Monday, June 15, 2009
For most of us, life is a beautiful journey that goes largely unnoticed. This is about how I missed beauty because of a small sample of brokenness common to our planet. Somehow, we westerners tend to just miss it when beauty and blessing are right before us. See if you can find yourself in the story:
For my wife, spring and summer are all about her flower garden. For me, gardening is all about my wife. So a few weeks back, when she asked me to help her weed her garden, I basically said, "No thank you, that would be your hobby, not mine." My motorcycle needed cleaning! So, anyway ... I went out immediately and began to clear this stuff called Morning Glory from a smallish square of earth. (What does that tell you about family order?!) When we finished literally digging the whole section down about a foot, we planted several other non-weed like plants and it really did look nice. But know this: the person that gave that creeping nasty weed the name “Morning Glory,” must have been the same guy that named Greenland and Iceland! No one wanted to go to Iceland because it sounded like a frozen wasteland, so the other sailors went to Greenland and left beautiful Iceland to the smart Norsemen! Morning Glory is a hideously deceptive name that makes us think beauty when really it’s an unholy trick!
Some smart person named that weed “Morning Glory” so that it would give him an advantage over the other farmers on the block. The others would hear its beautiful name, admire its little blossoms, and let it grow. All the while those dirty “namers” planted their veggies and got to market before the rest of ‘em! There is nothing glorious about Morning Glory! This is not a flower at all! It’s an insidious vine with a take-over plan! Trying to kill that weed proves that toil and the sweat of your brow deal! Speaking of gardens, I remember a famous one where all this trouble originated. This weed is straight from Hell! The Devil disguises himself like and angel and this weed like a flower. Dig all the way to the root and you haven’t got the root. When it’s pulled out or cut off it still flourishes. It actually seems to like being attacked and grows back faster. Chasing it down into the earth several feet you think it’s finally eradicated, but NO! When one finds those little white root feelers they snap off easily and produce a hundred more! The very next day it’s sprung new shoots and is taking over again. That nasty thing is freaky creepy!
Wednesday morning my wife didn’t have to work so I let her sleep in a bit, took the girls to school and returned to make a cup of coffee. I got back to a quiet house, took my coffee and sat out in the garden on our little bench. I tried to quiet myself, breath and still my stress for a moment before I left of for the office. There I was, sitting in a former battle ground, feeling some level of satisfaction and enjoying the real beauty. So this is what gardening is about, says I? It was all lush green with splashes of color everywhere! Roses were exploding with of blooms. There were those yellow deals, some pink and red flowery things with tight blossoms, that creeping green carpet like ground cover, some of that spiky grass that grows at Ocean Shores, and three squatty green bushes with purple spikes beginning to poke out, (I told you gardening wasn’t my hobby!). I could actually see the fish pond and the hundreds of blue berry blossoms. The corn is way past “knee-high-by-the-4th-of-July,” And the grape vines actually looked like they could produce one day soon. I’m thinking, This is sweet. I like it. Let’s do this again!
It was really restful. This is very cool. Thank you God, I said out loud. And then I spotted it. I looked down and there it was, creeping out from under the stepping stones two feet away. Just as I felt my pulse slowing and my blood actually beginning to cool in my veins, there were those damnable little creeping Morning Glory monsters growing again right from where we’d dug down several hundred feet to strangle them one week before! Now I’m not just saying this for blog-effect, I honestly became physically irritated and then saddened. I lost the benefit of beauty. I quickly forgot the glimpse of glory that slowed my blood pressure and momentarily rested my busy brain.
It wasn’t but thirty seconds between rest and restlessness! A sigh escaped and I hung my head staring into my tepid coffee. Why is it so branded into our human psyche to just miss it? Then, I remembered that other Garden long ago and wondered Why God? The blessing was right before them and they focused on the one thing they were told to avoid. Those earliest ancestors were placed in the most beautiful garden imaginable. And with NO WEEDS! But they still missed it. How God must have sighed a huge holy sigh when they did what He knew they would do. They just missed it. They traded the beauty before them, for the death that would follow them all the way to us. After that eternal tragedy, they spent the rest of their long lives fighting weeds and missing the enjoyment of the life of God left around them. Now it’s my tendency to spend my time sitting in my lovely little garden, with my coffee, healthy kids, my bills paid, a great job, a rock-star wife, and a little congregation of the sweetest, sincerely authentic people I’ve ever been within, and I’m pissed at weeds ... I just missed it.
