Lesson on Endurance or Just Dumb Luck?

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” – Hebrews 10:36 (ESV)

Almost everyday this week has been a challenge for me to get up in the morning. All be it for very good reasons, though. I mean, getting to level 100 in Bubble Bobble and the opportunity to defeat Super Drunk is totally worth staying up until 2 am, right? Rrrriiigghhht. (read sarcastically) Well, this morning, Friday morning, the end of the work day, I decide to generously allow Ann to get up with the kids at 6:30 so she can make them breakfast and get them off to school so I can sleep in juuuust a little bit longer than normal. Then, as I’m trying to wake up I decide that it has been a really really long time since I’ve given myself a ‘casual Friday’. After all, not shaving would give me 5 more minutes of well deserved rest, and throwing on a pair of jeans instead of work pants would help give me a cheery disposition at work! On top of that, my boss paid me a little visit on Tuesday, and before that I hadn’t seen him in over two weeks so there is no way he’ll show up today, right? Rrrriiigghhht.

You can see where this is going.

I open up the office at 9:01 then go back in the house and pour a bowl of cereal to take back to work with me. As I finish my last bite, guess who pulls up? ūüôā

You see, the reason this is so funny is because probably my boss’ biggest pet peeve is not having a cleanly shaven face in the work place. This pet peeve runs deep and it was passed down to him from his dad, which was probably passed down from his dad, and so on and so on. The look on his face was priceless. ‘Good morning, Todd. Wow! Someone forgot to shave today.’ (Um, he wasn’t talking about himself.) I openly confessed to him that I had put a higher value on 5 minutes rest instead of shaving.

He smiled.

Then, some painters came to give an estimate. (Which is, evidently, the reason he came to see me.) After awhile, my boss comes back in and we are  having a pleasant conversation. Then, he stops me mid-sentence and says he really wants me to take some time this morning and shave.

As I play back this entire morning in my head I can’t stop laughing! It feels like an episode of Seinfeld.¬† So, what do you think? Was it nothing but dumb luck? Or is there a deeper lesson about taking heart when you don’t feel like doing something?

Oh, by the way, I ate my humble pie…

The fruits of our labor

letters

Over seven years ago, Ann and I loaded all of our earthly belongings into the back of a tractor trailer that was headed for California. We literally smashed everything in there to make sure we didn’t use more¬†¬†than 10 feet of space or else we would be charged for taking up more¬†¬†room. We didn’t have a job, a place to live or any clue as to what it¬†takes to live in what was once the world’s fifth largest economy.

As naive as we may have been, it wasn’t a decision we made lightly. We¬†counted the cost. And as hard as it was to leave our moms and dad,¬†brothers, sisters, nephews and a church family we had grown to love¬†and had served with for five years, nothing can prepare you for that¬†day in the future when you tuck your daughter in at night, pray for¬†her and still realize something isn’t quite right. ‘What’s the matter, sweetheart? You know how much we love you.’ And with a sudden burst of¬†tears jumping from her eyes she chokes out,¬†¬†‘I…miss…my…sniff¬† sniff…grandma and grandpa…wahhhh…’ ‘I know, darling, I know. I¬†do too.’

The only thing we knew when we left was we were certain God had called¬†us to pack up our things and go. And, like Abraham being sent to a new land, we knew if we were obedient our faith would be credited to¬†us as righteousness. Little did we know that, like Abraham, we would¬†literally have to stay in tents (or garages or small hotel rooms or¬†take short house sitting gigs for a time) We arrived and things got¬†hard. Then, after awhile, they got a little harder. And, finally,¬†after that, they became some of the hardest times I’ve had to lead my¬†family through. But, you know what, God is faithful to us. In Christ,¬†¬†we found the strength to persevere. He revealed his heart to us and we¬†are experiencing God as love, as provision, as healer, as comfort, and¬†as protector.

Slowly, putting one foot in front of the other, things started getting¬†easier. Trusting God started feeling natural again and we moved¬†forward. I don’t know if everyone always gets to see the fruit of¬† their labor and I’m now convinced that nobody gets to see truly how¬†far reaching their efforts submitted to God stretch. But every once¬†and awhile God is gracious enough to give you a taste of the fruit¬†that comes from the seed you’ve been sowing.

