Archive for January, 2018

He drug himself in the back door once again.  Ten hour days.  Six days a week.  Six years running.  His faithful wife once again had dinner ready.  By this time his daughter was in middle school and the boy was in fifth grade.  The sibling rivalry stuff was in full gear.  Seldom did they look across the table at one another.  If they did it was usually a glare.  Meanwhile, without one single word his wife’s body language yelled at him that it had been another one of those days.  We don’t need to define it.  We all have them.  When they start to string together life turns gray, vanilla, ho hum and the ruts grow a little deeper.

No use upsetting the apple cart at this point.  Let’s see if they can get through dinner without WWIII.  After a little light chatter silence settled in for a few seconds even though it felt like hours.  To break the silence, the tired dad asks his daughter, “How was school today.”  I don’t know what he expected.  “Fine,” was mumbled between bites of food.  I don’t know if Guinness has a record for the most days a dad hears “Fine” from his children but he would bet he was nearing the world record.

Turning to his rambunctious ADD son he hesitated for a moment then let the same old question fly, “What did you learn in school today Buckoo?”  With a gleam in his eye and a smirk on his face the lad responds in glee, “Nothin.”  “Nothin, not one single bit of new stuff learned today?” Dad employs.  “Nope, Nothin.”

At just about every American dinner table they learn what made the ruts in the wagon trails as we moved west.  Running over the same old place over and over again with little movement to the left or right will without a doubt create a rut.  Welcome to dinner.  Rah.

Dad was starting to stew so he looked at mom and let her know he was tired of working so hard and so long to send the kids to private school if all he gets for his effort was “Fine and Nothin.”  He forgot her body language just a few minutes ago told him it was probably not a good time to complain, poke or prod.  We don’t have to go into detail at this point.  Let’s just say mom let it be known that he had no idea what it was like to deal with Ms. Fine and Mr. Nothin over homework before dinner.  Here we go!  The game is on.

Only today, dad was not going to put gasoline on the fire.  Nope, it wasn’t worth it at least not in front of the kids.  Silence once again ruled the dinner table.  It’s a good thing this family was not in the technological age or the iPods, pads or phones would have allowed each one to retreat into their own world hoping dad doesn’t want to have one of “those” talks.

For some reason that only God can say the worn out dad turned to his daughter and asked a different question, “Honey, we are supposed to be a Christian family, have you experienced God lately?”  With mouth agape and the look of complete astonishment she muttered, “No.”  “Well, why not?” He quickly retorts.  Like any middle school student she actually replied correctly, “I don’t know, do you?”  Dad turns to the easily distracted ball of energy to his left and asks the same questions.  The replies were repeated once again.

It was his wife’s turn.  Made as well make it a perfect trifecta.  “Hey Babe, how about you, have you experienced God recently?”  She looked at her two offspring and replied, “Not with these two in the house.”

At this point all three are staring at their father and husband in disbelief.  He got em.  They had no idea what he was up to.  Come to think about it, he had no idea either.  He simply knew they claim the name of Jesus on Sunday but Jesus was hard to find any other hour of the week.  Something had to change.

“Well, I tell you what,” Dad got charged up.  “I’m going to ask these questions at least one day every week until God shows up.  When he does, I want you to share it with us so we can all enjoy God together.”  It took several weeks.  Slowly, the family began to respond.  The first question they started to answer was “Why not?”  The list of distractions began to grow.  All excuses and blames.  Dad didn’t argue.  He affirmed the struggle to find God amidst the hustle and bustle of life.

Eventually, weeks down the line, the youngest responded, “Yeah Dad, I did experience God.”  With a surprised look Dad asked him, “Share it with us I want to enjoy it with you.”  He did.  It was small but it was powerful.  The family began to share.  They began to talk about life.  They began to talk about Jesus.  Jesus showed up and it changed this one family forever.

Sometimes, we just don’t ask the right questions.