Damn weeds! Everyone a distractions to beauty! Isn’t this our human condition? We tend always to miss blessing and beauty because of a few pesky, even monstrous but momentary, little weed-like issues that creep in under the stepping stones along our path. It’s easy to miss the privilege of walking until we see the lady in a wheel chair rolling through the cross walk to get across before the light changes. Why is it so easy to cuss about our kids for their immaturity and childishness, rather than see the intricate design of God woven into each? It’s too easy to hate our boss rather than be thankful for a job. We naturally moan about being busy until we find someone that's truly lonely. It’s too easy to criticize the Barista and lose the enjoyment of that fresh hot cup of Verona. It's easier to grouse about having to pull weeds than to focus on the beauty of the garden around us, isn’t it?
Just like killing weeds blinds us from the beauty of our gardens, life’s little troubles tend to take our attention captive. We still miss the beauty of the garden. But the solution is simpler than we think. Give thanks often. Sit in your little garden, whatever it may be, and breathe. And rest. Enjoy a kiss, or the touch of someone who loves you no matter what. Take a nap in the sun. Notice the color of your daughter’s eyes! Hug your sons! Don’t just think stuff, do stuff! Open your eyes; leave the thoughts about weeds behind - unimportant compared to the beauty of rest and the prize of a moment of peace – and live longer.
Monday, May 18, 2009
As the one who sort of invented (or stole from an obscure source) the phrase ‘lifebites’ one might think I’ve learned how to deal with those biting circumstances? Nope, reality bites! I’m still learning and none too patient at it! Over time all of us are forced to face adversity, but adversity can’t force us to learn. It does, however, force us to choose.
We are facing war, a world in turmoil, transition in governments and financial markets, family issues and the lonely, personal struggles that these pressures exacerbate in all of us. The ripple affect of our crumbling economy has touched all of us in some way. Two members of my own family are out of work. Three close friends have either lost their jobs or had their hours cut in half. Being in the Church world, I hear of the struggles many congregations are facing all over the state. Budgets slashed and staff sizes greatly reduced. Those who are left are now being asked to do more for the same pay or less. That’s just in my world. Last week, Chrysler notified 789 dealers that they would not have their dealer agreements renewed. General Motors proposes to close about 1100 of their dealers this week!
I know you could share similar stories. What to do? How are we to face these realities, and more to the point, what does adversity teach us? Actually, better put, what does adversity force upon us? What I have discovered is of course not a discovery at all. In adversity, we learn old lessons for new times.
1. Adversity forces us to focus. Instead of concentrating on all kinds of non-essentials and ancillary issues, adversity tends to draw my focus to necessities, like relationships, people, family, faith, serving, rest and hard work.
2. Adversity forces the discovery of new solutions instead of putting up with the same old ones. Responding to adversity often proves that people can be more creative when they have to do so. History is replete with examples of how new products were developed by “mistake.” Adversity is the inventor behind many new techniques and products.
3. Adversity forces new alliances. Mergers, acquisitions and new market place niches are exposed by the forces of adversity. New opportunities pop up for the next entrepreneur, inventor, or leader.
4. Adversity forces the discovery of hidden or underutilized talent. Every sports franchise has this opportunity when their superstar athlete develops tendinitis or blows up his knee. Someone who was warming the bench takes the team to the Superbowl.
5. Adversity breaks old habits and tired traditions. Old habits and tired traditions come from the lack of challenge to our current ways of doing things. Adversity makes me accountable for how I do what I do, and why I do what I do all over again!
6. Adversity forces greater accuracy. When bullets are less expensive people waste more ammo! Now, when ammo is expensive, we are forced to shoot less, aim more carefully! In target sports, as in life, we tend to get more accurate when the ‘cost’ of our actions increases.
