Monday, October 09, 2017

Hold My Hand

Yesterday my wife and I had supper at a burger joint in the local shopping area. It was good. And fun.

We had to park in front of Victoria's Secret. But we didn't have to walk in front of the store because the burger joint was on the other side of the parking area. Just my luck, as soon as I walk in front of a lingerie store somebody would take a picture, post it, and start a scandal about a pastor…

We walked across to the burger joint and Deana decided she wanted to go to Bath and Body Works before they closed. So we walked back across to Bath and Body Works, which is next to Victoria's Secret. Lucky for me that Deana didn't think about Bath and Body Works until we had crossed the parking lot and moved down a little so that when we went back to Bath and Body Works I didn't have to walk in front of Victoria's Secret and thus start a scandal.

As one might expect, Bath and Body Works was having a sale. Not just on a single item, though. You never get to buy just one thing on sale there. The sales at Bath and Body Works (I'm told) are when you buy 3 or 5 or 80 of something. The sale Deana found was on 5 of one item. They have these little bottles of perfume that you stick in a warmer that you plug into the wall like a night light. As a matter of fact, some of the little warmers have night lights on them.

So Deana bought 5 of the little bottles of stuff. She thought she had a warmer at home. Apparently she did not.

A few minutes ago she called. Her boss needs something from the Apple Store (same shopping area). She's talking about that and seamlessly says, "Can I get one of those plug in thingies?"

We love the Apple Store and Apple products. We are well stocked. We have plenty of chargers and adapters for the home and each vehicle. I can't imagine why she wants to buy another one.

"What?" I say.

"I thought I had one but I didn't find it so can I get one?"

You know those Christmas lights that look like icicles? At our house those are charger and adapter cords. That's where we keep them in December.

Come to find out, she was talking about going down to Bath and Body Works (she'll have to walk past Victoria's Secret) to get one of those plug in warmer thingies.

"Ah, OK. Go ahead and get one."

You know how you always had to hold your mother's hand when you went to a busy store at Christmas time? I was one of those kids. I'd get distracted with the toys. Next thing you know, I'd hear my name over the intercom. I should've held my mother's hand.

On the phone with Deana today my mind took a journey to the Apple Store. I'm looking around at all the cool stuff. I'm playing with stuff. I'm thinking how expensive the accessories are. All of a sudden she says, "Can I get one of those plug in thingies?"

She took my mind to the Apple Store and let go of it. Then she walked down the sidewalk to Bath and Body Works (past Victoria's Secret) to get a plug in thingy.

Ladies, the moral of the story is this: never let go of your husband's mind when you suddenly have a story shift. It's OK when you are talking with your girlfriends but not when talking to your husband.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Be a Quitter

So earlier this week I said not to be a quitter. You can read about that here. That was about not quitting things you shouldn't quit. But what about some things you should quit? Shouldn't you quit the things that you should quit? Of course! And what kind of person would you be now if you had quit then?

I am a procrastinator. As a matter of fact, when I wrote the previous post I asked you to check back for this post. I set a reminder for 9:00 this morning to write that post. The reminder popped up and I reset it to 11:00. I am writing this at 12:30. Procrastination clogs up productivity and creativity. Procrastination irritates the people at home and at work. Procrastination will likely cost you more money because you didn't act in a timely manner. It will likely cost you better grades because you didn't study like you should have. It will cost you opportunity.

I should quit procrastinating. You know the thought running through me mind right now, don't you? "I'll quit procrastinating later."

We have addictions we should quit and when we do we will have more time, money, opportunity, friends, etc. What is your addiction? Drugs? Alcohol? Sex? Laziness? Shopping? Netflix? Social media? Gambling? Video games? Feel free to speak up if I haven't mentioned your addiction.

Maybe it is easiest to illustrate what addictions cost you by looking at the person addicted to alcohol. He usually spends money he doesn't have on alcohol. That leaves little or nothing for groceries or rent or other necessities for his family. He is usually not nice to be around so his wife and kids suffer the loss of quality time with a husband and father. He may cross the line at work and lose his job. His drinking may lead to doing something illegal so now his financial problems are multiplied and his relationships at home suffer even more while he serves his time. We've all heard stories of or have a personal connection to a person injured or killed by a drunk driver. Now, like the cloud of an atomic bomb, the problems and misery spread out and engulf many people.