This morning I have the grandkids. It’s amazing how much energy they expend at 6:00 a.m. Their energy demands attention. Just the other day I let the 6 year old ball of energy stray a few minutes behind the house showing the neighbor our bird houses and feeders. Within a few minutes he was showing me his cut finger with blood dripping off his elbow. Let’s just say the rest of they night was lost. Life has a way of using up our greatest commodity.
What’s our greatest commodity? It’s not gold and silver even though we desire on financial stability. It’s not wheat and grains even though we do like good food especially those covered in chocolate. Maybe chocolate is the greatest commodity. No, not really. Some think a good spouse and a family is the greatest commodity. It can be in a sense. I won’t argue too long on that one. However, without the absolute greatest commodity we cannot enjoy our families. The greatest commodity in life is time. Time measures our life and we are all going to run out of it.
The older I get the more I realize the value of time. At the same time more and more things are stealing our time. Every relationship, job and element of life puts us on the clock. One thing we all need is time just to function. I no longer count the expense of things in dollars and cents. It’s minutes and hours that cost. At the same time it’s slipping away.
My greatest commodity, time, was stolen from me this very morning. Every senseless email, irrelevant text, and totally unimportant interruptions usually associated with my cell phone steals time. In this information age we think we are getting smarter by having so much information at our fingertips. We actually might be getting dumber since we can’t figure out how to control the thefts and don’t know how to use the information we get. The Bible calls that one wisdom. Smarter doesn’t mean wiser.
We forgot the law that says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every second spent in vain and indeed useless response to a not so important beep, tone and blip, we are taking time away from something. Workplaces are clamping down on personal cell phone use. However, we are not clamping down on the usage in our personal life and it is taking time away from what is really important. our relationships especially family time is the debit column and we wonder why so many relationships go bankrupt.
Recently I was told that a family does not come to church because Sunday is no longer the Lord’s day. It’s Family day. I met up with them and asked when did God change his day to our day. They replied like so many in my office. “I don’t have enough time during the week so I feel God wants me to be with my family.” When I asked why didn’t he have enough time during the week I got no response. Equal and opposite reaction is not an illusion.
Why does it seem that God is so far away? It’s not God that is so far away. It’s man who is distracted. Remember the equal and opposite reaction thing. Right now as I write this article something is not getting my attention. Now, take that and apply it down to every email trying to see us things we don’t need, text messages that relate totally useless information, and let’s add the Snapchats, Tweets, Facebook posts and so on. They all say they are free services. Not true. They all have a cost and the clock is ticking.
The number one New Year’s resolution this year was less time on social media. I wonder how everyone is doing with that one? It’s time to come to a close, let me leave you with this…hold on I just got a text…

He sat at the desk and called for his wife. She did not respond. That’s funny. She would always answer him with her squeaky voice. He walked out of his office and peaked in the kitchen. No wife to be found. He wandered from room to room wondering where she could be. Eventually he stopped and listened for her. It was deafly quiet. Maybe she went shopping and he forgot. He was getting up there in age. He looked in the garage. Nope, both cars were in the garage. As he turned to go back into the mud room he noticed the lack of her laundry. He was jolted from his denial. She was not in the garage. She was not in the house. His petite wife with the squeaky voice had succumbed to cancer a few weeks ago. He was alone for the first time in 48 years. His emotions got the best of him as the silence of loneliness penetrated his soul.
Meanwhile, the young girl sat in the counselors office telling her story. Her day started at 5:30 a.m. and finished at 10:30 p.m. with cheerleading and volleyball sandwiching her myriad of classes. She was active at school. She was active at church. She was constantly around friends, classmates and her bothersome little brothers. Something was wrong. Her parents sent her into the office since they couldn’t figure out her moods. As she laid out her complex days tears welled up in her big brown eyes. Her head drooped a bit. Her next words shattered the momentary silence, “I’m all alone. Nobody knows me.” “Impossible” the perplexed counselor replied. “You’re wrong” she insisted. “ I’m so busy I don’t have time for anybody and they don’t really have time for me.” Alone in a sea of humanity.
The 3rd account involved a young adult as sat eating her pasta explaining her guilt ridden Christian family. She had no one talk to. Her mom would have none of her deep and often troubled thoughts. Her dad, let’s just say he was a typical dad. Her brothers and sisters were driven by her parents desire for success. They had no time to hear her heart. All that mattered in her family was money. She was uncomfortable talking to her uncle. He sensed she needed some help. He asked her if she would like to have a lady to talk to. She immediately answered with a first time smile, “Yes, I really would.” He only knew of one lady who had a heart for teenagers. She was 82 years old. As he stammered though the idea of hooking her up with an 82 year old grandmother of seven she shocked him. With tears in her eyes as well she reminded him of the key value, “I don’t care how old they are, all that matters to me is will they love me.” He picked up the phone and made a quick call. She was suffering from the sounds of silence in a world of noise.
The last lonely traveler made a lot of mistakes in his life. His journey hurt a lot of people. His wife left years ago and the kids don’t care to see him. He somehow knows he has grandkids but has never seen them. He sat with his wine and his cats with no one around staring blankly as the television ran reruns over and over. He picked up the phone for the eighth time today. Nobody answered. He even was blocked by his last friend. His lonely drunken stupor made him forget the time. His multiple attempts to reach his old friend violated the man’s family time. His thirst to hear someone’s voice was greater then his thirst for another glass of alcohol. The only problem is he had worn out his welcome. HIs drunken ramblings ends every friendship he had. He couldn’t stop picking up the phone at 4 a.m., 1 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and again at 1 a.m. only to hear the endless rings. He heard the words of the Simon and Garfunkel classic…”Hello darkness my old friend.”
All these stories are true. Every one of these individuals had at one time attended church. They sat in the pews. They smiled when they needed to. When asked how they were doing they responded with American triteness, “I’m o.k., you?” No use telling them the truth. They really didn’t care.
There was a guy in the book of Acts who was in the same boat. Saul, a somewhat new believer in Jesus Christ had lost his old friends. In fact, they wanted to kill him. His new relationships did not trust him. He caused them a lot of pain and suffering. He was alone. If a guy by the name of Barnabas had not stepped up and basically said, “I got your back, let’s get going,” the story of Paul, the apostle would have possibly ended right there.
Loneliness is killing the gospel in our lives. Loneliness caused by death, busyness, flawed priorities and sin has become one of the greatest tools of the unholy trinity (the world, flesh and the devil) in a culture that deceives with it’s social media and technology. It’s the heart that is at stake. The future of Christianity is not who will be the next Billy Graham. The question is who will be a Barnabas?

