Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Praying Like You Mean It

I like the Hardee’s fast food tag line, “Eat like you mean it.”  Why bother to taste and snack, leaving yourself hungry?  That’s just going through the motions.  If you eat like you mean it, you go for taste and expect to be filled up. 

I wonder if we pray like we mean it.  We so often just go through the motions.

But the picture of prayer in the Bible is much different.  People ask God to do something, and they mean it.  They expect God to raise the dead, show his power, prove himself. 
 
In the new year we are exloring some bold prayers in the scriptures.  And we are daring to pray Bold Prayers for 2015.

Prayer: Who Needs it?

Some people need prayer more than others.  At least that's what I've always thought. 

Sometimes I need prayer more than others.  At least that's what I've always thought. 

The truth is that I recognize the need for prayer more at times.  When stuff is really happening in my life, I get on my knees, because I need guidance, wisdom, and intervention.  When life is sailing along smoothly, I can give a token nod to prayer.  Lord, bless me, keep me focused, yada, yada, yada. 

I treat my prayers for other people the same way.  When I know they have a situation, I put more energy into my prayers for them.

I guess that's just the reality of life.  Surely I will always pray more when I know of a pressing need.  Maybe I can raise my level of prayer, though, when everything seems smooth. 

How my life would be different, if I could lay every day before the Lord with energy and passion and conviction!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Manger

Jesus walks with us.  The manger reminds us that, harsh as this world is, Jesus walks with us.  Through the poverty, hunger, hardship, and struggles, Jesus knows how hard it is.

As we sang "The Little Drummer Boy" in worship last Sunday, this line struck me:  "I am a poor boy, too."  Jesus came to be with us, to enter into the difficulties and joys of this world.  He was like us.  We are like him.


No wonder Isaiah tells us that he will be called Immanuel, which means, "God with us."  God is not some cosmic force, or supernatural cop.  He loves us so much that he gave his Son to live among us, and to experience the ups and downs of earthly life. 

So, when we experience the joys, Jesus walks with us.  When we hit the hardships, Jesus walks with us.  He gave up all the glory of heaven to be with us, to redeem us, to show us his love.  And so we celebrate Christmas. 

Welcome to this world, Jesus!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Racial Fault Lines

It seems like every week brings out another story of a white cop killing a black man.  Accounts of the stories often vary, and sometimes vary wildly.  In Ferguson, some say that Michael Brown was gunned down in cold blood, while others say that he was on the verge of killing the cop.

In Cleveland, a 12-year-old with a fake gun failed to heed warnings from the cops, and he was shot.

In NY, a man selling untaxed cigarettes fought for breath as police used special holds trying to get him to cooperate.  Apparently his last words were, "I can't breathe."

Many declare that these cases are merely the tip of the iceberg.  Police routinely, they say, treat black men with undue harshness.  Stories by the dozens or hundreds or thousands are being told now, about blacks stopped by cops for no apparent reason.  White citizens even call in complaints about suspicious black people in the "wrong" places.

It seems like we have discovered a fault line in our culture.  Well, maybe the discovery is only for people like me.  To others, the fault line has always been obvious.

And there is plenty of fault to go around, too.  So often, these situations occur when bad decisions by one party are compounded by the reaction of the other.  It seems like sinners keep encountering sinners.  It sounds like real life in this fallen world.

We need changes of attitudes, which will change behaviors.  What we really need is a change of heart.  Only Jesus can change the heart.  He specializes in working with sinners, and it's a good thing.

Enter the Church, preaching the gospel.  Jesus takes sinners and transforms our hearts.  He died on the cross for the sins of rebellion and oppression, for the sins of indifference and prejudice.  He rose again to bring life to all who will receive him.

May he bring life, peace, and healing to our nation.  May those who belong to Christ rise up with love and truth.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Questioning Entertainment: Center on God

Our entertainment habits should help us become more like Christ.  That's what it means to love God with all your mind.

The scripture tells us that we need to Center on God, Connect in Relationship, and Change our World. (See John 15.)

As you seek to Center on God through your entertainment choices, here are some key questions to ask yourself.  Bring these to God in prayer, and let him lead you.

  • What is this (book, movie, TV show, video game, blog, etc.) doing to my soul?


  • How is this helping me love God with all my mind?


  • How do I feel during and after engaging with this content?


  • What/whom does this content glorify?

Just thinking about these questions will help you consider the impact your entertainment may have on your mind.  It's worth thinking about.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Rest All Around


We were created by God to have periods of rest.  The Fourth Commandment tells us to remember and honor the Sabbath.  

Jesus reminds us that the Sabbath was made for us; it is God’s gift of rest to us.  We need rest in every aspect of our personhood:  heart, mind, soul, strength.  



God wants us to rest our hearts in him,
letting go of emotional burdens.  
He wants us to rest our minds,
laying down the puzzles and plans of life.  
He wants our souls to find rest,
as we take His yoke upon us (Matthew 11:28-30).  
He wants us to rest our bodies,
with sleep and appropriate, regular exercise.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Entertaining Thoughts

To love God with all your mind, you have to surrender your entertainment choices to Jesus.  That's not easy. It may take a long time.  It may be a process.  But Jesus certainly cares about what you put in your mind.

I'm camping out on entertainment because I keep seeing television commercials from cable and satellite companies who claim that they make your life better.  They improve your life by allowing you to watch a crime drama during a wedding reception or watch a ball game during  backyard family time.  Really?  Life is better when you can be distracted anywhere?  That's like putting a refrigerator in every room in the house.  And in your car, and in the backyard.

What is entertainment?  One way to define it is:  Passively consuming or engaging with content for fun.  This would include video games, binge watching, Facebook, Twitter, internet, cable TV, hand-held devices, smart phones, books, movies, magazines, etc.

There can be great value in entertainment.  It can provide encouragement, education, relaxation, catharsis, fellowship, laughter, relaxation, diversion.

There are also great dangers in entertainment, including addiction, loss of time, isolation, obsession with narrow topic.  Sometimes it reduces stillness; threatens time with family, self, and God; damages relationships.  And the content can be harmful to your soul—ungodly world views, porn, celebration of evil.

Like any powerful tool, entertainment can be used for great good or great destruction.  Like fire, it must be handled very carefully.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Entertainment and the Great Commandment

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  (Mark 12:29-30)  This commandment gets me every time.  It reminds me of how far I fall short of God's ideal.

