Monday, July 26, 2010

Living A Better Story

Donald Miller wrote in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
     "So I started obeying a little. I'd feel God wanting me to hold my tongue and I would. It didn't feel natural at first; it felt fake, like I was being a character somebody else wanted me to be and not who I actually was; but if I held my tongue, the scene would play better, and I always felt better when it was done. I started feeling like a better character and when you are a better character, our story gets better too. At first the feeling was only about holding my tongue. And when I learned to hold my tongue a bit, the Voice guided me from the defensive to the intentional.
     God wanted me to do things, to help people, to volunteer or write a letter or talk to my neighbor. Sometimes I'd do the thing God wanted and the story always went well, of course; and sometimes I'd ignore it and watch television. But by the time I really came to believe the Voice was God and God was trying to write a better story. And besides, nothing God wanted me to was difficult.         
     Until..."
 
     It's a great book, I don't want to call it a must read, that seems presumptuous but it is wonderfully written and has an truly original perspective.  If you love to read or write this is as must read as it gets.
     That said, back to the excerpt.  Obedience.  People equate faithfulness with obedience and I hesitate a bit, I think that a faith which lives itself out by following rules leads to legalism and self righteousness and then failure. 
     It is a New Year's Resolution or I am Willing Myself to be better religion.
     Miller points to two interesting parts of obedience:  first, listening to God and following that, when the character does that (obeys),  the story gets better.  
     It hit me:  legalism is not obedience--willing oneself is not obeying anyone but self.  Obedience is hearing, attending to and then following what Miller calls the Voice.  The story would not get better if I take a legalistic or self will approach, but if I listen to God, discern His will from prayer, scripture, worship and I have a posture ready to give then not only will I be obedient, my story gets better (note, not easier--Miller has great thoughts on our pursuit of comfort). 
     I love the line, "sometimes I'd ignore the voice and watch television" again, what I am listening to and what am I paying attention to.?
     I just listened to a podcast of a sermon from Andy Stanley of Northpoint Community Church.  He asked, "when was the last time you saw a love scene in a movie between two married people?  I know it's almost ewww, yuck like watching your parents."  
     Stanley's conclusion:  we pay lots attention to and then fantasize about the love scene between unmarried people we find attractive but then are shocked, outraged that someone acts out in real life, that which we seek for entertainment.  
     We are shocked at the real world destruction that comes from listening then acting on a voice that is not God, because in the movies such behavior is fun with a cool soundtrack and hair/make up artists and costume designers.  It has the illusion of being worthy of watching, but somehow we are supposed to know not do what we pay to watch.
      Putting the two points together, if I follow what I focus on, then first I need to focus on that which is true and worthy.  Then, I need to follow it.  That is obedience, it's not complicated, but its not always entertaining.   Good stories are not amusements--but they are rich and interesting and have a lasting quality that I want.
     Monday morning coffee and comfort with obedience.  I think it's going to be an interesting week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Looking Up and Pressing On


Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Philippians 3:12

It's one of my favorites, in that even surrounded by people and circumstances that are gifts, I have an excitement about the next step.   I don't really dream big, I am afraid, but I do look forward with enthusiasm.

Last night John and I took inventory of where we have been recently and where we want to go--with kids, money, each other, the house.  We talked about what was the wisest, most faithful option, opportunity and direction.   Frankly, it was fun. 

God really knows what the actual next steps will be, and I suspect a combination of joy and some sorrow, of sure steps and slip ups--but it's movement and that brings a wee bit of adrenaline and some focus.

To be sure, we are no one's definition of adventure seekers or bold risk takers but we are looking up and pressing on--confident of some good laughter and some good learning.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cast of Characters, An Excellent Work!

Cast of Characters:  Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God is excellent--a worthy read for anyone who values The Bible as relevant and transforming. 

What makes Max Lucado's work so special?   He captures the lives of men and women from the Bible and tells their story in contemporary terms without taking any liberties to change or adjust the account. 

