Sunday, January 27, 2008

super bowl edition

As sermons go, today’s was among the more stirring I have heard in a very long time. Occasionally the pastor at the church I attend finds a way to mix things up within me and force me to ask hard questions of myself. Today was one of those times, and hard questions were asked.

I have posed it before in this very place about who we are and what we are called to be, but to think about it the way I heard it today was compelling. In regards to missions, we here in America have a bad habit of referring to them as something that happens an ocean away, by people who have some special gift and calling by God that we don’t have. Of course if you have read anything by the apostle Paul you know that that is simply not true and we are called to so much more including being a missional people of a missional church.

Given this calling, our mission fields are not as complex as we make them. As the pastor said today, it might be the person who takes our order at lunch or the guy who pumps our gas, or a co-worker. It might be a neighbor or someone we regard as an enemy. No matter who it is in our lives that needs to hear the good news, it is each and every one of us that is called to spread it. Our mission field is as simple as the people you and I come into contact with every single day in our ordinary every day lives.

What really got me though was when the pastor made an analogy about missions and our typical response to them. When we want something done here in this country we just pay someone else to do it. For instance we pay to have the oil changed in our cars, most of us do anyway, including yours truly. Not unlike having our oil changed, we pay for missions to be done. That one kind of stung. I can remember the guy sitting behind me saying very clearly and audibly “ouch”.

We are so passive at times, we sit on the sidelines content to let someone else make all the plays. I have to say that in my past I was content to just be on the sideline. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I began to ask God to put me in. It was hard at first because I knew what would happen. God was going to ask me to make a play and contribute. I was going to be a part of the team because I had asked to be. It seems odd that we would ask and then still be nervous about contributing, but it happens that way.

So when you get up the courage to ask God to be used mightily by Him for His kingdom and His glory, you had better be prepared, because I guarantee you will be asked to contribute to the team. When that happens you will experience some amazing things, there will be people who will enter your life for the purpose of sharing. The sharing that takes place will be some small or even large piece of what God means to you and how important it is to have Jesus in your life.

It is at this point that you are beginning to fulfill your mission here in this place, wherever you are. God has called you to minister to the lost, wherever you are, not just pay some “chosen one with a gift for missions” to do it for you.

I am realizing just how much this means to me as I further my walk with Him who calls me. I used to think it was so far beyond my capacities to talk to other people about the good news of Jesus. Now I see just how far I have come when I make phone calls completely unprompted to check on someone that is just making baby steps back to God and wanting nothing more than to shake their hands on Sunday when I see them at church. Or it’s the young woman at the coffee stand who I know is searching for a new church but she works Sunday mornings. So I like to stop by just to reassure her and say hi and let her know that when her schedule changes there are places she can go and be welcomed like family.

The more I learn and know about this good news, the harder it gets to keep quiet about it. I have some very serious internal struggles to deal with and God is helping me with that, but His message is clear. We CANNOT sit idly by while so many are in need. It is as simple as telling your neighbor that he can go to hell when you don’t make the effort to tell him about what you know. What are you so afraid of? Jesus said, “blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”.

We all have the gift of missions, trust me. How each one of us applies that gift may be different, but it’s there. Those that are more extroverted are more likely to tell anyone at any time, while those that are more introverted will do best in small groups and when they feel confident in their surroundings. Reaching out is the first step, don’t let anything stop you. Go at this knowing that you have the power and protection of God almighty.

If you have asked God to get in the game, it’s only a matter of time before you will be asked to carry the ball. When you do, the Holy Spirit will be there to direct you through the chaos of those first steps. Don’t worry about dropping the ball or even getting that far. Your mission is simply to carry it so someone else can see you doing so. And in that moment you will be inspiring someone else to ask God to get off the sideline and get into the game.

my life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.


Monday, January 21, 2008


We all experience it right? I mean, everyone ages so there’s no getting away from it, but I really feel there are certain periods of your life where you don’t feel like you have aged at all. For instance, there is a large chunk of my twenties that all felt the same. I could repeat that statement about my thirties as well.

Lately however I am feeling very much like an old man. There are sure to be those older than I that would scoff at such a statement, but being in my late thirties does not qualify me for a lifetime IHOP membership, I’m not ready yet!! In the last few months I feel more like late eighties than late thirties and am getting all these weird pains.

I know, woe is me and alas and all that, there are so many out there so less fortunate than I so how could I complain, but really, my body was not meant to swear off beer, pizza and coffee for two weeks and then slowly ease back into each after that. These are serious withdrawals people, I have to take medicine to boot!!!

I must sound like such a whiner, but a few of these pains are more than just growing old. Someone I don’t know has been following me around stabbing me in the back with a really large and very sharp knife. That is just one of the hurts lately that has me feeling like my 95 year old grandfather.

I think I have reached a magic age where a select number of parts begin failing, kind of like your VCR the day after the warranty expires, or parts on your car when you’re halfway into a cross country road trip. But unlike the car, if something stops working I can’t run down to the salvage yard and pick out another one. If something falls off, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, or my body, whichever.