7. Adversity forces new efficiencies. When we have to do better, we can do better. Adversity forces us to pay attention to the interplay between effectiveness and efficiency. When trouble comes, and costs increase, new levels of quality or performance are required. If effectiveness is doing the job well, then efficiency is doing the job with less waste and friction. Adversity brings these cousins together again.
8.Adversity increases resilience and reduces the whining! Those who endured the years of WWII learned that adversity made them sterner stuff. World wide adversity and carnage, though wicked and far reaching, created more resilient people who were willing to sacrifice, held simple things in high esteem again, and stopped complaining because it just made matters worse! People knew they were blessed if they were alive, had food, a roof and family or a few true friends, they had all they needed.
9.Finally, adversity forces believers to face weak faith. This is the big one for me. To be frank, adversity sucks! It's oftentimes just destructive. In an imperfect world, with greedy people, scared people, broken people and broken systems – things are going to break. Things are going to erode, leading one to think that a bad end is the only end we can expect. Greed and sin wreak havoc on humanity.
So what now? All of the above are old lessens for new times. Is life not ultimately a battle? Especially for the believer, is adversity not a cosmic test of enormous proportions between God and Satan that will finally prove to any and all, that the True One will hold on to His own? In the end will it not be adversity that proves the faithful will find strength in their Creator to persevere? One day God will have all the evidence needed for the courts of Heaven to prove once and for all that the Righteous One is I AM!
The Bible meets that challenge in simple, clear language: “...when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4
Adversity can be the tool of God to help us clean up spiritual waste. It can teach us to move our faith back into first position. Isn't our handling of adversity really a question of reliance? Doesn't adversity show us at whose feet our trust really lays? Doesn't adversity realign us in prayer with the God of heaven, by showing us that we need solutions from His heaven? Can't adversity renew the importance of the relationships and reinstate the importance of one-another care? One of my old friends (ironically, who is no longer part of my community because of adversity!) used to say, when someone acknowledged the need for prayer, “Has it really come to that?" Today, as I acknowledge the presence of adversity that tests my own faith, I'm confronted with a to similar question: "Trust God completely? Has it truly come to that?!"
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I'm stoked about our new website coming soon, but more so what it contains. In it we have done our best to begin to explain our emerging culture at TurningPoint. Though this is newly stated, it has been under development from the time of our birth. It is based on the relational/ incarnational model we see in our Master Jesus who adopted 12 men to spend the remainder of His earthly life with, into whom He poured His life, and then through whom He poured His message of grace, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation; revolutioinary concepts that challenge every other philosophy and human inclination about what really matters. We call it Village Life.
In that pattern, we are a Tribe made up of many Villages. The Village is the smallest but most important unit of our ministry model. Village life is where we form our deepest bonds with one another in the Body. Oasis is what we call our largest gathering on Sunday mornings when all the Villages come together as a Tribe.
Describing how the Village model works and how it differs from a typical small group model is difficult because some of the small differences make the biggest impact. Picture a fire pit around which everyone in the village met, warmed their hands, told stories, and ate a meal together. Not only is the common fire a place where people are warmed and fed, but the common fire of village life was also the place where people processed life and made decisions based on the input of those who would be with them as those decisions worked their way out in community.
Closer to our century, picture the last camping trip with your best friends and how included you felt as you sat around the campfire and talked way into the night. In terms of American business protocol, you accomplished “nothing.” But in terms of depth of spirit and personhood you accomplished what was most important. If you picture that, you’re beginning to see the picture from our perspective. If you have not experienced that type of community since high school, you need a village.
Imagine if everyone was really connected to people who loved them, played and prayed with them, and then took that shared life experience into the streets of our cities, stores, community activity centers, gun shops, motorcycle showrooms, garage sales, pubs and coffee shops. Our world would change! This is our dream.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Last month, a friend of mine left an invitation on my Facebook page. He sent me and twenty-four others, a list of random things about himself. Then he asked us to do the same in return. Honestly, I don’t usually participate in stuff like this, but this intrigued me because even though I know this friend pretty well, there were several things on his list that I didn’t know. The cool thing was that he started some dialogue between people who call themselves friends. Isn’t this is the reason millions of people join these kinds of online communities in the first place? They want to be known?