It is clever and thoughtful, but most of all it stirs up a response within, so that as I read, I was not just considering the lives of others, but my life and what does faith and failure really look like and really leave as a legacy.   The questions which follow each chapter are excellent for personal study or small group study. 

This book would work very well for both teens, adults.  It would bless those who are mature in faith with a fresh word and it would encourage those new to faith--introducing a large body of Biblical work in very manageable segments.

I looked forward to reading more each day, and have revisited several chapters, including the Lucado's take on Abigail, Mephibosheth and John.  Lucado moves through the Old and New Testament stories with energy and always seeks to show the reader how this makes a difference in the everyday, ordinary circumstances and relationships.

I strongly encourage anyone to read Cast of Characters, it delivers much.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Do More

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."  Hebrews 3:13

"Correction does much, but encouragement does more."  Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe

To encourage: parakaleo:  to call to one's side, to comfort, beg, console, instruct or teach.  An exhortation (to urge or persuade). 

My study this morning pointed in two directions:  we don't encourage because of envy or we fail to recognize the power of encouragement. 

I default to criticism, dressed up as correction, as if God purposed me to edit/proofread the lives and words around me.  I need to shift gears in my heart, my mind and finally to my active mouth, my gift is not filling in another's blanks out of envy or ignorance.

Why do I see my lack of encouragment as valuable contributions when I all I am doing is pointing to what is wrong, or missing or how something can be improved?   Why do I miss the tremendous value of walking alongside someone and considering, noting and commenting on what is working, what is right, what is helpful?

I applied for a job this week and listed two people as references before I asked permission from them to do so.  I was eager to accomplish my goal of submitting the application, and I made the mistake of listing those folks before asking. 

Then, I asked for their willingness to be a reference.   Both said the same, exact same thing to me:  "honored to be in that position, I hope they call."  The exact same encouragement--either they did not notice my error, or they did not care and instead encouraged my pursuit, hoping for the best outcome.

It was a powerful reminder of encouragement's real power.  The freedom from seeing what is wrong and the freedom to bless is tremendous.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Living Well, Loving Much

There is a time for everthing and a seaon for every activity under heaven:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant an a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep an a time to  laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.  Ecclesates 3:1-8


The family returned from a week in Michigan, full of beautiful lake bound activity--rushing, rushing, rushing through airports and Atlanta rush hour to gather up the dog and take one girl to a softball tourney and the other to camp.

In the midst of the rushing to and from the not so important,  I paused to share in a funeral honoring a neighbor's life.  In the midst of appreciating her life, the grief of her passing, the questions about her suffering--there is the moment of considering time and I use it.  Am I living well?  Am I caring about what is worthy of caring about?  Am I learning, and loving--the activity that fills purpose?

It was her time to die, and it hurt--as she loved much and loved well. 

It is my time to live well, time passes quickly.

Friday, July 2, 2010

That's not fair!

Matthew 20: Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  You know the story, the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work.  He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sen them into his vineyard.  ...The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour cam and earth received a denarius.  So when those came who were hired firs the expected to receive more.  But each one of them also received a denarius.  When they received it,they began to grumble against the landowner....But he answer them, Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?   Or are you envious because I am generous.  So the last will be first and the first will be last.

Two wonderful friends of mine just received a big gift for a job I did years ago.  Upon completion of my work, I received essentially nothing.   My first reaction was rationalized resentment, yes they did great, but must we be so extravagant?  My next reaction was self pity--I worked hard too and all I got was a cute coffee mug.  

This morning I considered my pride and envy for what it actually is--self centered and small.   I read the parable in Matthew 20 a couple of times.   I always "related" to the workers who arrived early, worked their tails off and felt unfairly compensated for their effort.  What if I am the guy that shows up as the sun is setting and collects a full day's wage?  What if I am really blessed not only more than I deserve, but actually I have not put much effort into the work of the day but am receiving full wages?  It never occurred to me that based on the kingdom work of others, I am late to the game and overpaid in contrast to their effort.

Perspective is a simple remedy for petty envy, next step--celebrating the bounty others receive, not just dodging my one jealously.

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?