“It’s crooked!”

We had a ceiling fan that was not working.  So back in April, we purchased another one to replace it.  Lori wanted the new one in the living room and the one in the living room moved to the den.  Nothing is ever easy!  So, I did as I was commanded… I mean lovingly asked to do… yes, that’s what I meant to say.

Lori was gone grocery shopping so I decided to go ahead remove the one she wanted moved and install the new one.  I was just about finished when she got back home.  She walks in and drops off the first load of groceries.  As she walks back for the next load of groceries she stated,  “It’s crooked!”

With great patience, I thought silently to myself, “WHAT!!!!”  Then jokingly said aloud, “You mean to tell me that is all you’ve got to say? It’s crooked!” 

She said, “Yes.” 

I said, “Yes ‘mam… I’m sorry ‘mam!  Would you like some help with the groceries and a glass of tea?”

That’s what it’s like to live with The Warrior when she is NOT praying. 

OK truth be told – that really happened.  And that is how the exchange went… Sort of.  She just didn’t realize I only had 3 of the 4 blades attached. I wasn’t finished.  The room was dark – so I have to cut her some slack. 

The weird thing about this is that’s how it goes in life.  Work hard to get the job done and all that can be brought out are words that discourage rather than encourage. 

Encouragement can be done in tough situations.  It’s finding the right words to say that bring life to the person.  It’s not easy… especially when all you see is the ceiling fan kit leaning up on the ceiling in the dark. 

It’s tough at times to lead and motivate people.  There really is an art to it.  I don’t think I’m very good artist… I guess my skills at times make me feel like I am a beginner at finger painting. 

I love encouraging people… In fact, that’s one thing in life I know I’m pretty good at.  The correcting part is kind of difficult for me.  I guess it depends on the environment and the relationships that have been built that determines how I respond to tougher situations.  I’ve been burned a few times and it’s harder to get back up.  I lack some confidence here.

I worked in this one church (in a different town).  It was the most painful experience in leadership.  We grew in numbers ever so slightly.  But I was more of a glorified baby sitter than anything.  I had one kid in the youth group (this happened my first month) take so many fireworks to camp. He could have exploded the dorm that all of the guys at the camp were housed in!!  Things only got worse from there.

I kept trying… then the parents were on my case.  I had one couple who volunteered to help who ended up trying to get me fired.  As soon as I resigned they were first in line to ask for the job!  Unbelievable!!  So, I have had difficulty trusting others who want to help me.

“It’s crooked!”  Is all a matter of ones perspective.  To Lori it was crooked… it was… but I wasn’t finished. 

The next time someone around you doesn’t seem to have it together and you want to tell them, “It’s crooked!”  Step back – try to look at it from all sides before making a judgment.  Lead and encourage from there…

I finished the installation and we enjoyed the fan all summer.

Bullet the Blue Sky

Is there a difference between “American” faith and “Biblical” faith? Our society tends to Americanize everything – to the point that what we preach is only relevant to Americans.

“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.” Hebrews 11:1, NLT. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.  It’s our handle on what we can’t see.  The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” Hebrews 11:1-2, The Message.

Faith is “used” for a variety reasons these days.  Ultimately, our faith is to please God and is not a tool to be used for ourselves or to bring attention to ourselves.  Hebrews 11:6 states, “It is impossible to please God without faith.”  Each one of us has been given a measure of faith… 

Living a life of purpose unto God is never about ourselves.  Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life starts off with this sentence, “It’s not about you.”  This life we live by faith does not have me and you as the central focus.  It has always been and always will be about God…  The author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

I keep a piece of paper with this quote on it in one of my Bible’s.  I don’t recall where I heard it but it was meaningful to me at the time. “Faith does not get you around trouble… it gets you through it…” 

A crucified life is a faith-filled life.  A life of sacrifice.  I life of giving of yourself so that others may live.  It’s carrying the mark of being a follower of Jesus.  Again, Galatians 2:20 rings loudly,  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(NJKV).

I’ve always thought – as a body of believers – we have put too much attention on the blessings that come from following Christ over the cost -thus making the blessings our central focus and not Christ.  (I guess that sells more books…).