For a lot of Christ's followers, we seem to ignore this commandment with our entertainment choices.  "Uh, Lord, I'm going to see this movie...hope you don't mind...uh, well, we'll talk about it later."  It's as though we know that the movie or TV show is spiritual poison, but we are willing to deal with the consequences.  Our entertainment choices are off limits for discussion, even with God.  We want to love God with all our minds, but entertainment doesn't really count, does it?

This inward tension--between what we know is right and what we do--hinders our spiritual lives.

I don't want to set some artificial guidelines about movie ratings, or how much nudity is okay, or how many f-bombs are permissible.  It would be way too easy to create some man-made yardstick and hold it up to every book or movie.

I think Jesus wants to get to our hearts.  He wants us to be in constant communication with him, even in the movies.  He wants us to bring these choices to him.  He wrestles with sin in this world.  He has a sense of humor.  He enjoys irony.  He likes good stories.

Would you dare to let Jesus in on your entertainment choices?  He's not a killjoy.  He might even help you enjoy your entertainment more.  Maybe that show is not really spiritual poison, if you see it through his eyes.

Love him with all your mind.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Giving Crap to the Poor

I just read a blog saying that we should stop giving our crap to the poor.  Okay, let's give them our best.  I like the idea of giving good stuff to the poor.

But what do we do with our "crap"?  I tend to use things until they are really worn out.  But sometimes, I think that someone could get some use out of them.  What do I do with these items?  Should I fill our landfill with them?  Should I burn them?  Should I keep on storing them?

I don't want to feel guilty for giving away items that could be of use to someone, even if they have a few miles on them.   If an item is truly useless, I have no problem discarding it.  But if it could really serve somebody's needs, I would like to get it to that person.  Donating it looks like the best way to make that happen.

Furthermore, some of these items could be repurposed--clothes made into quilts, hardware turned into art, tools used for wall decorations in restaurants...

Just because something is worn out doesn't mean that it is completely useless.  But we should also give our good stuff to the poor.  Even new stuff.  Giving without sacrifice is just cleaning house.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual habits or disciplines have shaped Christ's followers for centuries.  I believe today we need to rediscover those tools for spiritual growth.  There is no list of spiritual disciplines in the Bible, but the scripture is full of examples of people practicing spiritual habits, such as prayer, scripture study, fasting, and solitude.  To find a systematic description of disciplines, one can look at Christian writers through history.

Richard Foster gives a description of disciplines in The Celebration of Discipline, and in The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard  explains what disciplines are, and how they are helpful in the life of a Christ follower.  He says that disciplines are activities we engage in with our physical bodies which help us deepen our relationship with God.  These activities do not earn us points with God, but they help us develop our spiritual muscles and help us become ready to receive God's blessings.

Consider these analogies:

  • You put a plant near the window so that it gets more sunlight.  The place on the window sill is important only because it puts the plant in the sun.  The sunlight makes the difference, not the particular location.  Similarly, solitude, as a spiritual practice, has value because it puts us in the place where God can speak to us.  Isolation has limited value by itself; but being able to hear God speak is essential for the Christian life.
  • Basketball players run wind-sprints as they train.  No one ever won a game by sprinting alone, but the practice of plyometrics develops speed and endurance; with speed and endurance, players have better ability to rebound, shoot and defend.  In the spiritual realm, scripture memory can help us stand firm when tempted, letting us live in the Spirit's power, not our own weakness.  Scripture memory doesn't guarantee victory over temptation, but it provides us a solid spiritual foundation on which we can live victoriously.

I found it difficult to teach on the spiritual disciplines, because most biblical teaching on disciplines is indirect. But I do want my teaching to be rooted in scripture.  So as I teach at Crossroads about spiritual habits or disciplines, I refer to the Great Commandment of Jesus, Mark 12:29-30 (NIV) "The most important [commandment]," Jesus answered, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'"

I now base my teaching on spiritual habits upon Jesus' instruction about heart, soul, mind and strength.  After studying other writers' lists of spiritual disciplines, I have grouped the disciplines as follows:


Heart  (Will)
Personal Emotional Development
The habit of Worship
Sacrifice, Celebration
The habit of Fellowship
Submission, Confession
The habit of Stewardship
Frugality, Tithing

Mind 
Personal Intellectual Development
The habit of the Study of God’s Word
Memory, Reading, Study
The habit of the Study God’s World
Current events, Literature, Art, philosophy, Science, Industry
The habit of Entertainment

Strength (Body)
Personal Physical Development
The habit of Sabbath
The habit of Service 
Evangelism, Secrecy
The habit of Health
Chastity, No addictions, Exercise, Diet

Soul
Personal Spiritual Development
The habit of Prayer
Silence, Fasting
The habit of Solitude
The habit of Blessing


In future posts, I want to dig into this spiritual habit I call "entertainment."  Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Good Thing about Ebola

The growing threat of ebola sends chills down our spines, and hopefully not fever chills.  It is the latest crisis to capture our national attention.  It is becoming an international cause for alarm.  But with this enemy, we have an opportunity to rally together.
  • Everyone wants to eradicate ebola.  We can work together.
  • Ebola is not a political issue.  It affects people without respect to nationality, sexual orientation, race or political affiliation.  Unfortunately some try to drag politics into the debate, but the disease is truly a common enemy.
  • Fighting the disease gives opportunity to serve selflessly.  The body of Christ can truly show the love of Christ.
  • Ebola reminds us of human limitations of understanding and medical intervention.  There will always be mystery in this universe.  We need to keep learning, but we will never know everything.
  • Ebola may drive us to our knees in prayer.  Jesus is the healer.  We need him.
  • Government cannot solve all our problems.  Government is necessary, but is led by imperfect people with imperfect policies and solutions. 
The good thing about ebola is that it reminds us of our limitations and provides us an opportunity to work together.

I reserve the right later to say that there is no good thing about ebola.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

EULAs and Liars

Okay, there are many problems with EULAs.  These are the End User License Agreements that we all click through routinely, every time we install an app or software upgrade.  I find them annoying.  They often show you four lines of text at a time, requiring about 200 clicks and 10 minutes to get through them.  With them I promise not to break the law, reverse engineer, or share government secrets.  I agree to third party arbitration and accept the software as is, with no guarantee that it will do anything.  I agree that if I lose data or business, it's not their fault and I have no recourse.  Fine.

