Friday, February 26, 2010

Grace from a male figure skater

Sometimes people really surprise you. Just more proof that you can't judge folks by "the outward appearance," because God reminds us in his correspondence with Samuel, "the Lord looks at the heart (I Sam 16:7)."

Now while God intended this passage to show that Israel shouldn't simply be awed by King Saul's awesome size, and ignore the younger and smaller David, I think this could also be applicable figure skating. Of course to some degree. Let me explain.

Before going any further, I will say this: Connar will not be doing any male or male/male pair figure skating like Will Farell and John Heder in Blades of Glory. However I will also say that I was extremely humbled in my judgment of figure skater Evan Lysacek during an interview.

If you didn't see Lysacek's routine, or whatever you call it, he wore a black feathered outfit. The joker looked like a crow, as you can tell from the above picture. He really did. I thought he might fly through the screen and "caw" at me. Though his outfit was black, he looked as fruity as Tropicana. That's how he appeared.

Then came the verbal jabs from the rival, a mullet sporting "Rusky." You know, typical figure skating "smack" like so-and-so doesn't do any "quads, and shouldn't be in consideration for a medal" and "because of him the sport is regressing."
The standard smack.

After winning the gold, and the Rusky the silver, Bob Costas interviewed him. Costas couldn't ignore such statements, and that's when Evan's response blew me away. He did not fire ANY smack back. He spoke well of the Rusky, explaining that in the heat of the moment, people say things.

Costas then reminded him that these quotes came well before the silver. So Evan then responded, "Well....he has been a mentor for a number of years, and has been great for the 'sport'......what he's accomplished has been amazing...."

Wow. That's grace. Pastors and pastor-blogger types don't show this much grace to fellow pastor-blogger types. Humbled indeed by "the crow." Points me back to the One who didn't revile when folks reviled Him (I Peter 3:16). And He did it for me. I hope I would be as gracious as Evan, but if/when I fail in this area, it is good to know someone died for that sin and gives us all back-smackers and "quick-responders" hope to grow in this area.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A straw man

Haven't been around the blogosphere in a while, but figured it was time to pick back up. I had a pretty good excuse not to blog the last week or two as we had to rent our house, clean it up, box it up, and move on North to snowy West Virginia (where I had to use hot water to get my car door open again today), and then cram into our rented townhome up here. Life has been crazy.

This really has nothing to do with anything, but I found this article kind of funny, since I'm a straw chewer. A basketball player for the Dallas Mavericks has a dangerous-but also illegal according to NBA rules-habit: chewing straws during the games.

I guess the NBA figured this might not be the safest habit in the world. I'll probably side with the league on this one.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Imperfect contentment and help

I was reading this morning in II Corinthians 7 today and was hit by a few things, hopefully you'll find them as insightful and encouraging as I did.

Here's the passage from chapter 7.

"....For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn- fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more...."

1.) Although Paul had learned to be content whether well fed or hungry (Phil 4), he WASN'T ALWAYS content and we shouldn't put that pressure on ourselves and others. He had "fear within." Many times he wasn't content, and it wasn't simply sinful. Later in the chapter he speaks of "the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches (II Cor 11:28)."

And Jesus wasn't always content either, due to a world plagued by the presence of sin and death: his dear friend died (John 11), and let's not forget there was a people whom he "wanted to gather" to himself but many were "unwilling." (Matthew 23:37).

So its OK to not always be content. However, more often than not, we're discontent not because we're angered by the presence of sin in the world, but simply by our lack of getting what we want. There is a difference, but God's grace fortunately covers all of our unrighteous discontentment.

2.) God uses people to bring comfort. Sometimes it comes directly through the Holy Spirit (II Cor 1), but comfort is also "delivered" to our door through fellowship with others. The Lord's work in Titus, as well as Titus' bringing news of the Lord's work in the Corinthians, helped Paul along the way. And in this marathon race of living out our Christian faith, we need to keep all "pathways" of comfort open.

In the words of Bono, "Sometimes you can't make know, you can't take it...sometimes you can't make it on your own."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brees' calling

Well as I write this, it is snowing. Again. All day. Sometimes I wonder if I'll see the SUN return before the SON returns. It's definitely the former who will give us hope in all this weather.

Anyhow, I wanted to comment on Drew Brees' Super Bowl reflection. Most responses to sporting victories are about as deep as a kiddie pool-though not as warm-but Brees' reflection over the last several years caught my attention as something substantial. He referred to coming to New Orleans as a calling.

Not simply a lucrative job or career (though it is that), but a calling.

Sometimes ministers will say, "I've taken a
call," since a congregation will offer the position to the man they feel has a called by God.

But I really like Brees referring to his job as a Quarterback as a "calling." But it's not just for ministers or quarterbacks. Its for all of us.

Gordon McDonald in his book Ordering Your Private World challenged folks to consider the career as a "calling." If it is not something you have been called to, it will become something in which you are driven. And if all you have is drive, and not call, you'll be trying to please someone. Perhaps a father, perhaps keeping up with a friend, enemy, or an image of success. You really can't relax. And you'll neglect other areas of calling such as call to be parents, spouses, friends, and community blessing. Oh how those can be quickly forgotten when we are simply driven to win.

Included in Brees' calling is the opportunity to bless his community (which should sound familiar to us-Gen 12) and serve the New Orleans area in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Brees, like most QB's, probably won't win too many Super Bowls. But I have a feeling his sense of call will supersede simple success on the field.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

weather or not to be happy...

Two out of three days I tried to open my car door and couldn't. Frozen shut again....And so I began reflecting.