Wise people know that life really isn't random at all. Like the stones pictured above, in God's plan our random things fit together like He had a plan in the first place. And of course He did. Each random stone you share with others tells something important about you and makes up the picture that goes by your name!
Being known necessitates some level of self-disclosure. We do like to be in control of what people know about us and this little exercise allows for that. So at the end of the day I sent him and twenty-four friends my list of random stones. To spread the issue further I put it in Blog form. What random stones would you disclose about yourself that would allow your friends to know you better? I'm asking, so I'll throw the first stones ...
25 Random Stones
1.I have lived in Washington twice now.
2.I’ve been married for 26 years; harder but more valuable than anyone told me.
3.I am trying to release 3 young male adults into the wild and let go!
4.Currently, my favorite beer is Buttface Amber Ale.
5.My favorite place to meet friends is The Ram at Kent Station.
6.I ride my M109 whenever I don’t get soaked on the way, and sometimes when I do!
7.I only like marsh mellows when they’re squished between two pieces of chocolate.
8.I cried once last year.
9.I’m going to balance #s 7 and 8 with #s 10 and 11.
10.I just bought a new Springfield XD(m) and got my concealed pistol license.
11.I have 15 friends that shoot pistols; one son that blows stuff up professionally, one with a black belt that wants to be a cop and another training to be a secret agent!
12.#7 sounds like a girl … no offense Ladies … none taken I’m sure.
13.I’m grateful to God for a bunch of cool friends including my brother that kept me from going insane the last 4 years!
14.I read Cigar Aficionado for another diversion.
15.My wife and I are walking 40 mins three times a week (We missed last week, doh!)
16.I’m almost 50. I used to be able to do stuff.
17.One of my goals is to be able to water ski ‘til I’m eighty …
18.Larry the Cable Guy still makes me laugh uncontrollably (like you’re laughing now about #17).
19.My dog is cool, but He’s also getting old and grumpy.
20.My parents pray like warriors! I’m still learning to hold the weapon ...
21.I hope to spend the month of July in Belgium. Yes, really.
22.Someday I will live on the side of a mountain and pick legal mushrooms.
23.Pastoral ministry has been harder than everyone said it would be, except my dad.
24.God’s transforming grace in Christ still blows me away every day!!
25.Worshiping Him still takes my breath away.
Your turn …
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
As I sit here looking out the window at yet another rotation of the earth around the sun, I realize that I’m mid-way through another week closer to the end of my life! Dark thoughts? Not at all. My oldest daughter just turned eighteen yesterday, and my third son will turn twenty-one at the end of the month. That’s exciting and monumental. But I’ve got to admit, watching my kids race through their birthdays forces me to think more about this transitory life. How speedily it expires! That leads me to wonder how my life fits into the ebbing first decade of a new millennium.
My cousin’s grandfather died last week, after over ninety years on the planet (that’s a ripe old age!). He worked hard and served his purpose and then fell into eternity. He was the last of the Libby brothers. All four of them are gone. His brother, my grandfather, died 12 years ago after a wonderful and difficult life. He too left his fingerprints on us in unique ways and then breathed his last.
I never knew my paternal grandfather. He died at age forty-eight. My dad beat prostate cancer five years ago and survived heart surgery in the last year. He's doing well now. My uncle appears to be in the final stages of life after a 14 year battle with cancer. His outlook is impeccable, his attitude is incredible. He’s an honorable man, but he’s prepared to leave now. His ‘up-look’ has well conditioned his outlook. I’m paying attention. I have two brothers, and the three of us have six sons between us. Sooner than we all expect, we will leave the planet and our sons will watch. And then sooner than they think, our sons will leave the planet and their sons will watch ... and the cycle continues. I’m not depressed, morbid or even anxious. I’m just trying to think deeper than the cigar I enjoyed last night.
I’m intrigued about how our culture has taught itself to avoid the daily collision with the inevitability of death. We watch it on TV every day. We role-play sequences of death on our Xbox. We observe death through the safety glasses of multiple news sources, but somehow we’ve learned to anesthetize ourselves from the reality that it will happen to us – death that is, and sooner than we think. Other cultures and people in earlier times tended to keep better track of the transitory nature of life. They did it by recording the generations and tracking the way previous generations impacted the current ones. They made long lists of who birthed whom, and who married whom, and then who came after that. There must have been a reason for that, right?