At least, that's what I think those agreements say.  I barely read them anymore, especially if they come from well known companies like Apple or Microsoft.  I figure that if there were any really abusive parts to the agreement, people would light up the internet with protests.

So, here's my main problem with EULAs.  They make liars out of us.  "I have read and agree to the terms of this agreement."  *Click accept.*  No, I actually haven't read your litany of legalese.  I don't care what you are afraid I might do with it.  I know that you don't really expect me to read it anyway.  I know that you are covering your legal butts.  I just want to use the software.

So, I lie when I click.  Maybe you do too.

This seems to cheapen my word.  I feel like I am compromising every time I click "accept."  But what is the alternative?  Spend valuable time plowing through worthless jargon?  Delaying my work with nothing to show for it?

So I am caught.  I can waste time and know that I really do agree with the terms; or I can violate my conscience and get on with my work.

Maybe I am over reacting, but I think these agreements desensitize us to truth.  They diminish the value of our words.  They make us willing to accept anything.  They keep us from careful examination of details.  They make us more like mindless sheep, following the flock.  Who knows where that may eventually lead?

And that bothers me.

Monday, September 29, 2014

We Need an Oasis

The Little House on the Prairie books and television series capture everyday life in the 1800s on the American frontier.  Laura Ingalls Wilder recorded a lot of the mundane aspects of life--how food was prepared, how clothes were made, how people travelled, how children played.  Few people thought to record such ordinary aspects of life, because they were so obvious.  Everyone knew what toys kids played with.  Why bother to write it down?

We actually have a snapshot of history, thanks to her careful records.  Otherwise forgotten details were preserved.  And it also made for a great TV show.

Today, change happens much faster; we barely remember life without constant access to communication.  Only 20 years ago my family did not even have a cordless phone.  We did have a computer, but no connection to the "information superhighway," this new network that Vice President Gore kept touting.  News reports claimed that some day everyone's home computers could be connected.  Yeah, right.

Back then, traveling meant being out of communication.  Only through letters, phone calls and visits could anyone communicate.  Ever.  People had one phone number for home, one phone number for work.

Now I look back and wonder how I lived without Google accessible every second.  I wonder how I could be so out of touch--no texting, Facebook, Twitter, cell calls.  But somehow I did it.

Even my millennial kids, now 18 and 20, listen with a sense of vicarious nostalgia when I describe the world at the time of their births.  So much has changed in their lifetimes.  People in my generation--I'm 52--seem to have forgotten what life used to be like.  Do we need another Laura Ingalls Wilder to recall life in the late 20th century?

We are so connected now, I wonder if it may be driving us crazy.  Yes, it's annoying at times, but it may really be changing our mental wiring.  Probably not for the better.  Do we ever really unplug?  A nice, long vacation comes with the promise of an overflowing email in-box upon return.  We can prevent that by checking our email throughout vacation; i.e. we can not be on vacation while on vacation.  Is it really worth it?

I heard recently about a company which deactivates its employees' email accounts while they are on vacation.  All the incoming emails just bounce right back to the sender.  After vacation, the employees come back to a clean work slate.  That almost sounds too good to be true.

We need time to think.  We need time to be inaccessible.  We need uninterrupted chunks of time so that we can step back and see what really matters in life.  Twenty years ago we could achieve this solitude with a day trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Now we never experience it, unless our phone battery dies.  Then we rush back to connect at the earliest conceivable moment.  Somehow that seems pitiful to me.

We can be so connected to the moment that we are disconnected from real life.  Somehow we, society, must create significant oases of quiet and stillness, without having a growing pile of stuff waiting to bury us.

The need is real.  We need to capture this before we forget what it was like.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How funny were you?

Yesterday I heard a radio DJ talking about a creative kind of "concert."  There is a troup of daring folks who tour the country hosting events in which they present on stage readings of poetry.  In these events, the performers read their own poetry, written when they were teenagers.  They read their own poetry, or prose, and sing the songs they wrote, and they invite the audience to join them in laughing at themselves.  It sounds like a riot.

To make it more engaging, they invite the audience to bring their own teenage creative works and share them  from the stage.  Every evening presents fresh, raw insights into human nature and the angst of teenage-hood.

I wish I could remember more of my teenage thoughts.  I will have to look through my old journals, dating back to probably age 17; before that, I don't think I wrote down anything but school assignments.  (And some of those make me laugh, too.)  If I did write anything, I'm sure it's a hoot.

In the teen years, everything seems so intense; every turn of events feels like life or death (OK, especially for the girls).  In a few years, those turns of fate look like the turning of the leaves--no big deal, bound to happen.  And we can laugh at ourselves.

So, at the end of our lives, or even in heaven, I wonder what we will look back on and laugh.

I cared about that job?  I wanted to buy that car?  I fretted over that bill?  I let that criticism bother me?  I thought that mistake would wreck my life?  I worried over that tragedy that never happened? I stayed up all night to prepare for that meeting?

I want to go ahead and laugh now.

Monday, September 15, 2014

NFL and Video Truth

The NFL had a tough week last week.  Video was released of Ray Rice cold-cocking his then fiancee in an elevator in February of 2014.  Suddenly, Rice was cut from the Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the league.

Columnist Leonard Pitts shared some insights about the team's and league's actions.  He notes that the recent video release provided no new information.  Days after the assault, video was released of Rice dragging his woman out of the elevator.  Rice acknowledged that she was unconscious because he had hit her.  The recently released video only gave pictures to Rice's account of the events before the elevator door opened.

The league should have acted earlier, the team should have fired him sooner, etc., etc.  But notice what this chronology of events says about our society.


  • We believe it when we see it.
  • We don't care about evil unless we see it.
  • Words and admission of guilt do not move us to action.
  • Emotions from pictures stir us more than knowledge of wrong.
  • Authorities stand against evil only when they are covering their reputations.


All this suggests that our society does not stand against evil unless it moves us emotionally.  If we can sterilize evil, so that it no longer stirs our emotions, we can easily live with it.

Video cameras are everywhere we go now.  This may be good for justice.  But I wish we did not need a picture to stir our hearts against evil.