Your addiction may or may not follow this storyline but I know it is very similar because whatever you should quit but don't will always cost you.

Maybe you need to quit biting you nails or having a sour attitude. Maybe you need to quit procrastinating or making hasty decisions. Maybe you need to quit a bad relationship or an addiction.

Maybe you need to quit trying to run and control your own life; let Jesus lead you. His Spirit longs to do that and is ready. And very capable.

What is it that you are doing that constantly brings trouble and problems? Quit it and start doing the right thing. The right thing always includes following Jesus.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Don't Be a Quitter

What kind of person would you be now if you had quit then?

It depends, right? Quit what?

I quit baseball when I was 12 or 13 years old because I was no good at it. Actually, I was pretty good except when the ball was headed toward me. The last year I played, I struck out all but once. Rarely did I even swing. Why? Because I had been hit by pitches too many times. And I had taken a ground ball off my nose and a fly ball off by forehead. The one time I did not strike out that year was a walk and after I made it on first base I almost got picked off because I wasn't paying attention…I hadn't been there much.

If you read this blog very often you probably know that I love baseball. I know a lot about the game. I know much of the intricacies that should make me a good player or maybe a coach. But when I could have formed and honed the skills I quit. I don't have any thoughts that I could have been a pro ballplayer but I do wish I had played longer.

Quitting relinquishes opportunity.

I have a friend who quit on his marriage. He messed up and she was pretty made at him, understandably. But he couldn't see a reason to try to reconcile so he quit. Quitting relinquishes opportunity.

I've worked with people who were on the cusp of solving a major problem but just didn't finish. They were done but they weren't finished. They just couldn't make themselves try one more solution or brainstorm one more time or work late one more day. Another company finished and got the business. Quitting relinquishes opportunity.

We have no way to know what will happen next if we keep on trying. We can be certain of what will happen next if we quit.

All this applies to quitting something you really should stick with. Check back in a few days for some thoughts on sticking with something you really should quit.

Friday, September 08, 2017

62 and Sunny

At the moment, it's 62 and sunny where I am. The morning sky is beautiful as the sun makes its way to apex. The trees' leaves are still wet with dew as are the rails on the deck. The droplets of water glisten. I took the trash can to the curb this morning. The dew on the grass was cold to my bare feet.

Not everyone has the beautiful morning I have and the prospect of such a perfect day. In southeast Texas millions of people are recovering from a massive hurricane that dumped billions of gallons of water in the form of rain on them just a few days ago. They may notice a clear sky and a comfortable temperature, if that happens to be the case today, but they are focused on something else.

Millions of people living in Florida are in the path of another hurricane that threatens to bring horrible devastation to most everything in its path. They are asking themselves, Do I stay or evacuate? I have family members who are in Arkansas today trying to get home to Florida. They are asking each other, Do we stay here are try to get home?

People in the Pacific Northwest are under a cloud of dangerous smoke from wildfires. The cloud, the residue, the air quality, the threat to property are all concerns for them today.

And these are just a few of the issues people in the United States are facing today. Look at news from around the world and the different circumstances are multiplied by thousands.

It's not 62 and sunny everywhere.

And other circumstances in your life that seem to be perfect don't mean everyone else is having a perfect day. While we all live under the same general circumstances like a morning sunrise, grass that needs to be cut every week or so, death of loved ones, jobs to go to, classes to attend, etc., it's the specific circumstances that attract our attention. And the specifics can vary vastly from one person to another.

My father-in-law died this week. Billions of people didn't know him and his death made no impact on them. Lots of people know someone who knows him and expressed sympathy. Many friends feel sorrow. The family is impacted more than anyone. Even the death of a great person effects people differently. The specifics of the circumstances make the difference.

Every person you see today is experiencing many of the same things you are but they also have circumstances specific to them. That's why some people are having a great day while the person in the next cubicle is having a terrible day. How we respond to people around us is important.

We shouldn't be critical of someone struggling with something we cannot see. We shouldn't be jealous of someone whose circumstance are better than ours. We shouldn't refuse to help others or reject the help others offer.