Last night, we were given that taste. The leaders of the GenChurch ministry at Church for Life were surprised with an appreciation dinner! The Youth Pastors, Jeff and Cindy, had an idea to bless the volunteers and the youth, young adults, and parents gladly joined in to help. We ate a nice meal while listening to others give testimony after testimony of how we have helped point them to the one that abundantly supplies their needs. It was a tremendous night and at the end we were given thank you letters to take home and read and enjoy.

Thanks to everyone who participated! What a blessing! We love you all and we love our pastors and we love our church!

It will always be hard living apart from family, but because of you we¬†get to experience Jesus’ words…’And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or fathers or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.’

Music that bonds

Remember that scene on the bus in Almost Famous right after Russell flipped out on the band and spent the night partying with some obscure people in an obscure little town?Someone starts singing Tiny Dancer and eventually they all join in and everybody starts feeling good again.

What song can you imagine starting a classic group sing along too?

‘I knew a man, Bojangles, and he’ll dance for you…in worn out shoes…’

Sarcasm

Sarcasm is a bitter/cutting expression or remark.¬† (Confession: it’s a type of humor I find hard to resist)¬† I was reminded recently that the etymology of sarcasm is late Greek meaning ‘tearing of the flesh’.¬† Ouch.

There is a tearing of the flesh happening, but it isn’t new.¬† It’s the church in America.¬† The church is the body of Christ, right?¬† (Confession: I’ve contributed to the tearing)

I don’t have too much to say on the issue right now, however, I would like to put forth a…theory?…I guess.

I was reading the first chapter of a book called Word Pictures by Brian Godawa, and he separates people into two camps.¬† One being Word People (maybe best summed up as intellectuals) and Image People (maybe best summed up as artists).¬† Anyway, he has an interesting table that puts forth a topic or ‘bias’ and then shows the polarity of the word and image people to that topic.¬† When I saw this I started to think about when different people gravitate to each polarity it could cause a tearing somewhere in the middle. (Confession: I have a fear of division or separation, which may be why I seem obsessed with the issue)

Here is the table…(sorry if the columns are a little wonky)

ÔĽŅTable 1
BIASES                WORD                                   IMAGE

Locale           Traditional Church               Contemporary Ch.
Era                      Modernity                           Postmodernity
Emphasis             Doctrine                              Relationship
Basis                    Reason                            Experience
Mandate            Preach the Gospel            Live the Gospel
Priority              Content of Message            Style and Form
Communication     Proposition                   Story
Pursuit                       Truth                        Spirit
Values                         Rules                          Freedom
Temperament          Rationality                  Creativity
Reference             Books, speech        Film, TV, Pop Culture
Vulnerability           Dead Orthodoxy      Anti-Intellectualism
Risks                             Legalism                      License

(One last confession: I feel at home in the word catagory, but want to live in the image category)

Clouds

This morning I grabbed something near-by to read really quick before going to work.¬† It is worth sharing…

“In the Bible, clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. “The clouds are the dust of His feet” ( Nahum 1:3¬† ). They are a sign that God is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement, and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near us without clouds‚ÄĒ He does not come in clear-shining brightness.

It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child‚ÄĒ a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows. Until other people become shadows to us, clouds and darkness will be ours every once in a while. Is our relationship with God becoming more simple than it has ever been?

There is a connection between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.

“. . . they were fearful as they entered the cloud” (Luke 9:34). Is there anyone except Jesus in your cloud? If so, it will only get darker until you get to the place where there is “no one anymore, but only Jesus . . .” (Mark 9:8 ; also see Mark 2-7¬† ).”
‚ÄĒOswald Chambers

SMALL

small. The universe cannot contain God. (2 Chron 2:6) And, if the universe is small, then that makes me… _______ (nothing).