Friday, September 12, 2014

ISIS vs. Nazis

Militant Islamists want to take over the world, and they brutally slaughter any who stand in the way.  In the 1930s and 1940s Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan joined ranks to take over the world.  Reluctantly, the U.S. entered WWII after Japan bombed the U.S. military base in Pearl Harbor.  The U.S. rightly stood against the powers of evil sweeping the world.

There are some similarities between ISIS and the Nazis:  brutality, totalitarianism, quest for world domination, indoctrination of young children.  Many believe that we should fight ISIS just as we fought the Nazis.

But ISIS is not exactly like Nazi Germany.  The Germans worked through their existing national government, which Hitler cleverly took charge of.  They conscripted young men to serve in the armed forces and used the power of the government to spread propaganda.  Religion was used by the Nazis only as a tool for the nationalist agenda.  Many religious voices were silenced.  The Nazi quest was a top-down approach, as Der Fuhrer worked his plan.

ISIS is different because it has no single charismatic leader.  A quick Google search of ISIS leaders pulls up no names familiar to me.  There are leaders, but there are many leaders.  The ISIS movement has no formal means of conscription.  This means that their forces are chiefly volunteers.  Which means that their soldiers are true believers.  Unlike Nazi soldiers who merely followed orders, ISIS militants put into action what they truly believe.  ISIS grows from the grassroots.  Pockets of believers may be found in any nation around the globe.  They can be called upon in a moment's notice to work along with the larger evil agenda.  The Nazis had nothing like this.

Militant Islam is much more insidious, and consequently much more dangerous.  Bombs and bullets can stop massive military movements like the current surge in Iraq.  But a more important battle is the the battle for the hearts of people.  So many believe the lie that non-Muslims must be slaughtered, in the name of Allah.  They serve their god by murdering entire villages.

It will take more than the sword to win this growing global conflict.  It will take truth.  It will take bold proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus.  It will take the power of the Spirit of God changing hearts.  It will
take the gospel.  It will take a movement of people who are sold out to the truth, reconciled to God through the cross, and ready to love in the face of hate.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Crooked Sticks and Straight Lines


Some tools are not perfect.  Anyone who works with computers knows this.  Experience has led me to this conclusion:  Technology is great, except for when it is not.  Printers mysteriously go offline; no one knows why.  Browsers and word processors flow like molasses and sometimes reach the solid state, freezing entirely.  One learns to restart the program, then restart the computer.  Our old wireless router became decrepit late in its life.  It had good days and bad days.  It might function perfectly for several consecutive days, then suddenly need rebooting every 10 minutes.  When I replaced it a few weeks ago, I immediately wondered why I waited so long.  Surfing the ’net is now a seamless journey through cyberspace, with no worries about video buffering or interrupted downloads.

Technology is a fickle servant.  I have often wondered how many hours I have spent waiting for my mouse pointer to stop spinning, or for programs to open, or for websites to display.  In those moments, I produce nothing, become frustrated, and further reduce my production capacity.  I could get so much more done if I were not working with such sluggish tools.  I bought a new computer in April, because my laptop became unbearably slow.  It was over four years old, well past middle age in the computer life-cycle.  Work is much more productive when my tools function efficiently.

This same lesson applies in woodworking.  Sharp saws actually cut through boards rather than burning through them.  Healthy batteries make cordless drilling effortless.  Conversely, breaking drill bits can mar the wood and slow the process.  I can work with imperfect tools when necessary—dull blades, weak batteries and breaking drill bits—but nothing beats breezing through a project with good tools.

I pity the person who shows up for work, wondering if the tools will cooperate that day.  When my daughter was ready to get her driver’s license last year, we drove 30 minutes to the DMV.  The clerk there informed us that her computers were down, and she could not help us; she had no idea when the system in Raleigh would be back on line.  All she could do was apologize to everyone who walked in.  We had to drive another hour to get to another DMV office.

Sometimes tools behave as if they have minds of their own.  Not only computers but cars, appliances and audio equipment may seem to choose if they will function.  We use those tools routinely, and work around whatever problems they cause.  We curse them, call them temperamental and may eventually replace them.

Consider that this is the kind of tool that God has to work with.  He chooses to use his people to bring his kingdom.  But we have good days and bad days.  We sometimes choose not to work.  We become dull and run down.  Unlike our tools, God’s tools actually choose whether or not to cooperate.  Amazingly, God uses us imperfect, temperamental, rebellious tools to share his good news through the ages.  Patiently, with us, he builds his kingdom, day by day, person by person.  Though we may be stubborn, hardheaded and defiant, he loves us and advances his kingdom in us and through us.  He accomplishes his purposes, and somehow uses our mistakes and sins in the process.

God can take a crooked stick and draw a straight line.  He knows that we are crooked sticks, and he loves us anyway.  In fact, he cares much more about us than our production.

So, however God is using you, he recognizes your imperfections.  He knows that sometimes you refuse to cooperate.  Sometimes you are more awake than others.  Some motives are more pure than others.  And he fashions the kingdom of God with all us imperfect, fickle tools.  Sometimes he needs to reboot us.  Sometimes he manages around our slowness.  And we are more than tools to him.  We are his dearly loved people, for whom he died.  We are his bride, being made holy, being perfected.  He loves you not for your work, but for who you are. 

If we can accomplish work with our frustrating tools, God can surely use us for his purposes, the work to which he has called us.  He is bringing his kingdom, using us in the process.  Only God could do that.  He doesn’t even get frustrated.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What about ISIS?

The wave of  militant Islam seems to be washing over many parts of the Middle East.  In Iraq, cities are being captured and Christians slaughtered.  Pleas have gone out to Christians in the West to pray and support the persecuted church.

The Arabic letter nun
To call attention to the crisis, many Christ followers on social media have changed their profile pictures to the Arabic letter nun.  According to Wikipedia, militant Islamists spray paint this letter on the houses of Christians who have fled the massacre.

The ISIS surge appears to be the culmination of jihadists' work over many decades to set up a Caliphate, or Muslim empire.  They are seizing the opportune moment.  Thanks to the U.S. military, much of their opposition has been wiped out, and Iraq looks ripe for the picking.

What should be done about ISIS?  The world looks on in horror as the jihadists slaughter all who will not convert.  Naturally Americans look to our government to step in and fix things.  Unfortunately, our past efforts to fix things have contributed significantly to the current mess.  Western interference in the Middle East since World War II has systematically alienated governments in virtually every country.

