Thursday, June 25, 2009

No one laughs at God when....

In an effort to broaden my horizons musically, I've begun podcasting All Songs Considered, an NPR broacasted radio show. Some dude who really likes music (probably too much) introduces about 5 or 6 new tunes, usually by obscure bands I would not find by cruising the radio dial.

One of my goals is simply to find some new music. The other goal is to listen to these bands in order to be able to relate to the people who listen exclusively to obscure music. It's always a good idea to give yourself more connecting points with the world around you. The more connecting points the merrier; you never know when they will come in handy.

Anyway, while suffering on the elliptical machine at Lifestyles I heard a fascinating song by a lass named Regina Spektor.
I think they are thoughtful as well as poetic. Some are quite biblical like her critique of treating God "like a jeanie, who does magic like Houdini...." I love that line.

I'm not sure what the song is about. Check the music out
here (the song is called "Laughing With"), and feel free to let me know what you think. The lyrics are below.

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests

No one's laughing at God when it's gotten real late and their kid's not back from that party yet
No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake
No one's laughing at God when they see the one they love hand in hand with someone else and they hope that they're mistaken

No one laughs at God when the cops knock on their door and they say "We've got some bad new, sir,"
No one's laughing at God when there's a famine, fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke or
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head you think that they're about to choke
God can be funny When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious
Ha ha Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital No one laughs at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they've lost all they got and they don't know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize that the last sight they'll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes

No one's laughing at God when they're saying their goodbyes

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke or
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head you think that they're about to choke

God can be funny When told he'll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war No one's laughing at God in a hospital
No one's laughing at God in a war
No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor

No one's laughing at God
No one's laughing at God No one's laughing at God

We're all laughing with God

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Bucket List and my tears

The other day I cried. It had been a while since I cried, I think. But The Bucket List did me in. Now obviously with a name like the The Bucket List just as in The Titanic, you know somebody is going to die (ashamedly I cried in the latter as well).

But The Bucket List was really not what I expected. It has Morgan Freedman and Jack Nicholson, so I ought to have expected something good. I mean those two, at least apart, have put out some good flicks together (we'll forgive Freedman for Hard Rain). The Bucket List really raises some great questions as the two even have a dialog where Freedman defends the existence of God through creation. It also exposes the allure of possessing everything while really having nothing.

What got me was that Freedman was a professing Christian, said grace at dinner, defended God, was faithful to his wife, stood up for the truth, but only pointed Nicholson to be a better person. Now I'm not expecting Fireproof; I'm not expecting a gospel presentation. But it just gets me so sad when people come so close to the point where they recognize their need for Jesus, and yet miss him. And those who could share something, don't.

That's what sent me crying for a 1/2 hour with the The Christmas Shoes movie. Not just that someone died, but that Jesus was totally absent in the movie (but present in the song which inspired the movie).

I just really need to cry more for those around me who don't know Christ instead of using my tears on a movie. I definitely don't want to repeat the same tragedy that makes me cry on the screen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More than words but not less than words

Extreme sang a song called "More than Words," about proving your love with actions, not just saying you love someone. But while love is more than words, it is also not less than words. Let me give you an example.

Yesterday was Father's Day, and it was quite a good day for me. It started out with Amy making blueberry waffles, then on to the sermon, then back home to watch the Rays win with my neighbor. While we were watching the game in the sweltering heat in his garage, he received a phone call from his sons who live in Port Charlotte most of the time.

Fortunately for me he speaks in English when talking with them on the phone so I could understand what they were saying. I was astounded at the number of times he told his sons, "I love you so much." He reassured both of them, both of whom are completely different from each other, they could rest assure his future love would be the same as his present love.

Perhaps Puerto Rican fathers are by nature more outwardly affectionate. Perhaps they are more verbally affectionate as well. Whether it was simply my neighbor, or their culture in general, I learned that you never desist in telling (not just displaying) your kids, "I love you so much." Even when, and especially when, they are teenagers. How important it is at that time to know your father loves you?