The past three weekends I’ve been sitting on the sidelines. Literally. My oldest daughter made the All-Star softball team and the whole family has been watching and cheering and complaining and sitting and standing and pacing and fretting and rejoicing. I understand it is just a little game played by 8 year old girls…but…I guess I just wanted to let my guard down and become a part of something. So I did. Instead of scoffing at the seemingly frivolousness (read no eternal impact), I entered into the intensity of something human.

Guess what happened? I made friends. Friends with people that are completely different than me. People that have Raider tattoos on the side of their head and lips tattoed on their necks. People that drink nothing but Bud Light- not water or milk or juice- just Bud Light (occasionally an energy drink, but only so they can refill the can with BL so to hide it). People whose kindergarten aged sons like to ‘look at hot chicks’ with their dad and whose Mom says ‘you shouldn’t get those magazines out when company is around’.

This week we were invited to the birthday party of the coaches youngest daughter. I was expecting to see other parents from the team when we got there but was taken back (in a good way) when I realized coach has nine other brothers and sisters each with their own family. We bad been invited to come and spy on this intimate family gathering. (all of them had been born and raised in Santa Maria, too, which, for some reason I couldn’t help but think about how this huge family surely has had some influence in this town as it has grown from 25,000 to 85,000 in their life time) There is a whole world out there that I know nothing about. It makes me feel small

What it means, though, is I’ve been living mostly ‘in the world’, except for Wednesday nights when we go to church and help pastor the young adults that come to the bible study. And since I’ve been ‘living in the world’ (i can’t help but to laugh when I write that phrase) guess what’s been happening on Wednesdays? The presence of God is being felt and souls are being introduced to what it feels like to be whole for the first time ever. One girl recently admitted, with a little tinge of embarrassment in her voice, that she ‘accepted Jesus into my heart’. Her parents raised her to ‘find her own way’ and now, well, let’s just say she has a battle on her hands, but I digress. (just pray that the passion she is feeling keeps her strong but also loving) Afterwards a bunch of the young adults come over to our house and eat and chill. Yesterday, I came home and made myself a hoagie, and somewhere inbetween praying for a girl who desperately wants some stability in her life but is getting moved 1000 miles away again after maybe four weeks and praying for a guy raging on the inside because his cousin was murdered last month, I finally finished my sandwich. Only to help break up a fight between a girl and her manipulative/abusive boyfriend and then pray for a guy that really wants to get filled with Holy Spirit.

SMALL. Small. small.

I’m shrinking. I’m on the sidelines cheering and standing and sitting and whatever, while the game is getting bigger and bIGGER and BIGGER.

The fasanating part is that God is looking more beautiful with each passing moment. This line from the song How He Loves Us swirls around me daily, it goes, ‘And suddenly I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory. When I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me.’

The God that can’t be contained by the highest heavens can see small, little me.

I hope my life is magnifying God. I want to be that telescope that people look through and see something that seems so far away look that much closer. That something as small as me could reflect something as big as God.

Fingertip Massager

This is a difficult post to write.¬† Mostly because my Mom might be reading this.¬† But, also because I don’t take a subject like sex or masturbation lightly and feel some good research and a good amount of effort be had to make sure thoughts are properly communicated.¬† So, here is my best first attempt…

Last night we were watching The Next Food Network Star competition when a commercial came on for Trojan’s Fingertip Massager/Personal Vibrator.¬† There was something that struck me very peculiar about this ad.

First, I couldn’t help but think that this was kind of a landmark moment in American history.¬† Has there ever been a commercial on such a mainstream network peddling sex toys?¬† KY comes close.¬† This seemed a little strange though, it could have been produced by the same people that produce commercials for Toy R Us.¬† Only, instead of wide-eyed kids exuberantly giving testimonials on how much fun they are having with play-doh, you had young and old ladies alike giving their testimonials of how much better it was to masturbate now.¬† Maybe I’ve had my head buried underground, but to my best knowledge, female masturbation has never been a tea-time topic.¬† But, I’m not a woman, so what do I know.¬† I do know that the sexual revolution is far from over.