American foreign policy is such a mess that I don't advocate any military action.  But politicians love wars, and I see no reason they would steer clear of this one.

I am wondering how Christians should respond.  Of course we need to pray.  We need to trust that God can use even horrific events for good.  But we can't hide behind faith to avoid stepping up to help those in need.  After all, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the religious people apparently used their religion to justify their failure to help.

Samaritan's Purse now provides humanitarian aid for refugees, fleeing the atrocities.  The Orthodox Christian Network offers eight suggested ways to help the victims of ISIS, some of which I would endorse.

We can't ignore this historic turn of events in the Middle East.  May God lead his people around the world to stand firm for Christ and step up for one another.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Forgive Me for Praying

When I pray, I feel like I am not accomplishing anything.  I get distracted.  I fail to pray for the obvious concerns, in which I really need God's intervention.  I forget to ask him for wisdom.  My mind wanders.  I fall asleep.  Sometimes I really connect with God, but too often I do not.  Or at least I don't feel like I connect.  Here I am, a man who struggles with narcolepsy, doing work with my eyes closed.  Now that's a recipe for problems.

I believe that prayer is essential to the work of the kingdom of God.  But I feel guilty when I "work" without producing anything.  I would rather put dates on a calendar, make a list of sermon titles, look up words in the original language, even read a book.  Those things look much more productive than prayer.  And I have something to show for it.  That makes me feel better about myself.  It feeds my addiction.

But God tells me over and over that life is all about relationship.  He wants my relationship with him to deepen.  He is much less concerned about my production.  Jesus reminds us that the most important thing in life is to love God with all that we are.

Dallas Willard says that ministry leaders should, above all, live a life of satisfaction in the Lord.  If I am satisfied with Jesus, then life has a whole new electricity.  There is freedom, excitement, and joy all around me, when I'm already satisfied in him.  Production can freely flow, when I'm satisfied in him.

But production is only a byproduct.  When I grit my teeth to produce, I become frustrated, uncreative and dull.  I keep his life from flowing through me.  Prayer is the key to my satisfaction in Jesus, even though it looks unproductive.

But I feed my production addiction, and limit the power and presence of God in my life.  I need to get over feeling guilty about prayer, so I can really be with Jesus.  I can ask him for wisdom, let his power flow, and grow in my satisfaction in him.  Sounds like what Jesus had in mind all along.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson and Truth


The events transpiring in Ferguson, Missouri are troubling.  Police should not be bullies  Citizens should not rob stores.  Communities should trust their police force.  Governmental authorities should be honorable and worthy of trust.  Troublemakers should not work to stir up public unrest.

As the days drag on, I look for more people interested in truth.  All the events and all the evidence, seem like political ammunition.  One can barely ask if Darren Wilson is an honorable cop, or if Michael Brown was a law-abiding citizen.  These are legitimate, reasonable questions, helpful in determining the truth.  But people are afraid to ask such questions.  Merely asking them looks like taking sides.

Too many people seem to be for the cop or for the kid.  Who is for the truth?  Anyone who must spin the truth for the cop or for the kid is not really interested in truth at all.  That person wants to prove a point at any cost.  The point becomes more important than truth.

And so it is with nearly all public discourse.  Current events are nothing more than ammunition.  If it fits my agenda, I use it.  If it doesn’t fit my agenda, I deny it, explain it away, or discredit the source.  No one can hear the people who want to find the truth.  They are drowned out by all the knuckleheads who have an axe to grind.

While the knuckleheads try to prove their points, communities are torn up by the strife.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Waking Beauty


Throughout history, mankind has appreciated beauty in nearly every area of experience:  art, literature, architecture, engineering, design, arrangement, nature, astronomy, landscaping, music, mathematics, animals, gardens, food, geographical features, skies, birdsongs, rainbows, and human beings.  We find beauty in any location, medium or endeavor.  People seek out beauty.  While some argue that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, the world skips the debate and covets beauty.  We are drawn to it.  We gravitate to the beautiful patterns of fabric, the beautiful flowers in a garden, the beautiful buildings on a tour, the beautiful paintings in a gallery. 

We are also drawn to beautiful people.  Sometimes it is because of their outward beauty, the Barbies and Kens of the world.  Sometimes it is because of their inward beauty, found in the plain, ordinary folks, those not glorified in dolls or action figures.  Obviously most people fall somewhere in the middle on the beautiful to ugly continuum.  And for most people, beauty is desirable.

We are drawn to beautiful people, and we want to be beautiful ourselves.  Untold billions of dollars are spent on weight loss, muscle toning, wrinkle ridding, hair coloring, and hair restoring.  It seems that everyone wants to look better.

Yet there is a cap on physical beauty.  Dustin Hoffman once broke down in tears as he described his realization about beauty during the filming of Tootsie.  Dressing in drag for his role, he was made up as a woman.  The makeup artists finished their work and revealed the Tootsie look to Hoffman.  He protested.  This “woman” was not so good looking.  If he had to be a woman, he wanted to be a beautiful woman, he said.  The makeup crew confessed that they had done all they could do.  His beauty was maxed out.  Suddenly he realized what women have struggled with since the beginning of time.  Facial beauty has natural limits.  He was only playing a part in a movie.  Women have to face this every day.  Merely recalling that moment brought him to tears.  His experience highlights the double-standard for beauty:  culture looks for beauty in women but generally gives men a pass.

But there is another kind of beauty, inward beauty.  We all  know the jokes about the blind date who has a great personality:  she may be a dog, but she’s fun.  We also know people who are physically unattractive, but magnetic on the inside.  For these people, it is almost as if no one ever told them that they were homely.  The joy of life radiates from their eyes.  Surely some have advised them of their plainness, but they have chosen to listen to the Voice of Truth.  When you see that they don’t believe they are ugly, you begin to agree.  You see the real beauty.

We also know people who seem beautiful until you get to know them.  Eventually the lovely face looks like a mask, hiding the hideous personality.  The real human monsters may look like Ken or Barbie.

I recently went to a fast food restaurant to get a breakfast biscuit.  A young woman took my order, and I noticed the joy beaming through her eyes.  I walked down the counter to pick up my order and another young female worker greeted me with a glow of confidence and happiness.  How blessed is that store manager to have two such engaged, willing workers.  They both did possess a measure of physical beauty, but what struck me was their inner joy manifest in their expressions.  With scowls on their faces they may not have appeared beautiful at all.

