Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Request


My dad, John, has just been transported to the hospital. There it has been discovered that he has pneumonia.

I left him in So. Cal. over the weekend and returned to Colorado, so I'm feeling. . .well, I'm feeling.

Would you pray for him?

Whew.

Among other things, I'm asking that the Spirit use this to convince my father of His love for Him, as well as my dad's condition with Him. That would be fantastic.

Fog & Sunlight


I took my father to one of his favorite places last Friday, Laguna Beach, CA.

Regarding my previous post, the fish were, indeed, masochistic, but they only visited with me. And that was just fine.

Taking in the view when he first set up his command position overlooking the beach, my dad looked immediately alone and deep in thought. While I’ve never been in the military (my dad was in the Navy), it was as if my dad had returned to the scene of victorious battles waged and won decades ago. No bitterness, but strategies and memories and glory filling his mind.

He looked good.

After a lengthy pause, he assessed, “Boy, I’ve never seen it like this before.” Fog was fighting sunlight for position, confusion versus clarity. The struggle was waged all around us as the low-lying fog sent wispy arms advancing inland. Time and again it crept across tide pools and cliffs, breakers and beach, hiding them from view, only to retreat just a little. For a while it seemed that fog would win the day and altogether deny the beach to sunlight, but after an hour of wrestling, sunlight drove fog a couple of hundred yards out to sea. Unable to reach us, fog sulked and brooded for the rest of the day.

We felt immediately better.

What a picture of life, and we watched it all in a single afternoon.

My dad has been to this spot maybe a hundred times over the course of his life. He has great stories of swimming and sunning and fishing and partying galore. But I had to talk him into a return. It was as if the wonder of those escapades was from another life and not part of this one—as if revisiting them would be more painful than beneficial.

But he was revived. Revisiting the scene invigorated him because he discovered that what mattered was the breadth of his life, the whole film, not just the snapshots.

It helped me, too.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to revisit the joys and successes of your days, particularly the ones you’ve had with Jesus. The fog of this world will wrestle with the light in order to make you lose your memory and your bearings. That can make the right-now picture of your life carry far too much weight or importance, or so you’re induced to believe. After all, it’s foggy. But because God has made you in union with Him, you’ve nothing in common with darkness (Ephesians 5:8). And that’s why you’ll feel it when it creeps in upon you—you’ll feel miserable or hopeless or like the biggest failure in the world. It feels so wrong because it is!

Look to Jesus and remember what He has done for you: He bore all of God’s punishment for your sins as though they were His own; He forgave you completely; He gave you His righteousness and holiness; He gave you God the Holy Spirit; He made you part of His own family; He has given you everything you’ll ever need for life and godliness. And I’ll bet you can think of a few other things Jesus has done for you.

Look to Jesus and remember what He has done to you: He crucified your old self upon the cross and gave you a new self through the resurrection; He put you into Himself; He secured you and seated you in heaven; He made you recognizable throughout the heavens as a spot-on perfect son of God.

Feel better? Lighter? There’s more, but you get the idea.

Revisiting the big-deal things God has done for you and to you will drive the fog out and away from you because light always conquers dark.

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor 4:6)

Oh, yeah. We had a great time, and we caught some fish, too. Really. Just below and to the left is a picture of the 43lb salmon I caught.

Ahem.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Wanted: Masochistic Fish


Spending a few days with my dad, I got him out on the golf course yesterday. Although it was hot, it was one of those rare September days where it was perfectly clear and without any wind. We had the course to ourselves.

Without any discussion, my dad plopped himself in the drivers’ seat of the cart on hole #1. “Well, this should be interesting.” I thought. Snails were at no risk from us, and for a time I marveled at how slowly we meandered the fairways. More than once I was tempted to put my foot on the accelerator, thereby “helping” my dad, but I managed to rebuke the devil and resist. Can you imagine what a scene that would have been? My dad’s at the wheel and I floor it for him. "Here we go, dad! Yahoo!" I imagine the result would have been about the same as if I did that with one of my daughters driving.

Chaos. Danger.