So in the midst of my trials currently, I have had to give up a couple of my staple comfort food groups, namely coffee and pizza. In fact anything that may be on the heavy acid side is out for now. So pardon me if I come off a little cranky when you see me, the lack of French roast and pepperoni in my diet has me seeing a Tums bottle, which is not a pretty sight.

Fortunately I have humor, and a few good spirited friends to remind me what I’m missing on a regular basis :-( With friends like mine, who needs an acid reflux medicine? Meanwhile, I am now relegated to using one of those weekly pill boxes with the first letter of each day on it…I’m not really but how close am I really?

The next thing you know my left foot is going to fall off and the doc is going to prescribe me something that only has twenty three side effects, one of which is feeling my age. I gotta tell ya, I am gonna be one grumpy old man!!


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

the bus

Today I listened to a former alcoholic tell of times he would rather forget. He mentioned how he was looking forward to pursuing a position as a counselor for those that are where he was.

While that was encouraging, what caught my attention the most was how he would recall something that he had done while inebriated and remember causing someone or possibly himself pain.

I noted in his voice that instances like these were recurring and they bothered him greatly. He felt remorse but knew there was little he could about what had already happened. Instead, he seemed to find new focus in the thought of helping other people, especially teenagers, deal with alcohol and find treatment.

I didn’t say anything to him at the time and instead absorbed the content. After some time it hit me how amazing it is that while we are beat down by certain circumstances in this life, some people take these situations and turn them into opportunities to help others avoid the same problems.

The wonderment for me comes with the acknowledgement of just how selfish we can be. Traveling along at the speed of extremely busy, it’s easy to miss a lot. In fact it’s easy to miss anything that’s not attached to us.

We are each on a proverbial bus that’s moving at some insane speed. There are several seats on the bus and we choose to fill those seats with a few people who see our life as we live it at the speed with which we are going. Sometimes new people get on and sometimes people get off and never come back. I think it’s fair to say that there are rarely ever more than ten people on your bus. You just don’t have that kind of time for more than that many relationships while traveling at such a high rate of speed.

Once you figure out who’s driving and you can get them to slow down a bit, you can begin to add more passengers. But to actually stop once in a while and take on a temporary rider for no other reason than to just give a brother or sister a quick lift? That’s what we are talking about here. Taking the time to let someone into your life just long enough to help them got to where they are going.

my life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.


Friday, January 11, 2008

back at it

This time of year is hard for me. I grew up in the pacific northwest and am quite used to the rain, but now that I live here in Central Oregon I guess I was expecting something a little different. It’s not to say that the weather over here is bad but lately all the clouds and rain and so forth have been a real downer.

With that said I will say that I am actually kind of missing Christmas already. This was probably the first year in about 20 years that I can actually recall being excited for the holidays and then really enjoying them when they got here. I know part of it is having kids now but I will also admit that nothing seems right anymore about what I remember. It is sad to think of how it has all come to be. There used to be a time when we were so close, now we rarely talk and when we do it’s more like water cooler topics at best.

Maybe this is best. I’ll let it be and see what happens. For those that are unaware, I am talking about my family. A lot has transpired in the past 18 or so months that has literally shaken us to the core. And it hasn’t been just one major thing either, instead there have been several and it has been hard to take to some degree. Part of it for me is the distance. I used to be so close when my sister needed help. I could just run over whenever and now that is not possible. There was a time about a year ago or so that she broke down on the phone when she pointed out the fact that I could not just drop everything and be there like the old days.

So when this time of year creeps up, it’s hard not to remember all the really great times we have had as a family. Christmas was always really special and we all looked forward to it even during those testy teen years. I know there is no going back and maybe that’s the hardest part to take. I know we can never have that again with my family and so I insert myself into my in-laws family as a way to compensate.

I will admit again that this year was really great and it helps to think of how my in-laws have accepted me in their lives at this time of year. I suppose it should seem natural for them to do so but I have heard stories to the contrary so I know I am very lucky.

As I move into this new year I am inspired to say a few well meaning things to those few who read this. Most of this will seem quite trite and maybe a bit overdone, as some wishes and resolutions can be. But all in all I want to convey a message that hits home with you. I want to leave an impression.

First, thank God for how great He is. I am remembering to thank Him daily and it has made a real difference in my life. It never ceases to amaze me just how blessed I am and I can’t imagine my life without Him in it.

Next, take the time to call or visit family members, no matter how hard it is. I can’t fix what’s broken nor should I attempt to, but I can maintain a connection. I can also pray, because while I am incapable of making the repairs, I know there is nothing beyond the scope of God.

I don’t know your situation but I do know that we all face challenges when it comes to our families. Some are increasingly daunting and for that all we can do is take our hands off the wheel and pray. Sometimes there is no other course.

Face this new year with a desire to see the ones closest to you in your life through an eternal perspective. You might be secure in where you’re going but I know in my family there is some real question as to where the rest of them are headed.

Greet each day as a gift. Drive slower. Use your signals. Let people in when they’re trying to get out into traffic. Say thank you and please. Listen more, talk less. Donate to the needy when you can. Be a good neighbor. Have friends over more often for dinner. Laugh out loud as often as possible. Love someone that you think doesn’t deserve it.

my life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.