I began thinking about the relationship between inward and outward beauty.  Inward beauty can actually create outward beauty.  However, outward looks never create inward beauty.  Outward beauty has limits, but inward beauty knows no limits.  Outward beauty always wanes with age, but inward beauty can grow forever. 

Character always wins the battle for beauty.  Joy in the soul brings real beauty.  It even changes the look of the face.  The better you know a joyful soul, the more beautiful he or she looks.  Inward beauty actually creates outward beauty.

The health or sickness of the soul always comes through..  Acid in the soul trumps physical beauty and often brings a hardness to the face.  Maybe your mother was right.  Your face can freeze that way.  Ugly souls turn beautiful faces sour.

But here’s the irony:  In our culture we spend mountains of time, effort and money on any tiny drop of beauty to be squeezed out of our limited looks, while we ignore the unlimited source of lasting beauty.  We pound away at the ceiling of our outward beauty, missing the open skies of soul beauty. 

In September 2013 the Huffington Post reported that American women spend over $426 billion per year for beauty products.  Nearly half a trillion dollars go toward women’s beauty products.  Add to that the investment men may make, and we get the picture of a culture obsessed with physical beauty. 

Instead, we can pour energy into developing the limitless, lasting beauty that brings joy and enhances relationships.  How can one develop inward beauty?  We can learn to love ourselves, and recognize our genuine worth, declared by God.  We can change our self-talk, to speak good things to ourselves, even as we would speak with kindness to a friend—or stranger.  We can choose not to listen to the voices that put us down, and listen to the One who gives his beauty to us.  Most of all, we have to believe it.  We have to trust that God gave his Son for us to give life and beauty to us.  We may all have features we wish were different, but most of us are more physically beautiful than we will believe.

God has given us the capacity to appreciate beauty all around us, and to find beauty in people.  The classical writers even found some objective standards of beauty.  They made no apologies for pursuing truth, goodness and beauty.  I do not fault people for recognizing physical beauty in people or for striving for their own physical beauty.  We just need to recognize that it is limited, it is often unfair, and it much less important than beauty within.

Maybe the blind dates with good personalities really do have more fun.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Selfie Awareness

Taking selfies has always seemed awkward to me.  Even seeing others’ selfies makes
 me slightly uncomfortable.

Me, not smiling.  No one told me to say cheese.
I finally figured out what it is.  In the old days, people did not often take self-portraits.  It was too much work.  You had to set up a tripod or balance your camera on a steady surface; then set the timer to count down before the shot; then run quickly to your spot in the frame and wait for the shutter to click.  That was so involved that people rarely did it.

Photos normally were taken with someone behind the camera.  The photographer coaches, arranges and frames the subjects.  Then he calls out, “Say cheese!”  Everyone smiles for the photographer.  They smile for someone who is there.


Here’s what’s so different/creepy about selfies:  it is a solo experience.  You are not smiling for anyone else when you take the picture.  You never instruct yourself to say cheese.  It’s like you pretend that someone else is behind the camera, when really you are just smiling for yourself.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems weird. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blessed

Peter Lord was our special guest at Crossroads last weekend.  Whenever he comes, he teaches us to say, “I am blessed and very much so.”  I never really got that until I read his book, Bless and Be Blessed.  There he explains that we don’t understand blessing until we receive the blessing of God. 
 
I am learning what blessing is.  Typically when I think of blessing, I think of health, friends, material provisions, and pleasant circumstances.  But Peter explains that to bless means to eulogize.  God speaks good words over me.  The blessing is always there in Christ; I’m learning to receive it moment by moment.  He speaks his love, his mercy, his hope, his pleasure over me.  God speaks to me and about me.  He blesses me.  I am learning to receive it. 

I am blessed and very much so.

Knowing that God speaks well of me lifts me to a higher plane of living.  Knowing that God is blessing me as I breathe, lets that blessing overflow from me to others.  Living in his blessing saves me from being critical, judgmental, hurried and defensive.  It takes the focus off myself, and puts it on Jesus and others.

Sounds familiar:  Love God, love your neighbor.


I am blessed!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Seven Reasons We Want Stuff

People want stuff.  They always have.  We always have.  We want stuff, even though we know that relationships are more important.  Admittedly some people have little desire for possessions, but they are the exceptions in American culture.

What drives our desire for stuff?  I’ve done some thinking about this, I’ve come up with seven primary reasons we desire things.

1.  Necessity
There are certain things we need for living, including food, clothing and shelter.  Of these, food is a consumable, so I don’t think of it as a possession.  But clothing and shelter can clearly be possessions; they are things we need, whether or not we own them.    
A second necessity is physical security.  We possess many items to keep us safe from accident or crime:  door locks, railings, firearms, alarm systems.

2.  Comfort and Convenience
Many of our possessions just make life easier.  We like to have them because they save time and effort.  We find comfort in furniture, air conditioning, and those heated seats in cars.  We find convenience with refrigerators, lawnmowers, computers and telephones.  
With some items, we find emotional comfort as well.  It may comfort us to see family Christmas ornaments, or familiar portraits.

3.  Vanity
Of course sometimes we like stuff because it makes us look good.  We wear jewels and drive cars so that others will notice.  People enjoy looking good, and stuff helps. 
We also may want to look good for others.  A wife wears a dress or a necklace because she knows her husband likes it.  We also buy stuff to fit in with a certain crowd, even if we don’t like the stuff.

4.  Greed
This one is fairly obvious.  We like to accumulate stuff, sometimes hoard stuff.  Jesus tells the story about a man who had so much grain that he tore down his storage barns to build bigger ones.  When we have stuff we like, sometimes we just want more.  I think this appeal is partly based in fear—fear that God will not provide for us in the future.  We have to look out for ourselves because we can’t trust God to take care of us. 
Another kind of greed is really mean:  we want stuff just to keep someone else from having it.  Even if we don’t want the thing, we can’t bear for that other person to have it.  This is a sign of damaged relationships.

5.  Excitement
Some possessions give us a thrill:  boats, skis, cars, bicycles, camping gear, electronics.  We want that stuff because of the experience that comes with it. 
We also have the thrill of beauty.  Some possessions are just beautiful and valuable because they bring pleasure through their beauty.