In general it seems that we’ve become experts at distraction and avoidance. We keep busy, we play more; we eat and drink more; avoidance? Distraction? We’ve invented multiple methods to lose ourselves in Matrix-like fantasies offered by various entertainment choices. Now I’m not against all of these things, inventing, producing, conquering and recreation are all good gifts to be sure. But here’s the deal: business, distraction and avoidance certainly reduce the opportunities for us to think deeply about the meaningful minutes that blow by us like a bullet train.
That’s my morning ramble over coffee. How about you? Do you think about stuff other than your neighbor who pissed you off, or the lady who took your parking place, or how your job sucks, or how bored you are, or how you’re going to pay your bills this year, or who you’re going to try and get with this weekend, or how you hope to medicate yourself, or (fill in the blank __________)? Have you given thought of your life? Do you think about those who’ve gone before you and the lessons they learned and projected to those who watch closely? No, not what your work requires, not what you have to do in the yard this weekend, or where your kids will go to college, or the new ‘whatever’ you think you need, or what you will do for a distraction when you’re bored with business, or agitated to avoidance. Do you ever think about your contribution to the swirl of humanity? Do you ever think that you were NOT an accidental freak of nature, wandering aimlessly as a microscopic piece of the puzzle of the universe that happens to be occupying a certain piece of real estate, unconnected to anything before or after? Do you? Well do you?
Challenge: I have no power to change how the generations emerge or when they expire, but I have the power to slow down, to think more, to look backwards and to let my ‘up-look’ adjust my outlook today. And so can you.
Friday, April 04, 2008
I'm just rambling a bit this morning, sipping my coffee ... Like most sane people I want to live well, but I'm kinda slow. (I suck at the simple stuff!) Living life well can seem as futile as trying to get a better grip on the wind?! Once we get a grip, our grip slips! That’s why I’m starting to say, “Rod, hold your dreams lightly, hold your hopes tightly.” Sound upside down? I don’t think so. How many of you really ended up at the destination you thought you’d find when you began your adult trek?! I’m not saying we should stop aiming at dreams, goals, making plans and future stuff - just that we need to aim at the really important stuff - and maybe it's different than we we've been forced to swallow??
I’m going to keep dreaming, but at this point I’m holding my earthly dreams more lightly, learning (as in, on-going-not-there-yet-know-very-little) to submit to God first. I’m not sure I know the difference between a dream and vision until I wake up anyway?
If I'm really awake, living life well must mean to live in consideration of a life that exists beyond the present; a life lived aiming at eternity. Though life is very rewarding, most sane carbon units recognize that planted within them are the fingerprints of a life in another realm. Can't you almost smell it?! We may not be able to explain it fully, but neither can we deny it. So then, squeezing every drop of truth out of every experience in this realm, whether good or bad, fun or not, should be the preoccupation of the sane, right? Why? Because we're packing for another place! This is my journey of course, but I process better "out loud" So I'm just sharing the oars as we paddle along together.
Some form of learning is important if we're interested in a life well lived, and in most cases I learn more from stooping than standing! (Blog, April 1) The path to that higher aim comes by a different route than I was taught to expect. So, living life well Hmm... I'm starting to think that success means something much different than I was taught, and that the measurements I learned to evaluate with must change. In the mean time, I'm still sniffing for the fragrance of another realm. I think a life well lived is one spent sniffing for the scent of heaven in every experience, good or bad, happy or sad, fun, or none? Here's to packing for another place...
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
This has been a busy season for me. I have a large family. I’m part of a group of tribes for which I feel responsible, and which require much of my organizational oversight. Honestly, this is a season of soul-jarring circumstance. I’m also easily distracted. I’ve needed to process badly, but had precious little time to reflect without feeling the pressure of running after the next screaming voice in my head.