My second thought was, ‘Ok, this is the world I’m going to have to raise my daughters in.¬†¬† A world where girls are going to start sharing their penchant towards their favorite self stimulator. Lord, help me to communicate clearly and effectively with my daughters about love and sex and self-esteem and serving others.’ Not that I hadn’t thought about all this before, but something about viewing this commercial placed an urgency in my heart to truly find my face on this matter. (Incidently, when we were on vacation last week, a group of girls, none old enough to drive, entered the hot tub where my sister- in- law was.¬† She said she had to leave because all those girls were talking about was birth control and having sex. These were 14(maybe) year olds.¬† My daughter is 8.)

Where do I start?¬† Here’s my world view…God tells us that people tend to satisfy their thirst not by drinking from HIS life giving fountain but by going to man-made toilets (Jer 2:13).¬† It seems to me, our culture, has turned men into thinking that women are man-made toilets (a place for men to drop off their fluids).¬† I don’t say this just because of what we see and hear in the music and movies our kids are listening to, but this is a popular saying by radio talk show host Tom Leykis (syndicated by CBS, coincidentally the owners of Food Network).

But, how did we get here? The place where I’m watching somebody bake a cake one minute, and being interrupted by, well, talk about giving yourself a climax. It’s complicated, obviously, but most signs point to the the fact that something broke in the sixties.¬† We have always been self-first people, but until the sixties we continued to make great sacrifices for our kids.¬† During the sixties, there seems to have been a ‘me-first’ shift in parenting views.¬† In his book, No Perfect People Allowed, emerging pastor John Burke surveys this recent history, “Many learned early that parents’ things are always more important. In the book, Ourselves and Our Children (note the title’s word order), Silent Generation (pre-Boomer) authors insisted that ‘consider yourself’ be the first principle of good parenting…Beginning in 1962 with the mass marketing of the birth-control pill, the media everywhere hailed the age of ‘free love.’¬† The Postmodern Experiment with sexuality turned out to have a high price tag…The idealism of the ’60s and ’70s morphed right into the ‘Material World’ of the coming ’80s ‘Me Generation.'” And surely we are currently living in an hedonistic, me-first generational culture. (As a side note, this is the problem I have with the abortion debate. Abortion Dr.’s, many pro-choicers, and our current President will tell you that they are taking a life, but also, that the greater evil for them would be to deny a woman from what she wants to happen.¬† Abortion should be illegal because we need to protect ourselves from our own cannibalistic desires.)

All of this from one little TV commercial…why do I torture myself!¬† I’ll keep going…So the greater issue is realizing and moving from… ‘It’s all about me.’ to …’It’s not about me at all.’¬† That is what I need to get my kids to learn. And that will keep them from a lot of heartache.

But, what about the issue at hand (no pun intended)?¬† What does God say about masturbation?¬† The bible seems to be silent on this issue.¬† In other words, it doesn’t specifically say to keep your hands off your own junk in that way, nor does it say it is a great way to alleviate tension. (Side note: the bible is not silent on masturbation between a married man and woman, either orally or with their hands, Song of Solomon 2:3,6 and 4:12)¬† Mark Driscoll offers 5 helpful questions to consider when wrestling with this topic…

1. Can you masturbate without lusting (Job 31:1)?

2. Can you masturbate in a way that builds oneness with your spouse, pulling you together more intimately through the act (Gen 2:24)?

3. Can you masturbate without experiencing shame (Gen2)?

4. Can you masturbate with a clear conscience (Titus 1:15)?

5. Can you masturbate without capitulating to the cravings of your sinful desires and thoughts (Eph 2:3)?

It seems to me, that, maybe the reason we are seeing commercials on TV for fingertip massagers, is because men aren’t being taught to be masculine anymore and women aren’t taught to let men be masculine without feeling threatened.¬† Men, we need to be masculine by thinking about others before we think of ourselves.¬† Women, maybe you can help by trusting us a little to do so, and not retreat into your own strength when we mess that up.¬† I don’t know.¬† These are just some thoughts.¬† I’ve tried to put some effort into thinking about this and I’ve definately been frank.¬† It’s just an attempt, but hopefully a helpful one.