6.  Work
Some possessions aid us in our work; they are the tools of our trade:  wrenches, ovens, saws, mixers, sewing machines, etc.  We desire these items because our productivity and creativity soar when we use them.

7.  Responsibility
Some stuff needs to be cared for and kept, such as family heirlooms.  We want these possessions out of a sense of duty, believing that someone should care for them. 
Then there is also the responsibility of saving for the future.  Some possessions are also stores of wealth:  houses, collectible items, investment art.

When we understand our motives for wanting stuff, it helps us evaluate those desires.  More important than any possession is our soul.  Maybe we should ask ourselves how our possessions affect our souls.  Some possessions build us up.  Some tear us down.  Some are just neutral.

Think about why you want stuff.  You may surprise yourself.

In summary:  Why we want stuff:
1.      Necessity
            a.   Food, clothing, shelter
            b.   Physical protection
2.      Comfort and convenience
a.       Physical
b.      Emotional
3.      Vanity
a.       Please ourselves
b.      Please others
4.      Greed
a.       Accumulation
b.      Deny others
5.      Excitement
a.       Thrill of adventure
b.      Thrill of beauty
6.      Work – We need tools to do our work.
7.      Responsibility
a.       Heirloom items

b.      Investment items

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hearing the Truth

I recently finished Peter Lord's book, Hearing God.  His down-to-earth, humble style assures me that I too may hear the voice of God.  His practical suggestions for learning to hear the voice of God help me develop the habits needed for real communication with God.

For many of us, prayers are those letters we put in the mail, stamped with our time invested, which we hope and assume arrive in God's mailbox.  We never expect replies.  We just hope that something happens that looks like God may have had something to do with it.  Then our prayer is answered.  Or at least we claim that it is.  We have some evidence that God actually opened our prayer-letters, and that he actually did something about it.

But prayer really can be more like a conversation.  We limit the two-way communication by the way we approach prayer.  We cover our prayer lists without taking time to listen.  We never think of listening, because we so rarely ask God to speak.  We just ask him to do.  Why should we listen?

Peter Lord teaches on prayer at Crossroads in February 2012.
Peter Lord gave me a new idea for prayer.  When I face a puzzling situation, I can ask God to show me the truth about it.  I assume that I have all the information I need.  But I don't really know what motivates others.  I don't know for certain how or why things developed.  I need the truth.  I can ask God to reveal to me the truth behind someone's frustrating behavior, behind my sinful habits, behind the roadblocks to ministry.

Then I need to listen.

It takes time, patience, quiet, peace--all things in short supply today.  We have to nurture peace in our hearts and carve out time in our schedules.

When I hear the truth from God, I will probably be surprised.  I never understood it that way.  I never realized the key to that person's heart.  I never saw how my behavior contributed to the problem.  I never knew that my attitude made such a difference.

God will reveal these things, if I will listen.  Then I can repent, respond, or wait, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus has his way.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Point of Worship

Yesterday in our worship celebration, one of our worship leaders asked the congregation, "Why do we worship?"  Someone responded, "Because it pleases him."

We need to understand the point of worship.  It is all directed at God.  He is the audience.  We are all performers for God's pleasure.  The worship leaders encourage the congregation to sing and surrender to God.

Think about cheerleaders at a football game.  Real fans don't go to a football game to see cheerleaders.  They go to see the game, to root for the team.  Cheerleaders just organize the cheers of the fans.  How strange it would be to have a stadium packed full of fans who watch quietly as two dozen young people shout, "Block that kick!"  The shouts would barely carry across the field.

So when we gather, we need to turn our attention to the One who is worthy.  We cheer for him.  We give praise to him.  We open our hearts to him together.  We are not the audience.  He is.

It pleases him.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Hurry Curse

I recently read John Ortberg's book, Soul Keeping.  I had never read a book about how to keep my soul.  While Jesus makes a big deal about one's soul, we find very little about it in Christian literature.  Jesus did ask, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

It seems like we have plenty of help in keeping our habits, keeping our money, and keeping our doctrine pure.  But none of these has any value if we don't keep our souls.

I have a habit of hurried thinking.  My dad was that way.  He died 13 years ago, but he always seemed to be in a hurry.  Even in his years of retirement, he kept himself and his family poised for the next thing.  I remember rushing through meals and walking fast. He was an industrial engineer, so he was always looking for efficiency.  But efficiency must have a higher purpose.  Why do we want to do things faster?  For what are we saving time?  What is the value of moving on to the next hurried task?

I have inherited that mindset.  I hate the agony of time to relax, when I feel like I should be doing something.  Being productive makes me feel worthy.  If I am being still, I am unworthy.  That feels worse than being hurried.

Ortberg, calling on the late Dallas Willard, notes the difference between being busy and being hurried.  We can be busy, keeping a full schedule, without being hurried.  One can keep a long list of appointments without being hurried.  It is a mindset.

Hurry says that I'm in control, and that means trouble.  I work harder, get frenzied, and work poorly.  Busy (ideally) recognizes that God is in control, and that means everything is all right.  I trust God to take care of all my oversights and shortcomings.  Hurry is walking by sight.  Busy is walking by faith.

Many times a day now, I catch myself with the hurry mindset.  It steals my peace and limits the depth of my thinking.  It wears me out, and leaves me feeling guilty that I have not accomplished more.

But Jesus bids me come to him and find rest for my soul.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light. I can choose joy and peace as I handle my responsibilities.  Then my mind and soul are free to work.  That is living apart from the hurry curse.  Only through Jesus can I find that power through freedom.

Hurry keeps my soul ruffled.  Jesus gives me rest for my soul.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Creative Destruction

Boys like to watch things break.  And they like to do the breaking.  Maybe I should say "we."  In the male psyche there is this desire to smash pumpkins, break windows and set off firecrackers in carefully chosen artifacts.  Guy movies must feature chases and explosions.  Guys embrace danger, especially when destruction is a potential byproduct.

Paradoxically, deep in the heart of every man (and woman), is an innate desire to create.  Mankind was made in God's image, both male and female.  In the beginning, God created.  He made the heavens and the earth in six days.  As his image bearers, we are created to be creators.  We want to build furniture, cities and pyramids.  We want to construct arguments.  We want to bring beauty from blank canvas.  We want to bring ideas together in novels.