I know several men right now who are in the midst of a storm.  They are each in a dangerous place right now in following God.  They are at places where strong and deep decisions are being made.  It’s not a fun place to be… yet exciting.  I have walked that road and there is no doubt that I will return.  One of the men I know made this statement the other day, “It’s better to go with God in the storm than to be without him in the calm.” Erwin McManus writes, “If the safest place to be is in the center of the will of God, then why is the biblical word for witness actually the word for martyr?” 

So this guy comes up to me – His face red like a rose on a thorn bush – like all the colors of a royal flush and he’s peeling off those dollar bills – slapping them down – 100, 200… and I can see those fighter planes – I can see those fighter planes – Across the mud huts where the children sleep, through the valleys and the quiet city streets – we take the staircase to the first floor – we turn the key and slowly unlock the door – A man breathes into a saxophone and through the walls we hear the city groan – Outside it’s America… outside it’s America…. I feel a long way from the hills of San Salvador where the sky is ripped open – the rain pouring through a gapping wound  – pounding the women and children – pounding the women and children…. And run into the arms of America. Bono, “Bullet the Blue Sky” Live version from Rattle and Hum.

Too often we run for safety and too quickly remove ourselves from the difficult road we are walking.  Too often we blind ourselves from the troubles of others and run from their troubled road to travel our “safe” paved roads. 

Faith is not about what we receive but rather what we give away.

Would I have denied Christ?

I’ve debated whether I should write about this or not.  The debate is over and I have chosen to write about it.  It’s going to be difficult to keep it short.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Peter today.  He did so much as a disciple and follower of Christ.  So much is written about all he has done.  He gets made fun of for a lot of the bone-headed things he did.  The one thing that I have been thinking about today is Jesus’ statement to Peter that he would deny Jesus 3 times that day.  I have wondered what really went through his mind and emotions that led him to deny Christ. 

I had an experience this weekend that my good friend Joel brought to my attention that was not much different than Peter’s denial. 

Our church held what I hope will be the First Annual Egg Drop.  I missed the entire event while I was out at the back entrance to the park directing traffic.  When the Sheriff’s deputy showed up to help with traffic – as people were beginning to leave – I began to walk back to the football field where the egg drop took place.

As I made my way to the field, I encountered several people who had just attended the festivities.  I heard comments like, “Needed more planning.” “Next year don’t let the adults on the field.” “Thank you!!  It’s amazing that you all would do this for the community.” “My child only got 2 eggs… this was ridiculous.” “Fine job…”  That last comment was not a happy one… it was with much sarcasm and anger.  I didn’t realize it until I laughed and smiled and started to say thank you.  I listened and asked questions of this individual.  Apologized and told him I would relay his comments to the leadership.

As I made my way to the stage, all I wanted to do was take off my yellow t-shirt that labeled me as a volunteer.  I didn’t want to hear any more comments like that one.  I was a little un-nerved by that last individual. 

I think everyone was rather overwhelmed by the event.  There were some 5,000 people there.  Way more than what was anticipated.  After we loaded up the gear that was on the trailer Joel pulled with his vehicle we headed off to unload and drop off the trailer.  We were debriefing the day.  I was hearing really for the first time what all happened while I was still out at the street directing traffic. 

I told him how at one point I wanted to take off my volunteer shirt so I wouldn’t have had to hear anymore comments like the last one.  Joel reminded me of Peter and his denial of Christ prior to the crucifixion.  When he made the comparison internally I froze.  And the thought of that has stayed with me all day today.

I’m reading Erwin McManus’, The Barbarian Way and am being challenged.  I highly recommend this book!! McManus states, “God’s will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution.  God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance.  God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.” (44-45).

After telling you the story of what I experienced at Saturday’s Egg Drop – I still wonder what would I have done if I had been wearing Peter’s shoes.  Would I have denied Jesus?  Would I have wanted to take off that which labeled me a follower of Christ?  Would I have wanted to walk a much easier road than the one chosen for me?  I want to live a radical life for God… but how far am I really willing to go?  Is it just to the point of being uncomfortable?  Has my faith become “civilized”?

I’m reminded of Galatians 2:20 where Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(NJKV). 

The Message reads, “I identified myself completely with him.  Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer central.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me.  The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I am not going to go back on that.

Paul was marked by Christ.  100% identified with Jesus.  He was known without shame or compromise as a follower of Jesus!  He chose the dangerous road.

I’m thankful for the insight Joel brought my way on Saturday.  It’s been a tough lesson to learn.  God wants nothing less than my full unashamed attention… for me to be identified with Christ.