Seasons…sitting at Starbucks lusting for my motorcycle, when my son just text me on his way to work and said, “Watch for ice! It’s crazy out here!” It’s April for crying out loud! And winter is still hanging around! Yesterday was Opening Day for the Mariners, and its 32 degrees outside! Some seasons just suck! They seem to stay too long and return too soon. Seasons are unpredictable even for well paid meteorologists on KOMO. Spring, get down here! Apparently, something has to come into alignment above me before Ms. Winter goes away for another year.
Maybe this is a metaphor for how life seems to work. I long for another season, but something has to align above me before this particular “winter” goes away. Something has to change above me. I’m starting to see that change only happens when lessons are learned and choices are made.
Looking in my own rearview mirror, I see that very little actually changed until I learned certain lessons I needed for the next “season.” I need to learn to embrace the beauty in failure. I want to succeed. I love to succeed! But I learn almost nothing through success. I enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done, people served, and progress made. But I learn the most lasting lessons through failure. Really, ask yourself what you’ve learned though success? Ask yourself, “When I was successful at … or in … what did I REALLY learn from it?” For me, satisfaction is a gift; pain a mentor. Pleasure is a blessing, but not a teacher.
Now maybe I’m a sicko, but there is beauty in failure because it takes me back to humility. It shows my brokenness. Failure exposes the weakness in my character, shows me that my insight is dim, and displays my shallow wisdom. Failure asks me for reflection and requires my feedback. Failure demands evaluation. Failure is patient for a response.
We look for the beauty in life, as we should. We long for the blessings of life, as we should. But if we’re honest, we must also face the brokenness of life. I have to grapple with the lessons of failure. If we care to open it, history shows that most leaders became effective only after some great failure from which they recovered and from there, discovered how to succeed. Success is good. Achievement can be advantageous. But to get there, failure may be the best teacher.
I have a good friend who has experienced much pain in life - much from others and some from his own reactions and poor choices. The good news is that he’s very tenacious. He’s learning much and deciding not to give up. In some ways his progress is heroic. He’s not afraid of pain. He’s afraid he won’t learn what he needs to through his pain. I’ve watched him, and walked with him for the last ten years. We’ve decided that there is good pain and bad pain. Good pain is when a person squeezes all the truth out of pain so he or she doesn’t have to continually experience it. Bad pain is when pain continually comes, yet I still refuse to change. That kind of pain - to change the lyrics of a song slightly - is like “living in last night’s nightmare.” That’s a dark season.
A mentor of mine used to remind me from time to time, that “nothing changes until something changes.” And about the time I was ready to say, “DUH!” He continued… “Nothing changes until something changes, and nothing changes until a decision is made.” I’m tired of this particular winter season. Something’s got to change above me. I’ll be back … I’ve got some decisions to make.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Most journeys begin with little thought given to what we may learn along the way. Only recently, I’ve begun to learn by seeing backwards. Just like the windshield is filled with opportunities, so the rear view mirror is filled with lessons if we care to glance back. This will help us do life well.
Jesus wants us to learn to do life well. “I have come to give you life and that more abundantly …” (John 10:10). The beauty of the destination makes the journey critically important. A few personal lessons have come to my attention of late, along the journey and for the journey. These are important to me.
Lesson one: If I think I’m humble, I only think I’m humble. Being my slow self, one day it dawned on me that humility is one of those quiet virtues. I noticed that humble people never think they are humble. Then it became obvious: thinking one is humble cancels the whole concept! Broadly speaking, humility can be defined as a proper view of oneself, others and God. Developing such views truly takes a lifetime. Taken more narrowly, to be humble is being prone to modesty and deference rather than arrogance and pretentious. Humility is the absolute antithesis of pride. In fact it carries the connotation of abasement. Jesus’ call even more stark in it’s implications when viewed from this angle!
Just this morning I got a personal example to keep my in pursuit of the difficult blessing of humility. At Starbucks I noticed a man of different race than myself. He was obviously trying very hard to keep to himself and he was reading a Gideon Bible. He was reading quietly out loud and had an old tattered dictionary lying next to him that he would occasionally consult. He had no cup of coffee and as I always have mine, I had one of those feelings that it would be nice of me to offer to buy him one, and hoped that this would give me a chance to maybe interact with him about his Bible reading. So, after putting myself through a mini-test about the reasons I would not do such a thing, I approached the man and asked if I could interrupt him. Immediately he said, “No!” He didn’t say it overly loud as if to make a scene, but there was something in his eyes that looked like fear and finality. I then asked if I could simply buy him a cup of coffee. He just added another word to the one he already used then turned away, “No thank you.”
