Monday, December 19, 2005

Hard to Get

I hate to take two consecutive posts and just quote songs, but I pulled out this old CD yesterday and was reminded of one of my favorite songs. I have a lot of other things I want to write about right now, but I just wanted to share these great lyrics. I especially love the third verse.

"Hard to Get" by Rich Mullins

Do you who live in heaven hear the prayers of those of us who live here on earth?
We are afraid of being left by those we love, and we're hardened in the hurt.
Do you remember what its like down here where we all scrape, just to find the strength to ask for daily bread?
Did you forget about us, after you had gone away, well I memorized every word you said, still I'm so scared I'm holding my breath. And you're up there just playing hard to get.

Do you who live in radiance hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin?
We have a love that's not as patient as yours was, but we do love now and then.
Did you ever know loneliness, did you ever know need?
Do you remember just how long the night can get? When you are barely holding on and your friends fall asleep, do you see the blood that's running in your sweat? Will those who mourn be left uncomforted? While you're up there playing hard to get.

I know you bore our sorrows, and I know you feel our pain. And I know it would not hurt any less, even if it could be explained. And I know that I am only lashing out, at the One who loves me most. And after I have figured this somehow, all I really need to know...

Is if You who live in eternity hear the prayers of those of us who live in time. We can't see what's ahead and we can't get break free from what we leave behind. I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears. With words of blame, doubt, shame, and regret. I can't see where you're leading me unless you've led me here, where I'm lost enough to let myself be led. So you've been here all along I guess. It's Your ways and You are just plain hard to get.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Let the Angel's Wings Cover You

Today's post is in honor of my grandmother who died two weeks ago. The past three years she lived in great pain and suffering and is now freed from all of it. She lived a tough life of farming in Northern Minnesota. She lost her two sons in separate tragic accidents and lived her final years questioning God. I believe she is now in Heaven having all of her doubts answered and all of her pain removed. For her I will write selections from a song by Brave Saint Saturn...

... isn't it just like me, to mourn her passing death
when she will never suffer anymore,
beautiful her pictures, fading black and silver...

she fought to stay, but always dreamed that she could leave this place.

Let the Angel's wings, cover you tonight, hallelujah
Rest your head, against the breast of Christ, hallelujah

See you again someday grandma!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stupid Business People

A few posts ago I poked fun at "Christian Leaders" who have called for boycotts of stores that say "Happy Holidays" instead of Merry Christmas. If stores really think they will attract more business by not saying "Merry Christmas", then go right ahead; it doesn't bother me. At least it didn't bother me. Until today when I saw a commercial that used the Christmas song, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in the background. The problem is that the song was changed and now says, "We Wish You a Happy Holiday".
Do these marketers really think this is such a big issue that now they will try to change every Christmas... sorry, every Holiday song so that there is no mention of Christmas at all? Do these marketers realize how completely ridiculous this sounds? Do they realize that they are going the extra mile to avoid talking about the very event that they are marketing? Are these stores willing to give up Christmas promotions all together? How about telling shoppers, "This business does not believe in Christmas so please only do regular shopping here".
A friend of mine runs a site called, Stupid Church People. This site is not anti church-people, it is a place that talks about how foolish some things in the church can look to those standing on the outside and ways the church can be more relevant. After seeing today's commercial, I am inclined to start a site called Stupid Business People. It is for those businesses that actually think more people will shop there if they take a stand against Christmas.
But I don't feel like starting this site... mainly because it would probably be boring. So what I do propose is that all Christians now embrace and overuse the phrase, "Happy Holidays". Except when using it, I want all Christians to focus on the fact that this word is from the Latin and does mean "Holy Days". Not necessarily holy in a spiritual sense, but simply meaning days that are set apart. So as Christians, let us say "Happy Holidays... days that are set apart from the rest. Days that we can focus on the great news that God came to us. That His love results in His wanting to be with us! I wish you the best of holy- days." Maybe if Christians could be as annoying with the use of "Holidays" as we are with things like "the Passion of the Christ" or "Narnia", then these businesses would just give up the foolishness and go on with business as usual.