It’s time to get back to normalcy.  Christmas and New Years is over and the snow gave us a few more days to relax.  Hopefully we learned the South has a different way of dealing with a few inches of snow.  It’s called the “wait for the sun to come back out” approach.  I heard many complaints about the roads and sidewalks.  I don’t think the state nor businesses should or can stockpile snow supplies for a 30 year event.  Not only that, but when we expect others to make our way easy we lose any concept of personal responsibility.  I know this is a hot topic in our world.  It gets hotter when we can blame someone else for our lack of decision making skills and get reimbursed with a lot of money at the same time.

As I study cultural philosophies and trends I get amazed at the inconsistency of the current culture that functions in a relativistic mode.  For those who may not know, “Relativism is the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid and that all truth is relative to the individual.”  In simple terms, truth is based on what each individual considers it to be at any given time and in any given place.   The Bible speaks about relativism and it’s thousands of years old.

In the book of Judges the nation of Israel was without a king.  In other words, authority had been abolished.  When authority is diminished “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”  Relativism!  The problem with relativism is when our personal interpretation of truth, good and love has a foundation in pluff mud.

Today I had a fun discussion about being stuck in the pluff mud.  For Northerners that have yet to enjoy the knee to hip deep experience of trying to defy gravity while “walking” on the dark gooy stuff in our rivers just think one word…quicksand.  It’s mud and it’s as strong as melted butter only it looks and smells really bad.

Relativism says “I’m going to do what I want to do.”  I am the determiner of truth.  Unfortunately with the dependance upon the internet (lack of verification) combined with a cultural lack of trust for any type of authority, truth begins to take on many forms.  Let’s look at it in terms of the recent storm.

I want to go to the store.  It has just snowed four inches and the temperature is about 24 degrees.  Because I want to go to the store I believe I have the right to do what I want and society should make it possible.  Roads and sidewalks are to be cleared. It doesn’t matter that the recent snow is an anomaly.  What matters is my desire to get to the store.

If I wreck the car or slip on the ice I no longer want to live in relativism and take the personal responsibility of making a poor decision based on the truths that surrounds snow in the south since my truth trumps their truth. My truth has to become somebody else’s truth.  When it doesn’t match lets call a lawyer to settle the score.  It does not matter any longer that I made a poor decision.  If I can blame someone else for my inability to drive on icy roads, walk into a store that has an icy sidewalk then my truth has to become societal truth.  It gets worse.  We refuse to pay the cost to prepare for a 30 year event.  No, somebody else has to.  Why?  My financial stability is more important than your financial stability.

Eventually as seen throughout history any society that rejects absolute truth will collapse.  It has to.  Imagine the taxes for a county to be prepared for a 30 year snow.

All we are talking about is one snow storm and inconvenience for four days.  Take the concept and start applying it to the multiple layers of life.  When man does what is right in his own eyes the cost is oppressive.  Not only does it effect the pocketbook it effects something worse.  It effects our ability to love our neighbor and maintain relationships.

I went and saw “All the Money in the World” this weekend.  John Paul Getty is the epitome of relativism gone mad.  His biggest loss…his family.  As it was said in the movie the love of people is replaced by love of things.