We should love them and be kind. We should help them see how God is the rock of stability in even the most stormy times. We should praise God in our good times. We should praise God in our bad times. We should trust him always and always express his character to others.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

He Is Mighty to Save

From time to time - not often enough - I remember what a great sinner I am. I have a pretty good memory. Actually, that's not something I can self-proclaim; I don't know what I've forgotten, right? But from time to time in images as clear and big as an IMAX movie I see what I've done. The reason this matters goes back to what I've read in the Bible. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). There is a target for how I live: the glory of God. Not that I could ever hit that target with my own righteous acts, but I am to live for his glory and reflecting his glory. My falling short happens too often.

Most of the time - not often enough - I remember God's grace and love that provide a way of forgiveness of my sins. This, too, is on my mind because of what I've read in the Bible: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ didn't just die but he died for us. What that means is more fully explained in 1 Peter 3:18, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." I'm glad that each time I remember my sin I can also remember my forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

My "memory cinema" is always open. Some features are horrifying. Others are filled with suspense. Looking back, I can also see the comedy. I the real theaters I like to stay while the credits play; I don't want to miss anything. Some directors will put the outtakes after the credits. If I stay in my "memory cinema" long enough I always see that God puts an ending on the story that I might forget. The final scene is always of forgiveness and second (or third or…) chances.

I've lived long enough with glaring sins to know that my fellow humans don't always give second or third chances. My particular ministry calling is especially susceptible to this. But God does forgive. God does give another chance. Because he is with me and loves me.

He is with you, too. And he loves you, too. And he will forgive you just like he does me. And God will restore you by giving you another chance.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).

Look up! God is mighty to save! Do you hear that music? That is God rejoicing over you with singing! He's singing you a song like a parent quiets and comforts and celebrates a child.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Three Hours One Monday ... and One Friday

Today is the day. This day has had about as much press as the last Presidential election. What a stir God has created when he created the universe and put into action what would happen today in the heavens.

We will experience a total solar eclipse in our part of the world. Apparently the last one around here was in 1978. The next will be in 2024. This is the first one in the digital information age where everyone is a reporter. With cameras in hand and social media apps at our fingertips, this may break the internet.

Where I live, the eclipse won't be 100%. I think we max out at 89%. The moon will begin to nip into the sun at 11:48 this morning. The maximum eclipse will be at 1:18. It will be over at 2:47 this afternoon.

Matthew 27:45 tells us that during the crucifixion of Christ an unusual darkness fell on the earth from midday to mid-afternoon. Some say it was an eclipse like we'll have today. Some say a windstorm created such thick dust that the sky was darkened. I believe God supernaturally hid the sun because the of terrible scene of Christ taking on the sins of the world and absorbing the punishment for sin: death.

The three hours of darkness today will not be like the darkness when Jesus died. The sun is too bright for the moon to completely block its light. But we will get a sense of what it might have been like. And we certainly will be reminded of a great day in history when our sins were dealt with once and for all.

The darkness on this Monday afternoon will be pretty cool. The darkness on that Friday afternoon was part of an awesome plan of God to bring sinners into right relationship with him through the death of his son Jesus on the cross.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

A Time to Laugh

From King Solomon's wisdom we get the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. That's where we read there is a time for everything. Today is a time to laugh.

It's the first day of school for my son. He starts his junior year of high school.

A popular children's cartoon's theme song says there are "a hundred and four days of summer vacation." Not anymore. This year the summer break for high school students at Baptist Prep was 75 days. As much as kids moan about the school year being too long and the summer being too short, Riley has been ready to go back to school for a few weeks.

That makes me laugh. But I completely understand. I was the same way. Summertime was isolation time. Away from friends. Away from routines. We usually took a vacation trip somewhere but that was over way too soon and then it was back to the house. Just me and my sister. And we didn't get along too well back then.

I am a really good card shuffler. My mother-in-law thinks I have a Vegas background. All I'll say is that I didn't learn that in church! Actually, I learned that during those long summers. That makes me laugh.

I spent a day earlier this week driving to all the schools that kids from our church attend. I took a selfie in front of each school sign. And I prayed for the school. I prayed for students, families, administration, faculty, and staff. I prayed that believers would influence their schools. I prayed God will be glorified in each school.

I laugh because schools (even Christian schools) are not places students expect to experience a movement of God. Honestly, I don't know many students who EXPECT God to move in their schools. But I believe he will. And I laugh. Not a gotcha kind of laugh but a joyful expression of knowing God is up to something.

I extend my prayers for the schools I visited to the schools your family is involved in. May God do something great and may our response be to laugh because of the joy that will bring.