on FIOS ended up sounding more like an enemy than a friend. With those kind of friends, who needs enemies?

To a few of you I would say...
"Get out of jail, Kill your TV!"

September 24, 2009

Trash Can Habits

Change for humans is initially hard.

Habits are semi-automatic behaviors which we default to unless a strong compelling motivation and rigorous self-discipline consciously break the ingrained pattern.

Habits can be the path to abundant living or the quickest way to no where.

We love ruts. Someone has said, "A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out." But ruts can actually be a path to efficiency. Wagon trains moved much faster because of ruts. BUT if the rut is going the wrong way, you are in a bad way. If your rut is even slightly misdirected, if you don't get out of it, it will trap you in the wrong place.

A few ruts are fine. If you are a stagecoach, ruts are fine. But ruts can be traps that keep you from exploring the wonders of the country around you. If you are a four wheel drive, you don't want a rut, you want the open country.

My wife moved the trash can in our bedroom. Since we first moved in, the trash can has always been in the same place. But now it's not. Several times now I have tossed my trash in the wrong place because it's the usual place.

At first I was ticked at my could she move the trash can and mess up my life? But then I realized...the new spot is actually a much better place for the trash can than they old spot. The problem is with me not the trash can placement. I have to get out of my rut, break a habit...and make a new one. But it's better than the old rut\habit.

A simple trash can move has launched me on a new adventure of challenging every rut and habit in my it building me up or tearing me down? Is it efficient or limiting?

I think this old dog needs to learn a few new tricks.

September 20, 2009

Bob and Grace

Bob is my friend. Without a miracle, Bob may die soon. Bob has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the doctors say there is nothing more they can do for him.

I think of Bob about once an hour during the day. I wake up and pray for Bob during the night. My wife is fasting and praying for Bob.

If anyone deserves to live and beat cancer, it's Bob. He is a servant, a man who lays his life down to bless others.

But life doesn't work on a "what you deserve" basis. None of us deserve a miracle. Every miracle, like every breath, is simply a gift of God, an expression of His grace. Sometimes God heals us here, and sometimes He has a higher plan.

God is teaching me about to pray in faith but then to receive by grace. If God answers my prayer in the direction I was pleading...then that is grace. If He doesn't seem to respond, there is a different grace He is seeking to manifest. The question is, "Am I open to receiving it".

Paul said, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." He was saying, I will receive grace if I live and I will receive a different grace if I die.

The just shall live by faith, and those that live by faith receive great grace.

God, multiply grace on my friend Bob. I am believing for the first grace!

September 19, 2009

Where's my Empty Nest?

I always wanted a family of five. Instead I had one daughter who loved her mom and I very much...but who couldn't wait to move out of the house. Upon high school graduation she was gone.

Her vibrant laughter and innumerable friends no longer reverberated off the walls of our small home. Of course she did show up now and then, sometimes with as many as 45 friends to spend the night (true story).

But for the most part the house was quiet and the nest was blissfully and mournfully empty. Deb and I love each other deeply and were enjoying the time. We began shopping at Trader Joes instead of Costco.

But then something happened. Our daughter graduated from university, moved back home, found a boyfriend whose mom lived in Alaska, and we adopted an 18 year old who had lost her parents.

Suddenly we had our family of five, the home was rocking louder than ever and our food bill had quadrupled. We were shopping at Costco again and the thoughts of an empty nest were faint memories.

But I am not grieving the empty nest, it's not gone forever. It will too quickly return.

For now I am reveling in the laughter, the music, the meals, the movie nights, the family games, the bike\skateboard trips with five of us in a pack, the prayer around the dinner table, and silly celebrations.

The nest is full and so is my heart. God is good...whether the nest is empty or crowded. After all, His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.

September 16, 2009

I Left My Heart in the Jungle

It is a dangerous thing to love deeply as it positions you for much pain...but there is no other way to live greatly. I choose danger, pain and the adventure of love.

My recent trip to the depths of the jungles of Kalimantan (Borneo) was an adventure to be certain. To minister among the former headhunters of Borneo, the Dayak Tribe was an honor.

What I discovered deep in the jungle was the commonness of human heart...not common as it plain or invaluable...but common as in shared and unified. The needs, the joys, the fears, the sin, the potentials, are common to me.

My wealthy, S. California, beach lifestyle and the impoverished, jungle reality of my friends does not create an uncrossable divide of difference. On the contrary. The sharp distinctions in our realities of living underlines the commonness of our hearts.

I rode on the back of a motorscooter with a 50lb suitcase on front and my 220 pounds on the back and a small Dayak pastor piloting in the middle. Amazing.

I submerged myself in the quick flowing river as the only air conditioning available for miles.

I hugged orphans, prayed for needs, sweated through translated sermons, awoke to the sounds of children worshiping at 5am, strategized about future ministry, hiked jungle paths that were like tunnels of green, prayed over property claiming it for the kingdom, ate strange but delectable foods, sang and danced with children, and most of all dispensed and absorbed as much LOVE as possible.

There was one leader who was key to our trip...during the time we grew close. He confessed to me something I am not sure that he has told any one before. His father had never hugged him or blessed him. When I was preparing to leave, I did both in the biggest ways possible...and meant it deeply.

Then I left the jungle....and a part of my heart. But the expansion of the human heart only comes by stretching it through vulnerability. The loss was offset by the gain.