Now, you probably had to be there to get the sense of it all. Describing his expression and response is very difficult. I almost ‘felt lead’ to approach him, and then very definitely felt rejected by his terse rebuff. I was humbled, actually a bit humiliated standing there like a dope when all I could muster was a polite, “OK.” Maybe my feelings came as I began evaluating my motives. Maybe it was because of my own ‘need’ to be helpful(?) Whatever was he afraid of? Certainly I will never know. Who would turn down a cup of coffee from a normal looking guy who was trying to be polite? Maybe a black man who has learned not to trust white men? Maybe a person who couldn’t be handled like a charity case one more time? Maybe a shy person, who simply didn’t want any interaction, and didn’t like coffee? Whatever the case, I cannot know. The ‘not knowing’ is still bugging me …
As I got into my car I considered two questions: why did I think I could help, or think he wanted or needed my input in the first place? Was it my pride? And then, why did I feel so terribly uncomfortable after such a brief encounter? Probably pride. Then a third question entered my head: why would anyone ever actually pursue such a virtue as humility?! Maybe humility is one of those virtues that just happens to a person? Is it possible that instead of pursuing it, we are just to accept it? Is this the unseen process of Christ-likeness that begins before one leaves the planet? What is Christ-likeness anyway if one is not rejected, humiliated, and rebuffed? Hmmm…
Like the rest of ME, my education is a work in progress. So I’m not implying that practicing humility is wrong. But to my way of thinking, to begin to think one is humble is pride all over again. Humility is Lesson One.
Monday, January 07, 2008
I am not in the habit of making New Year's Resolutions, thinking in my pride that any day of any year is a good day to resolve to change something. If I am honest, I must admit to possessing the fear that once resolved, such resolutions will only serve to be a dissapointment because of my largely undisciplined life.
However, in thinking about how things really change in the human heart, such change only happens by the full surrender of the saint to the Christ-life, through which the Spirit of God is called and somehow enabled to work. In truth, any santifying work is HIS. As Andrew Murray wrote years ago, (9 May 1828-18 January 1917)absolute surrender is not only desired and required of a Holy God, but also, it is the thing to which God has committed Himself in the life of every saint who makes such a resolution with a "believing heart and a faltering will." This resolution to surrender the best we can each and every day, seems the very thing that 'attracts' the absurd grace of God to work in that humility and enable such surrender.
One example of such a man is Johnathon Edwards, whose resolutions are convicting in scope and attainment. We have the record of his life and can varify that God indeed worked by His Spirit in those resolutions. It may be instructive and motivating for you to review them, as it is to me, though overwhelming in scope! If one could only achieve a small portion of this exhaustive list! One step at a time ...
Oh God forgive me for my trivial goals!!
THE RESOLUTIONS of Jonathan Edwards
BEING SENSIBLE THAT I AM UNABLE TO DO ANYTHING WITHOUT GOD' S HELP, I DO HUMBLY ENTREAT HIM BY HIS GRACE TO ENABLE ME TO KEEP THESE RESOLUTIONS, SO FAR AS THEY ARE AGREEABLE TO HIS WILL, FOR CHRIST' S SAKE.
Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.
1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God' s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.
3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. July 30.
9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
11. Resolved, when I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.
15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.
16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
18. Resolved, to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.
19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance, in eating and drinking.
21. Resolved, never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. (Resolutions 1 through 21 written in one setting in New Haven in 1722)
22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
23. Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God' s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.
24. Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.
27. Resolved, never willfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
29. Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.
30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
31. Resolved, never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against anyone, to bring it to, and try it strictly by the test of this Resolution.
32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Proverbs 20:6,‹A faithful man who can find?Š may not be partly fulfilled in me.
33. Resolved, to do always, what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.
34. Resolved, in narrations never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.
35. Resolved, whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.
36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it. Dec. 19, 1722.
37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.
38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord' s day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.
39. Resolved, never to do any thing of which I so much question the lawfulness of, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.
40. Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.
41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.
42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.
43. Resolved, never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God' s; agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12, 1723.
44. Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. January 12, 1723.
45. Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.
46. Resolved, never to allow the least measure of any fretting uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye: and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
47. Resolved, to endeavor, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving and sincere temper; and to do at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have done so. Sabbath morning. May 5, 1723.
48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.
49. Resolved, that this never shall be, if I can help it.
50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.
51. Resolved, that I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.
52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
57. Resolved, when I fear misfortunes and adversities, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as providence orders it. I will as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty, and my sin. June 9, and July 13 1723.
58. Resolved, not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.
59. Resolved, when I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as would be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.
60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.
61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.
62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty, and then according to Ephesians 6:6-8, to do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man:‹knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.Š June 25 and July 13, 1723.
63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. January 14 and July 13, 1723.
64. Resolved, when I find those ‹groanings which cannot be utteredŠ (Romans 8:26), of which the Apostle speaks, and those‹breakings of soul for the longing it hath,Š of which the Psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20, that I will promote them to the utmost of my power, and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavoring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness, of which I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton' s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.
66. Resolved, that I will endeavor always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.
68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.
69. Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. August 11, 1723.
70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak. August 17, 1723.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I was up in the foothills two weeks ago, with my two youngest daughters getting a Christmas tree, when I learned once again that one can’t skirt the laws of physics just because of one's equipment. I never studied physics in high school or college, but I was always intrigued by what I assumed a course like that would entail. I could have explored basic physics but instead, chose something I could get an ‘A’ in to balance my underachieving grade record at the time. So, what business do I have even using the word? I’m no scientist! Well, because I just want to tell you a story. You make the spiritual application … or not.
I let my daughters play hooky form school (I know!) and we headed up to the ranger station to get our tree tag (I guess before one kills a deer they must have a tag, so they make it that way for killing a tree too?). Anyway, we got our tag and headed up Forest Service road 70. We soon ran into snow, but I just shifted my wife’s Ford into ‘4 high’ on the fly and proceeded with confidence. When we got into heavier snow I simply stopped, put it into neutral, flipped the switch to ‘4 low’ and again we did well. We stopped often and had a blast jumping in and out looking for just the right tree. The girls brought the camera and took a card-load of pictures of the white covered beauty of God’s creation. And we enjoyed the mountain air, despite the smell of my cigar (I know, that's a tradition too, Rom. 14:3-6). Finally, we all agree on a good tree, killed it, and tied it in the truck (you have to do that with deer too!).
Listening to country music (I know! I have daughters!), the girls took turns asking me questions about driving in the snow. “Well, where I grew up,” said I, “we had snow every year, and you just kinda learn how to stay off the brake pedal and under power so you can gear down. You stay off the bumper of the person in front of you and …” About that time, we shifted back into 4 high and brought the speed up to about 40mph (I know!) because, there was much less snow. While we (they) were singing along with 102.9 because we couldn’t get THE WOLF way up there, we rounded a corner and began to slide toward a deep ditch on my side of the road, into oncoming vehicles if there were any coming up. This always happens fast, except in the mind’s eye! Being quite accustomed to emergency maneuvers, I immediately panicked, took my foot off the gas, and stepped on the brake (Doh!) On the way to the ditch, I’m having a short conversation with myself about basic physics that began with, "Shelley's going to kill me ..." and continued something like this, “Rod, just because you have 4-wheel-drive you can’t overcome the laws of basic physics. You’re going too fast for conditions, you became cocky up the mountain, and you failed at the most basic moves necessary when confronted by the laws of physics. Dude!” Then my inner voice became audible as I cried out to the one who put the laws of physics in place in the beginning: “Oh Jesus Help us ...!" Just at that moment, I realized what I was doing wrong and corrected it, and back on track we were. All was silent but for the sound of my heart beat, as we slowed down. It took a bit for the noise of the radio to return.
Then it hit me: disobey the laws of physics and it can instantly ruin an otherwise delightful day. Drive safely my friends. Like the bread truck says, "The buns you save may be your own.” And always remember, no matter what your equipment is, the laws of physics are always in place.