A good Father's Day indeed. More than words, but not less than words.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Aren't you glad they don't know the whole truth?

When Amy and I were at the church planting assessment center, I heard a very helpful quote related to people criticizing and talking about you. If you're like most people, you don't like to have others speak ill of you. And so one of our evaluators said, "Just imagine what they would say if they knew the whole truth?"

I thought, "Wow, he's right." Folks may or may not be accurate in their assessment of you, but what if they really knew the motives behind your often self-serving, self-propagating heart? And if they were wrong on X, aren't you glad they don't know and talk about Y? Fortunately they don't know all the whole truth about you.

From a person who can get overly upset when folks misinterpret, misunderstand, speak ill of me-whether it's true, half-true, or not true at all-I found this a very helpful perspective.

Here's a related post by C.J. Meheney about the gospel and taking criticism. He uses an example from Martin Luther and another present day scholar. I highly recommend checking it out.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's your sign?

Friday night is our normally scheduled Panera night with Connar. Usually he can sit and eat our table scraps while Amy and I scarf down our food.

Every Friday looks the same. Alix is our cashier and we usually can have our pick of tables. But last Friday introduced us to something new: Deaf Chat. That's how the sign read.

About 15 folks gathered around the table for the purpose of conversing in American Sign Language. I could tell by their signs it was ASL, well that and the ASL textbook also confirmed my suspicions. And as I usually do, I had a few thoughts.

First of all, I couldn't tell if all were truly/completely deaf (not sure on the correct terminology) and which folks were there simply to practice their signs. But many had hearing aids and I could tell they weren't just trying to brush up on their skills. One thing I could tell was that they were all having an absolute blast. Laughing and signing and laughing some more. It was really cool. What a blessing to communicate and enjoy some company from like minded folks on a Friday night.

2nd of all, I thought to myself, "When is the last time I thanked God for being able to hear? When is the last time I thanked God for Connar being able to hear?" Hearing, like many other things, is only thought about when taken away.

We say, "God, why did you have to take it away?" Yet while we hear, taste, walk, touch, see, we don't think twice about such things. We certainly aren't explicitly thankful for them. We just assume them. I think we need to be more thankful for such things because they are not a "given" while living in a fallen world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When we and animals become useful

I'm coming to the end of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and yesterday found another unique perspective on contentment in the midst of suffering. This was an angle upon which I hadn't yet reflected.

12:5-The creatures suffer for us; why should not we be willing to suffer, to be serviceable to God? God subjects other creatures, they are fain to lose their lives for us, to lose whatever beauty and excellence they have, to be serviceable to us; why should we not we be willing to part with anything in service for God? Certainly, there is not as great a distance between other creatures and mankind as there is between mankind and God.

He then goes on to use an illustration from a previously existing source (he was in 'fellowship' with those believers who had gone before him; always a good habit) to further display this point. If we can begin to consider our lives as offerings to God (Rom 12;1; II Tim 4:6), and that in our trials we are being serviceable to God and His work in us/the world, then we may yet find contentment even in dire circumstances. In other words, if animals become useful to us by suffering, then so can we become useful to God and His Kingdom when things are taken away. I think this is a good take, whether you're an animal lover or not.

FYI. Please be reminded that no fish were harmed for the purpose of this post; this redfish was released unharmed. Some other redfish gave his life for this deliciously fried beer battered dinner.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Anxiety and the Disabled List

Many folks have hard times dealing with some sort of anxiety issues or disorder. Sometimes it can get so bad that it can actually become an "injury." Here's an athlete who literally went on the DL (disabled list) and is in Triple-AAA right now rehabbing from his struggles. I wouldn't think athletes performing day in and day out on the national stage would be so crippled by anxiety. But then again, that is a lot of pressure; and there's plenty of folks who would love to take your spot.

You'd probably be surprised by those who struggle with high levels of anxiety. I think we all would.