Now for a side note.... I went ahead and took the liberty to change a few songs so that they don't say Christmas:
O Holiday Tree, O Holiday Tree, how lovely are your branches....
Have yourself a happy little holiday....
It's beginning to look a lot like holidays, everywhere we go....
I'm dreaming of a white holiday.... (Is this racist?)
Put on your yarmulka, and celebrate holidays.... (Not a Christmas song, but the same point)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Selfish Father

This morning I was playing in the park with my three year old son when I got to see one of my favorite things in life. That is pure joy expressed in the smile and laughter of a child. I know it sounds a bit cliche' but seeing children laugh and play without any other thoughts in the world is beautiful.
Today my son wanted to play on the swings which always means I have to stand behind him pushing him. No matter how many times I push the swing, his smile and constant laughter never ceases. Since today we only had one "Daddy pushed so hard I fell off the swing incident", the joy was pretty consistent.
Then I had a revelation. Today was the day that my son would learn how to kick his legs and generate enough momentum to move himself through the air. As he learned the technique the joy only increased. Once he had the hang of it and was keeping the swing in motion, my selfish plan had reached the point of success. I slowly walked away from him, sat myself on the next swing over, and joined in the pure bliss of flying through the air. My plan of helping my son achieve independence on the swing was purely for the purpose of liberating me from the job of pushing and to give me the opportunity to join in the fun.
I find that reminders of these small joys in life that my boys give help me understand the kind of freedom Christ wants our lives to possess. Surely the kingdom of God belongs to "such as these".

Thursday, December 08, 2005

At the End of an Elephant's Nose

Last night my boys and I watched "The Grinch Whole Stole Christmas" (cartoon version). After the show, another Dr. Suess cartoon came on. It was called "Horton and the Who". Basically it is about an elephant named Horton who found a speck of dust that was talking. The speck of dust turned out to be a planet where the "Who's" lived.
The problem was that the Who's didn't believe that they were not alone. Only one progressive thinking Who believed that they were a part of something bigger. He made contact with Horton and was saddened because no one would believe that Horton existed. They believed that their speck of dusk was the only thing in the universe and no other force existed outside of themselves. On the other side of the problem was Horton. In Horton's world, everyone thought he was crazy because they didn't see the spect of dust at the end of his nose. They didn't see why Horton was so concerned about this speck of dust.
At the climax of this profound story, everyone discovered that a whole world existed at the end of the elephant's nose. Sometimes I feel like the Who that knew Horton was there but no one else would believe. At other times I feel like the typical "Who" and I believe that somehow this whole thing is about me and I doubt if Horton (or God) is there at all. And at other times I feel like Horton.... like someone trying to convince other Christians that a whole world exists outside of the "bubble".
Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, says that he doesn't really feel that most people can be convinced that God does or does not exist (at least intellectually speaking). We either believe or we don't. We can change our beliefs but it usually happens because of something unexplainable.
I just feel like the responsibility is not in convincing the "Whos" that God exists. (Please allow me to switch analogies) The responsibility lies in convincing the elephants that the "Who's" exist. A whole world of people that do not believe and may never believe. But our responsibility to them is to protect them, to love them, to fight for them like Horton did. I pray that we can see the "world at the end of the elephant's nose".

