Monday, January 14, 2013

End of an Era

This month marked the end of an era--the final day of the Mayan Calendar. To the ancient Mayans, I’m sure it was unfathomable that we would actually arrive at this moment. Maybe, since they couldn’t imagine anything beyond what they knew, that’s why they predicted the complete destruction of the planet. But then, it’s hard for any of us to imagine the end of anything in which we are immediately involved or fully vested. Every summer at camp or on mission trips, the students invariably have the “I can’t believe it’s only been a day”/”I feel like we’ve been here forever” conversations.

When we’re completely immersed in an activity, it’s hard to imagine or accept that it will eventually end. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said in the last few months, “It’s already (insert date here)? Where has the year gone?!” But years end, we come home from trips, and activities find their completion.

I have this picture in my head from Acts 1 of the disciples standing, staring up into heaven after Jesus, wondering what to do now, as if they hadn’t been told this moment was coming. It’s almost like being an ancient Mayan on December 22, 2012. The world didn’t end. Life goes on. And they can now either live life defined by an event that happened (or didn’t) in the past, or they can move forward into a new era, with a new and compelling vision, a single-minded purpose that compiles all that they had experienced and learned in the past and propels them into the unknown. Fortunately, messengers from God woke them from their wondering and reminded them that Jesus would return.

It’s the response of the disciples at this moment that really catches my attention today. With a new mission in life and the promise of the Master’s return, they turned right around, acted in obedience, and the world shook with the impact of their lives.

Most of us can quote Acts 1:8 at the drop of a hat. Here it is in case you can’t: But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. It’s not like we don’t really know what to do. It’s not like we haven’t been told this moment was coming. The world has not ended. Life goes on.

And now, from this moment, we can live life defined by events in our past, or we can grab hold of this old and compelling vision, driven by a single-minded purpose that propels us into the unknown.

At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. At the right time, He will return. How will we spend the mean time?

It’s the response of Jesus’ disciples at this moment that draws my attention today. With a new mission in life and the promise of the Master’s return, will we, like the 12, live our lives this year as the martures, Christ’s witnesses and representatives in the world? I can only imagine how Corsicana would be shaken by the impact of just a few who would turn right around and act in obedience today.


Monday, November 26, 2012


I have a new favorite song to add to my list. I have to overlook the poor grammar, the fact that it’s sung by a guy with a double name, Philip Phillips, and that he’s an American Idol winner, but at least he doesn’t go by Philip2
The song is Home, a fun little song to comfort a spouse/girlfriend/fiancee’ having doubts and fears about the future. Here are the lyrics:
Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home
Aside from the fact that I, as a husband and father, want to be able to be the comforter and the steady, reliable constant in the life of my family, I believe this song highlights a deep felt need at the heart of many of the decisions we make as humans. This song speaks to our need to belong, to be cared for, to have an unmovable foundation to rely on when our circumstances and future seem to be in chaos.
I don’t know about you, but that seems to be a common experience in my life.
Too often, my response to chaos is to be carried along by the wave, subject to the fear of not knowing what the future holds. But in the midst of the uncertainty and the crowd of voices fighting for our attention, THE Constant, THE Unmoved Mover, THE Wonderful Counselor, THE Mighty God, THE Prince of Peace quietly reminds us that we are not alone, that He is here with us in the chaos like a mooring firmly anchored in His eternal character.
And He has given us a picture of this comfort. Emmanuel, God with us, was born, lived a sinless life, died, and rose again to make eternal life available to us, and much like Philip Phillips, he offers us this comfort:
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.
John 14:1-4
Unfortunately, the Christmas season is one of the most chaotic on our calendar. I am making it my personal goal to take some extended, intentional time out of the chaos to dwell on the comfort Christ offers as the fulfillment of these words from Isaiah 9:6-7:
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Needing, Wanting, Getting

I was a runner in college. And when I say “runner”, I mean I ran 70 miles/week, 8k races at around 29 minutes, and twice daily workouts during the Cross Country season. I was 165 pounds of NCAA Division III scholarshipped Cross Country... mediocrity. Ok, maybe there are a whole load of people who can’t run 8k at any pace, but compared to even the other guys on my team, I wasn’t really a great runner. 
Maybe I could have been. Maybe if I trained harder or cared more or watched Prefontaine more often I could have brought my time down to 25 minutes. My real problem: I love fried food and I worked at Sonic Drive In. 
I love fried food. I love French Fries, Onion Rings, Tater Tots, Fish-wiches, Chicken Fried Steak, Chicken Fried Chicken, Donuts... the list goes on. And all of these things I had at my fingertips at any time for 25-35 hours/week. The problem with this is that these kinds of food wreak havoc on your body, and pretty much immediately after you eat them. So I was running hard and negating much of my work by the food that I ate.
My deeper problem was (and still is) a general lack of self-control, especially in the area of food. I think with all the media coverage on obesity in America, we are all aware of the national trend towards indulgence. Our lack of boundaries extends to other areas, as well: Need a new (fill in the blank)? Why wait? You DESERVE a new (fill in the blank). And you can finance it for 72 months with no money down!
Whatever the causes were, as a college student, I was spoiled. I still am in some ways. The easier it is to acquire that thing which is really not in our best interest, the harder it is to control ourselves. So when I had fried foods at my fingertips, my desires overwhelmed my reason and discipline. I think we can substitute any of our vices here.
Consider this:
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12 
Sometimes we allow our habits to be shaped by things simply because they are there. Since I can have it, then I must necessarily need it and have the right to get it whenever I choose. So in Matt Parker’s case,  if he needs fried foods, he has the right to have Sonic at his fingertips whenever he wants it. Until 2 am, anyway.
And maybe I can. After all, all things are lawful for me, especially as a believer. I live in America where fast food is everywhere and often cheaper than buying and preparing healthy food. But that does not mean it is good or beneficial for me and those around me. 
Every day we face opportunities that will either benefit us or not. I wonder what would happen in our church if we all made this verse a daily reminder. What if we took seriously this idea of not being mastered by our desires and passions? 
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Friday, May 25, 2012