People used to pray to a weather god, and Connar's people (he's 1/8 Pahmunkey Indian as you may know him by his tribal name "Dances with Stars") probably did rain dances to a weather god to get some precipitation going. But I think many of us still look to the god of weather. Although not like this god on the left, which, I'll let you imagine what he's doing....

I'm beginning to realize how much I look to the heavens for more than sunshine and warmth but for happiness and comfort. Sometimes my days can begin good or bad based simply upon weather. And two things I've not come across up here during this West Virginia winter are sunshine and warmth.

I never realized how much of a god weather could become. Family, Fishing and Football maybe, but weather?

Now I'm not saying there is not legitimacy to that type of depression caused by not seeing the sun. And its fine to hate the rain (I never get those people who like it). But for many of us, I wonder if more often than not, weather has become what we look to for life, happiness, and comfort instead of Jesus who controls even the "winds and sea (Matt 8:27).

One more god for Jesus to do battle with on my behalf. Fortunately he's been winning and I'm beginning to laugh when the car door gets stuck and I need to go get some hot water simply to open it. Flip-flops and sunshine will simply be put on hold for a bit, but I'm slowly learning to smile without them.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Different responses

There is always an interesting balance in regards to how Christians should expect to be viewed by non-Christians.

On one hand, some folks will hate us. If there's no persecution, then there we're not living a very godly life: since everyone who lives a godly life will be persecuted. And the gospel can make us smell like my shoes-now that I can't wear flip-flops everyday-to those perishing (II Cor 2:15). Its very proclamation will anger folks. There will be responses like this from the St. Pete Times.

And on the other hand, the gospel does bless people even though they may not believe in it (like the Egyptians in Gen 50). For instance, I should be a better employee as Christian (Col 3), must be well thought of by outsiders to be an elder (I Tim 3), and ought to be a model citizen (Rom 13). So at the same time, other folks will be glad to have us around.

Washington Post's Sally Jenkins, who is outside the faith and also vehemently opposed to Tebow's stance on abortion, responds here to Tebow's "intolerant critics" and the flack which CBS has ridiculously taken. Its definitely worth the read because she is thoughtful and not reactionary. She even calls out most "pro-choice" people for actually being "pro-abortion."

So I think in the end, we should expect both responses if the gospel is really saturating our head, heart, and hands.

Friday, February 5, 2010

NOT "Once bitten, twice shy baby"

Just a few days ago, a kite-boarder was attacked and killed by shark-or more likely in my fairly uneducated opinion-a number of sharks. But apparently there were a number of bite marks, and a number sharks in the water at the time of the attempted rescue. Here's an article on the story.

One thing that amazes me is that in the midst of these rare attacks, there is usually a "hero" (I'm surprised no one used the word "good Samaritan"-though I guess that only applies to land based rescues) who ventures out into the victim's blood filled vicinity. A vicinity that includes not only blood, but the sharks who drew that blood.

In this case the lifeguard Dan Lund paddled out on a surfboard, knowingly heading into the perilous situation. What motivates such people to do such things? I guess you could say in this case, it might have been his job or sense of duty. But he could have radioed for jet ski's and boats (though that would have taken longer).

Perhaps, deep down in his conscious, it could have been that he had
survived a shark attack over 20 years ago. He had survived. He had been shown grace, and grace is always the strongest motivator.

And the best way to show grace to another, is to stop and recognize grace that has been shown to us (Amy recently reminded me of God's grace to ME when I got mad at Connar for not "getting" something).

Perhaps because of this grace, Dan Lund wasn't, as 80's cheese rock band Great White sang, "Once bitten, twice shy, baby."
Who knows?

Monday, February 1, 2010

A challenging Johnny Newton number

Yesterday at Redeemer, we sang a little number by Johnny Newton (not to be confused with Jimmy Neutron) called "I asked the Lord." It might have been one of the more challenging songs I've sung before (next to Jesus I My Cross Have Taken).

It reads very much like a story, and since I had never sung it before, it had me wondering where each stanza would lead me.

The song begins with a fairly simple request to grow in faith and grace. The next verses then deal with how God answers such a prayer; He will often allow or even throw trials our way to get us to depend upon Him. And sometimes those trials are such that we are barely able to stand up under them.

Nevertheless God's ultimate plan is to destroy our earthly plans and pursuits of lesser joy, only to find that greater joy in knowing Him (i.e. Parable of Hidden Treasure in Matt 13).

I have to admit that while singing the song, each verse was harder to sing (spiritually), than the previous. It kept mentioning how the Lord would bring more trouble, when all the writer asked for was "grace and faith." I was desperate to land on Jesus. It reminded me of rafting down a windy river with little visibility, just praying to find the take-out site.

But I needed the hymn to first take me on a "journey" to forsake my earthly hope (which is rubbish) and to find life in Christ.
That's how he grows our faith. And I think that's been a little picture of what he's been doing in me while I've been temporarily separated from my family.

Check out the lyrics below. I hope you get a chance to read them or even sing them some day.

I Asked the Lord
©2004 double v music (ASCAP). Words: John Newton (alt. Laura Taylor). Music: Laura Taylor.

1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace Might more of His salvation know And seek more earnestly His face

2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray And He I trust has answered prayer But it has been in such a way As almost drove me to despair

3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request And by His love's constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest

4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart And let the angry powers of Hell Assault my soul in every part

5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, Cast out my feelings, laid me low

6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death? "Tis in this way" The Lord replied "I answer prayer for grace and faith"

7. “These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me.