Monday, December 05, 2005

Don't Spit on the Sidewalk

The other day I was walking through the city and stumbled across a great phenomenon. I was innocently walking down the street to the beautiful smell of fried hot dogs wrapped in bacon (only in L.A.), natural gas fueled buses, and two dollar Chinese buffets. I was minding my own business until I noticed a sign that read "Do not spit on the sidewalk".
Other than when I am playing baseball, I am not the kind of person who walks around spitting. But somehow, after reading this sign I could think of nothing other than the pressing need I had to spit. Not only did I feel an overwhelming need to spit, something inside me told me the only satisfactory place to spit would be on the sidewalk. I began thinking about the psychology of this sign and its effectiveness. I assume there once was a spitting problem in this city, but has this sign reduced the problem or made it worse? Has it really helped to make those who spit, to spit somewhere else or has it raised up a whole new generation of "sidewalk spitters"?
I then began thinking about all of the ridiculous things our "National Christian Leaders" say. Things like, "boycott Starbucks because they have poetry about homosexuality". Or, "Don't shop at stores that say 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas'". What really is that proving? If they said, "boycott Starbucks because they don't practice fair trade" then I would be listening. If they said, "avoid stores that exploit their workers and that practice shady accounting" then I would heed the call. The problem is that these "leaders" are fighting the wrong issues. They are fighting for the popularity of God instead fighting for things that are the heart of God. As my wife says, "they are blaming the dark for being dark". And in the process they are missing the point.
So as Christmas approaches let us use our time and energy fighting for God's causes, not God's popularity. He doesn't need our help to keep Himself in the limelight. He doesn't need us to alienate ourselves from the homosexual community and to disassociate with people who say "Happy Holidays". In fact, I think we should do just the opposite. So stop by a "fair trade-practicing coffee shop, visit some good o'l non-Christian stores, and have a "Happy Holiday"!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Back Alley Saint

I have been maintaining two other blogs used for ministry purposes. This one is for the purpose of my own ramblings.

What is wrong with the world today? G.K. Chesterton answered this question one hundred years ago with a profound answer that still applies today. Only now it is a new author representing a new generation with the answer. What is wrong with the world? "“Dear Sirs, I am."”
Am I in the "Truman Show"? Probably. There is no other way to explain my amazing wealth of wisdom and understanding that only applies to the reality in which I live. Someone decided to write into the script that I must be restless. That I must be the one to see the world the way I see it while the rest of the world drifts blissfully unaware. I think it odd that God has given me the privilege to know what I know and then He gave me even a greater privilege of being tested by the ignorant world.
Drugs, violence, or the decline of morals cant match the injury I add to this broken world. I am called and gifted by God and I can'’t seem to fulfill even a small portion of this calling I have received. I believe that I am 100 percent saved but I will eagerly await the final verdict moments after I breathe my last. When I get to heaven I hope to hear "“well done", but if I do I'’m sure it will only be as I listen in on some other conversation. I will be in the back row, the back alley, or the back yard of heaven. I will patiently wait for just a glimpse of my Savior. While I wait I will be content to pick up the heavenly dog poop. In fact I would have it no other way.
Everything in me cries out for the limelight, the front row, the front door, and the front yard of heaven. That'’s why all the more I don't want it. Give me a broom. I will hang out with the sinners and clean the floors. We will clean the floors that the true saints scuff as they prance through the streets with Jesus. I know I am undeserving of the same privilege to get my Savior's ear. I will listen in on his musings, I will sneak around and hear the latest gossip about all that happens in heaven. At night I will return to the back alley and find comfort with my friends. The sinners who got to heaven smelling like smoke. The gays that just couldn't break their addiction even though they loved Jesus on earth, the murderers who repented just before getting the chair, the betrayers, the liars, the no good hypocrites who convinced Jesus that their love is real but who had no bodily discipline to consistently prove it.
While I'm in this world, I will continue to be the problem. Through people like me, the world will never be sure what to think about Jesus or Christians. Through people like me, the curse of sin will remain alive and well although I fight it. Even if I ever happen to dive deeper into love with my Savior and begin to be the example of a true follower, I will remain the problem. It is then that I will forget that the message of Jesus is because I am what is wrong. If I was not the problem in the world then why would Jesus have come to die? Why would he need to come if all believers were good enough to go through all the perfect motions of religion? The OT law could remain and "“perfect"” people would keep succeeding as followers.
Instead, Jesus came because I am the world. I am called by Jesus but I cant even say that I want the people I lead to live like me. That is why Jesus came. I love that He relentlessly pursues people like me and I pretend to yield but I'm not sure that I ever really do. I am an amazing dichotomy of a person. There are days the Lord must just shake his head and wonder how much longer he should stick with me. The world would have less wrong with it if he just took me from the world and gave me my broom.
I guess I will keep waiting and maybe one day I will get this life figured out. But that would require more than just complaining that I am unworthy...…and that'’s a lot to ask of back alley janitors.