These two tendencies often pull at each other in the hearts of men.  How can they be harnessed for God?  If we direct our destructive powers toward those things which truly ought to be destroyed, we can engage destruction for the sake of creating.  I do not recommend shooting at speed limit signs or knocking over the obnoxious yard art in the neighborhood.  I'm thinking of destroying those strongholds that pull us away from Jesus.

Paul says, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

If we harness our destruction properly, we clear the way for creativity.  In this fallen world, there will always be plenty to destroy.  When we take out the evil, we allow the good flourish.  We become like our creator as we create.

I am now going to destroy some procrastination.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Personal Cancer Support

Last week I learned about the Barry L Joyce Cancer Support Fund in Madison,NC.  A friend of mine has been volunteering her time at the Fund's headquarters, and she kept inviting me to come see their facility. Now that I have seen the building, I'm finally getting the picture.

You can enter slide name hereOn Tuesday, I met Jennifer Joyce, who runs the operation.  Jennifer's father, Barry, passed away several years ago after fighting through cancer.  He was winning the battle against the disease when he had a fatal reaction to some chemicals used in a medical test.  To honor his memory, his family began the Cancer Fund. Their work reached a new level of effectiveness last November when they opened their community resource center on Ayersville Road.  Jennifer toured me around the re-purposed bank building, with its research library, reception area, kitchen, and inviting conversation room.

In this comfortable environment, cancer warriors can find the weapons they need.  Cancer patients, caregivers, family members and cancer survivors alike can find information, support and encouragement.  The research room offers books, periodicals and reference tools, as well as two computers for internet research.

The BLJ Center provides cancer patients a free notebook, containing a guide for the cancer journey.  This resource suggests questions to ask a doctor, lists possible diet changes, and includes places to record symptoms, medications and milestones.  It also includes contact information for local helping agencies.

The Center hosts support groups for survivors, the newly diagnosed, caregivers, and family members. They have yoga classes, aromatherapy seminars, massage therapy, free facials, and coaching to help patients find a "new normal."

In addition to all this encouragement and support, the Fund offers financial help for cancer patients who live in Rockingham County.  Battling cancer often creates financial hardships, and the Fund stands ready to provide assistance.

Jennifer has big plans for the Barry L Joyce Cancer Support Fund.  Rather than growing the current facility to huge proportions, she hopes to create a network of support centers in other rural communities around the region.

Please share the word that help is available in the fight against cancer.  You don't have to walk the path alone.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Elusive Next Steps for Graduates

As a pastor and educator, I have noticed a trend among young men today.  They seem to endure their years of high school, dutifully grinding out the course work, only to graduate with no sense of direction.

I can't help but compare this generation with mine.  When I graduated in 1980, the paths after high school were clear.  One could go to college, or one could go to work.  I only remember a few of my classmates choosing to work straight out of high school.  Most went on to some kind of college.  But everyone could see the options for the next step.  I don't recall much hand wringing or confusion.

Now I certainly did not have a career chosen when I entered college.  I didn't even have a career chosen when I graduated from college.  But I had a confident sense of a next step.  After high school, I knew I was destined for college.  My parents told me so, long before I began kindergarten.  In some of my earliest memories I am putting nickels into a Hi-C can, saving for this thing called "college."  College was always my next step after high school.

After college, it was a little trickier.  I still did not not know what to do with my life, although I was interested in vocational ministry.  I considered going into banking or insurance, and interviewed with a few companies during my senior year.  Ultimately, I chose to hang around my college town for another year, working as an intern for my local church.  The low-paying internship experience would help me decide on a career path. Of course, the fact that my college girlfriend had another year of school might have slightly influenced my thinking.  I'm glad I stuck around, because we eventually got married.  After that year of ministry, I went on to graduate school.

Here's my point.  At each moment of transition, I saw some clear next steps.  After college, I could get a career-track job, a low-paying internship, or go to graduate school.   At no point did I ever feel completely at a loss.  I never made a definitive career choice until the end of my master's degree program, so I'm not saying that 20-somethings should have it all figured out.  I'm just saying that possible next steps were clear.

For today's students, graduation is an approaching waterfall.  It's coming, it's loud and scary, and it will be wet.  Beyond that, they have no idea what might happen.  Their next steps are about survival, not preparation.  Four-year college is no longer such an obvious choice.  There are more college-type options available today--community college, gap year schools, trade schools.  There are more internships available for 18-year-olds, with ministries and businesses.  Some graduates opt for two-year mission opportunities on other continents.

Next steps are not as clearly defined today, and it seems to hit our young men the hardest.  They feel pressure to choose a career and pursue it aggressively.  They are not ready to make such decisions, and so they seem to float in and out of school, in and out of minimum wage jobs.

Men in the church need to stand up and mentor these young men.  We need to enter their lives and help them seek God's direction for their careers.  We need to encourage them to take risks, and pursue opportunities of service, profit, and education.  We need to share our own struggles and regrets.

If we assume that young men will just figure it out on their own, we are missing a great opportunity to build relationships and shed light on productive next steps.  That would have been a great help to me, even in the day when the next steps were more obvious.

Imagine the spiritual power that will be released when this generation of young men pursues God's direction for their lives, confident that God's energy is flowing through them!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hijacked by a Hootenanny

Spell check is the special feature that requires you to double check your typing.  I received a text from someone a few months ago, apparently describing accumulating ice in a parking lot.  It said, "Parking lit here has hootenanny awful in the last 20 minutes."  I still have no idea what word was intended.  It amazes me that  whatever the word was, spell check thought the writer meant "hootenanny."  Who uses that word in normal conversation, especially texting?

Then, when I want to wish someone Happy Birthday on Facebook, spell check always thinks I want to say "Jappy."  Why would I want to say that?  Shouldn't there be some outrage about such racist suggestions?

It is a risky thing to complete someone else's thoughts.  But we do it all the time.  As we listen, we tend to hear what we expect to hear.  We put our own hootenannies in the speaker's words.  We fail to listen, and then both parties wonder where communication broke down.

Listening is hard work.  Every day I catch myself failing to listen.  Then I try to reconstruct what the speaker must have been saying.  Whoa, that's dangerous.  I fill in the blanks with what the person must have said.  It's a wonder I can communicate with anybody.  There is no telling what ridiculous ideas I attribute to others.  I hope I'm not as bad as spell check.