What is the cracked foundation?  It is the loss of belief in the Son of God who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  Take away the foundation that says “love God and your neighbor as yourself” (by the way, that’s the 10 Commandments) the only thing left is love of self.  What gets thrown away is our relationships, the very element societies are built upon.

The only way to stem the tide is to believe in the way of Christ who came to redeem.  He was redeeming what he created when man and God were in perfect unity and man and woman operated from that relationship.  That’s a foundation that does not fail.  He is putting us together.  Jesus is so much more than a way to stay out of hell.  He’s a way of life.  It’s about the relationship!

Next time…plan on staying put till the sun comes out and the temperature rises.  It’s not anybody’s fault if you end up in the ditch or flat on your back.  The truth is ice and snow makes life miserable and we don’t want to pay the price to be prepared for that “one” time.  That’s the truth and you can go to the bank on it.  Jesus said the same thing about himself only in different terms.

The coach grabbed the young man by the collar of his jersey and lifted him up off the floor pushing him hard into the wall of lockers.  With his hand balled up full of jersey he was screaming endlessly into the players face.  Eventually the anger subsided and he let go of the jersey turning his wrath against the rest of the team.  The only offense to the young basketball player was a weakness in his left handed dribbling and the inability to read the half court press put on by the aggressive opponent.

This would not be the first time nor the last time number 10 suffered the aggressive anger of his coach.  It happens to be the one he remembers the most.  The coach never mentioned the fact that the center never flashed to the center of the court during the press.  He never made adjustments for the weak left hand of his point guard.  Nobody was going to play in the NBA on this team.  Only one player would ever play one game beyond high school.

The coach had a reputation.  Few let out about his anger and abuse.  His reputation was his ability to win basketball games.  He won games with limited talent.  He won National Championships with talented guys and that’s all that mattered.  It’s funny how when one is of impressionable age what becomes expected and normal when the distance between good and encouraging is a world away.

The point guard was asked to show up years later at a banquet honoring the “successful” coach.  He refused.  He was one of the only men to avoid the event.  He got a phone call.  It was one of his old teammates asking him to attend.  The callers voice went silent when he heard the answer.

Without hesitation the now husband, father and coach replied, “If I want to honor a man for his ability to win basketball games I would come.  However, the cost was too great.  It is only by the grace of God that I remain a Christian.  If his example was what a “Christian”  should be I should have given up on the faith a long time ago.  I can’t honor him.  He won games.  He molded young men to be just like him.   He is not what I want to be nor my kids to be.”

That night they hung a banner in his honor in the largest Christian school in the Baltimore, MD area.  I wasn’t there.

Somehow “Christian” was boiled down to praying before everything we did and obeying the school behavior code which was thicker then a large print Bible.  We weren’t allowed to curse.  The coach could but he won games.  Doesn’t the Bible say to respect authority?  As long as we hung under the line of shame it must have been Christian.  Cross that line and there was hell to be paid.  That was the Christianity I grew up with.  At times when my mind reminisces I wonder how I remained a believer and follower of Jesus.

I think of so many who took the other path.  We all knew what we saw and what we experienced was far from Christ.  When what we see and what we hear does not match up a choice has to be made.  So many chose to run away.  The problem is I don’t blame them.  I wanted to run.  It was an act of God that I didn’t.

There are times I still want to run away.  I don’t want to run away because so many are no different then my old coach.  I want to run away when I find myself being that arrogant, abusive coach fighting for recognition and control in my own abilities.

I told a friend lately that my greatest flaw isn’t my left hand is basically useless or I can’t read the half court press.  I also have no concept of mathematics beyond algebra.  I can’t spell a lick either.  No, my greatest weakness is I think to highly of myself.  Not only is it in the genes as you can tell from this story, I had excellent teachers.

For those who have run away, come on back.  The example we ran from wasn’t Jesus.  Begin by forgiving me for the pain I have caused.  Begin by forgiving instead of condemning.  Now that is the Jesus in the Bible not in the locker room or the basketball court.

Maybe I wasn’t listening.  Maybe I was too hard headed.  I don’t want to blame someone for my own self absorption.  All I know is I don’t want to continue in it.  I thirst for having grace dominate my life even when those who light my fuse surround me.  I’m hungry for Christ to make a difference not so much in my moral behavior but more in my heart.  I want a lot.  Just like staying in the faith has been an act of God, it’s going to take the same to keep me from being just like the guy who could win basketball games.  No different than my salvation, it must come from Jesus.