On Heroism and Chuck

But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you," declares the LORD. 
Jeremiah 1:7-8
There is a television series that gives me hope as a man. It’s called Chuck. It’s about a regular old computer genius who mistakingly receives a supercomputer in his brain containing all the secrets of the CIA and NSA, along with some physical abilities like Kung Fu, sharp shooting, gymnastics, and Tango. The series explores how a regular guy becomes a hero, and it may be a bit different than you might think.
I am not your typical heroic figure. So you can imagine that stories of nerds and geeks who behave heroically are a serious draw for me. They show us what heroism truly is. 

I recently heard an interview with Dr. Gordon Livingston, a West Point graduate who has become a psychiatrist and author of the book The Thing You Think You Cannot Do. Above is the link to the audio of the interview. A statement Dr. Livingston made that caught my attention was his assertion that our idea of heroism has become skewed over the past 100 or so years. Instead of to truly great men who demonstrate moral and physical fortitude in extreme and dangerous circumstances, we attribute heroism to game players, strongmen, and the people who can take out a horde of bad guys with the flex of his bicep. Our heros tend to be terribly flawed characters who make awful decisions, or have the label of hero because of the uniform they wear.
Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. William Shakespeare

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." 
Joshua 1:9
Maybe our culture should reexamine our definition of heroism. Maybe courage and heroism are more about the right choices we make under duress than about our position, talent, abilities, or even the branch of the military we enter. Maybe the greatness to which we should aspire is allowing the Lord to work within our weakness to accomplish His purposes.
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 
We see the antithesis of this over and over again in the book of Judges, which C.S. Lewis suggests should be renamed “Champions”. With each successive champion the Lord raises to deliver Israel, the choices they make are worse and worse, and the story becomes bleaker and bleaker. Then enters Samson, perhaps the most impressive and apparently heroic of them all, yet his choices and his story are the worst yet.
I am not a heroic figure by cultural standards. I am not physically impressive, athletically talented, or politically motivated. But if I, like Chuck, can work within the gifts I have been given to work for the good of those around me, for God’s glory to place the well being of my friends and family above my own, and commit to do what is right no matter what it costs me, I may just be able to become a hero to those I care about the most.
By the way, the actor who plays Chuck is a professing believer in Christ, living in Hollywood. So Zachari Levi may be even more heroic than the character he plays.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Thing About My Folks

When I was a kid, my folks were completely unreasonable. I mean, they were horrible, really. It’s amazing I made it through. When I think back now, as a parent myself, I may have called CPS on my parents several times. You have no idea.
Oh, sure, in public they were all nice and respectable... Actually, now that I think about it, they were equally as awful in public as they were at home.
You would like a few examples? Here you go:
  • My parents never had cable or satellite TV. It was embarrassing. I had to go to my friend’s house to watch MTV. I never knew anything about Beavis and Butthead or Ren and Stimpy. I was a dork and it’s all their fault.

    And it didn’t stop with TV. We barely had video games. When someone pulled out their Nintendo, I had no idea what to do with it. I’m an inept gamer and it’s all their fault.
  • My parents forced me to wear hand-me-down clothes. Never mind that I was the youngest of 4 kids and they couldn’t afford Hilfiger, Gap, or Structure. My clothes weren’t from the mall, usually not even from Wal-Mart. Most of the time I got to shop in MY BROTHERS’ CLOSET! I was mortified every time I walked down the hall at school.

    So when I saw A C Slater and his awesome stone washed jeans, I knew it was only a dream. I was a fashion don’t and it’s all their fault.
  • My parents always had to know where I was and what I was doing. And we lived so far out of town that usually all I had available was MY BACK YARD! And I had a curfew at least an hour ahead of everyone else my age. Some of my friends didn’t have a curfew at all. You can guess where I went to spend the night as often as I could. I was a dweeb and it’s all their fault.
So you can see just these few examples of how bad my parents were at... PARENTING! I haven’t even gotten to how few times we ever went to Red Lobster or Olive Garden. I didn’t mention how my first jobs were when I was 9 years old. I can’t even think about not getting to go to cool places like Walt Disney World or Las Vegas. And, ugh, all that time we spent at CHURCH! Well, I didn’t actually mind that part so much. AWANA was kind of fun.
But because they gave birth to me, I was FORCED to follow my parents’ instructions. Because I have their DNA, I HAVE to show them honor, which is hard for me, given how my dad worked 12 hour shifts (supposedly to put food on the table and pay the mortgage) and my mom was always teaching at the same school as I was attending (again, EMBARRASSING).
It’s amazing to me that I turned out to be so well-adjusted. I’m incredibly cool for how I was brought up, even though I never got to hang out with drunks, drug addicts, or gangsters.
So thanks, Mom and Dad, for being such awful parents. No, seriously. Thank You.