Anyway, I’m certain that driving made him feel useful, something which he has lamented lately. And not only did it force me to slow down and enjoy the day, but if we had hit anything it would have barely ranked on one of those bumper car attractions at theme parks. Besides, how often am I going to do this with my father?

Before returning to Colorado tomorrow, we’ve got one more day of fun left. I’m trying to do things with him that he has long loved in the hope he will be revived by the enjoyment. After telling him that this morning, he said, “I have a hard time doing anything that might be fun or refreshing. I don’t even think about such things.” And I thought, “Yeah, me too.” Now isn’t that a whole ‘nuther subject?

So we’ll go to Emerald Bay in Laguna Beach in an hour or two. He’s been going there since he was a boy, and has taken my brothers and me there many times. It always involves trekking out onto fairly dangerous rocks to gather muscles for fish bait—I’ll be doing that alone this time, of course. But I hope to put a fishing rod in his hands, and I hope some fish find the bait irresistible and impale themselves on the hooks.

“Lord, I need some masochistic fish to visit with my father.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bang!


Don't be alarmed--I'll be alarmed for you.

If you heard a loud "Bang!" tonight, it was the sound of USC's national championship bubble bursting--my mighty Trojans were upset by the Oregon State Beavers.  The now 2 - 2 team from Corvallis did what they did two years ago--outplay the big, bad boys from L.A.  

At least my boys were gracious and humble in defeat.  But let's not have anymore of that, okay?

Boo-hoo.

Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Headin' Out


The picture to the left has nothing whatsoever to do with today's post. My wife took it while we were in Jackson Hole a few weeks ago and I like it. So there you have it.

Moving right along, I will be going to So. Cal. this afternoon to care for my father. While this will open the door for the usual pressures on my wife and daughters (would you pray for them?), I have one main desire: I want to be filled with the Spirit.

If I had to make a top five wish list, being filled with the Holy Spirit would be right at the top. When I’m filled with Him, it’s then that Christ is formed in me. What’s better than that? Jesus’ wants and don’t wants become obvious, Jesus’ ability and feelings move right to the front of my experience, and nothing is impossible.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22, 23)

What would I lack? What would my dad lack if I were filled with the Spirit when staying with him? Nothing. Jesus, my wanna-be, would be obvious in me, and I always love it when He is.

See why I want this?

Living by the Spirit, I won’t gratify the desires of the flesh, which always offers a way of doing things that doesn’t involve God. I hate that. I always feel awful, sort of hung-over after navigating the day by the flesh. It requires something of me—the right approach, the right choice, the right response and the right attitude. Focused on all that, what does Jesus actually get to do for me? Well, yeah, I suppose He can clean me up after I’ve blown it, but that’s not what I mean. When I get really busy trying to be good, He has nothing to do in me or through me.

And getting around my dad incites my flesh to offer all kinds of navigational skills, since I’ve known him for just a few years. It’s not that he’s a bad guy—not at all—it’s just that he’s my dad, and I want to please him. That can really get in the way of wanting to know the Spirit and to allow Him to do whatever He wants in me. Does that make sense? The desire to please my dad can cover-over the better desire to sow to the Spirit so He can please my dad. Which do you suppose would be better?

So that’s it. Would you pray for me? Would you pray for my dad?

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” (Gal 5:24-26)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Compassion In Disappointment

(Written a few years ago, I hope you find it helpful.)

We’ve just returned from a brief weekend camping trip, which proved to be a lesson in at least two things:

1) Don’t go camping on the weekend. Insensitive dolts were playing rock ‘n roll and whooping it up at 3:00 a.m., just like they did when I was growing up and camping in Southern California. When I approached to ask them to knock it off, they seem startled that I was bothered. I felt old.

2) God is more compassionate than I thought.

Surprise.

Fishing in a nearby stream and fully enjoying myself, I heard a different sort of question from the Spirit, one I’d never heard before: “Son, if in the next moment you were to join me in heaven, what would you expect?”

Because I didn’t want to be interrupted during such a focus-demanding time—fly fishing—I quickly shuffled the thought to the back of my mind, and got back to the more important business of fooling trout. However, the same thought returned two more times to my inner monitor before I finally dignified it.