The rate among pastors is pretty high. I bet the rate among most folks dealing with life is also pretty high. Fortunately, we have a Savior who offers to be a refuge and fortress (Psalm 91). Now sometimes anxiety does need to be treated by doctors and counselors, but always in conjunction with the one whose yolk is easy and burden is light (Matthew 11:28). I've personally benefited so much from all three resources and so will always have a soft spot in my heart for those dealing with this issue. Unless they play for the Red Sox or NFC South......

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our new answering service

Well we've toyed with getting rid of our land line because the only calls we get are from tele-marketers, Verizon, our alma maters, and charities we've given to the last few years. Now we may do that pretty soon, but for the time being, I think we've solved the problem. Instead of answering the phone, I now give it to Connar. Works every time. It's a win-win, for us at least, because I don't have to talk and Connar likes to "talk" and press the buttons.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Gospel Communities by Steve Timmis

Here are some video resources on community groups that are very thoughtful. This hip Brit avoids calling them "groups" and chooses instead, gospel communities, which do seem a bit different. They are more decentralized, not being primarily centered around a specific weekly /bi-monthly meeting.

While I would still emphasize the importance of a weekly meeting time (more of a both-and deal), I think his emphases on actually living out the gospel with one's community group is a message we need to hear. We need to think in a more decentralized way.

One point he brings up is not to set up a gospel community by interest group such as a NASCAR group as a local mega-church in our area does (though I'm not condemning this creative method) or by relational affinity, but fairly strictly by location. This way, you actually have to live out and apply the gospel to those you would not ordinarily hang out with.

But since the goal is to spend time with, minister with, literally drop in on, serve alongside of, invite, etc..., it might be wise to aim for locale with a sensitivity toward affinity. Then again, if NASCAR gets folks together to really live out and apply the gospel in community and to their community, then go right ahead (although they really only turn left).

These videos are really worth watching and reflecting upon. And because he's British, they are also easier to listen to, and of course, interspersed with subtle humor.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

D.A. Carson free stuff

Here's a list of books and articles "Dirty" D.A. Carson (nothing to do with his smell, everyone's name who starts with the letter "D" gets that term of endearment added) has published lo these many years. They are free for download. I picked up a few.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Imagination and Instruments

I just picked up a book called Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in need of change helping people in need of change. Unfortunately it is long and since I read slowly, it will take me some time to get through this bad boy. But already I'm a fan of it. Check out this quote:

People struggling with life in a fallen world often want explanations when what they really need is imagination. They want strategies, techniques, and principles because they simply want things to be better. But God offers much more. People need to look at their families, neighbors, friends, cities, jobs, history, and churches, and see the kingdom. They need imagination-the ability to see what is rel but unseen. This is what Paul fixed his gaze on (2 Cor 4). They need to look at a city and see the glorious company of the redeemed being gathered, amidst a brutal spiritual battle, to live in union with God. They need to look at their children and see a Redeemer pursuing their hearts for his own. They need to scan history and see God accomplishing His purpose.

If we look at our neighbors, neighborhoods, our schools, churches, cities and all we see is the aforementioned-and not a spiritual battle for the passion of the individual hearts as well as the collective culture-we'll not join the work Jesus has already begun. It does indeed take some imagination to join the fight as well as to not grow weary. John Lenin's material imagination of no heaven or hell leaves us with only the hope of selfish hearts trying to accomplish something of which there is no precedent or power.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Failing is also good

Well despite the best efforts of the NBA to match up Kobe vs. Lebron James, the Orlando Magic will be playing the L.A. Lakers in the NBA finals. As soon as Game 6 ended the Cleveland Cavaliers season, this year's MVP Lebron James vacated the court. He didn't congratulate the better team, but instead just took off. He didn't even speak to the media.

He claimed he was simply a competitive guy and didn't want to shake hands with Olympic teammate Dwight Howard. He later sent him a congratulatory text message. Now that's personal. Well, I think Tiger Woods is pretty competitive and he still shakes hands when he loses.

Learning how to fail obviously takes experience. Unfortunately, but obviously, that experience is the experience of actually failing! Sometimes it is quite good to lose.