Thinking about what I would truly expect upon my arrival in heaven, a curious realization crept across my mind. On the faces of those gathered to welcome me, I would expect to see a hint of disappointment.

Yes, I know about the rich welcome awaiting the faithful upon arrival home—“Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness.” But I was startled to realize that I didn’t think I’d be getting that rousing reception. Or, at least, not that rousing.

I don’t always do so well in this life. I regularly get stuff wrong, needlessly offend people, or fail to be the man I am in Christ. Whether I know it immediately or find out about it later, failure weighs me down. You too? And then I begin thinking about all the work I have to do to make things better or make me better. I’ve proven, however, that I’m not very good at saving myself.

Anyway, in my mind I heard something like this, “I know how difficult it is in the world, I know how very awful it can be. Do you think I have no compassion for you, my righteous son? Do you think I don’t know of your anguish and valiant struggle between flesh and spirit? I am so pleased in your triumphs and rejoice in your success! I love how you are and how you do. Fear not your homecoming—it will be triumphant.”

There on the stream I choked up and laughed a laugh of relief and renewed hope. “He’s really compassionate!” I thought, “He really understands and delights in the smallest success, valuing it far more than the ugliest defeat. He looks upon me with joy and delight. He really loves me in the mess…”

I had a great afternoon. Throughout it I was overwhelmed by the compassion He has for me (and for you) right now in this life, in every trial, in every struggle.

And, yes, I caught a bunch of trout. You can ask my wife and girls if you don’t believe me. Really.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,…” (2 Cor 1:3 NIV)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today's Biblical Headlines

(It's the weekend--time for a little fun.)


If Biblical Headlines were written by today's newspaper editors:

On the Red Sea crossing:
WETLANDS TRAMPLED IN LABOR STRIKE
Pursuing Environmentalists Killed

On David vs. Goliath:
HATE CRIME KILLS BELOVED CHAMPION
Psychologist Questions Influence of Rock

On Elijah on Mt. Carmel:
FIRE SENDS RELIGIOUS RIGHT EXTREMIST INTO FRENZY
400 Killed

On the birth of Christ:
HOTELS FULL, ANIMALS LEFT HOMELESS
Animal Rights Activists Enraged by Insensitive Couple

On feeding the 5,000:
PREACHER STEALS CHILD'S LUNCH
Disciples Mystified Over Behavior

On healing the 10 lepers:
LOCAL DOCTOR'S PRACTICE RUINED
"Faith Healer" Causes Bankruptcy

On healing of the Gadarene demoniac:
MADMAN'S FRIEND CAUSES STAMPEDE
Local Farmer's Investment Lost

On raising Lazarus from the dead:
FUNDAMENTALIST PREACHER RAISES A STINK
Will Reading to be Delayed

Friday, September 19, 2008

Film Reviews


If you enjoy watching films as I do, here's a link to a useful web site, ChristianAnswers.net. Here you will find thorough reviews of current films, as well as those dating back many years. I find it particularly helpful concerning kids movies as the reviewers are very sensitive to that age group. If you like, you may also add your own comments on the site.

Click on the link above or look to the right column under Websites I Like, and click on Film Reviews.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

An Uneven Beauty

(It's the weekend, which means things get a little different around here. . .)

I don't recall this guy competing in the summer Olympics, but if I were a judge I would have given him a 10. And unlike those on the host team, there is no question this little lady is old enough to compete!

You'll like this short-but-sweet video.

video

Saturday, September 13, 2008

When A Good Self-Esteem Is Bad


Okay, I'm a USC grad, so I can't help but pay a lot of attention when my alma mater is playing Ohio State. Did you see the game? Wow. 35-3. We looked good. See the lonely and flying OSU helmet to the left? It alone survived its' owners burial.

Remember back a few years ago when so much was about having a good self-esteem? The teaching made it big time in the church--if you didn't have a good one, you were virtually doomed. Well, it always bugged me because almost invariably it had no basis in actual, literal Christianity. While we in the church endlessly taught about how important it was to help our children and others to feel good about themselves, our actual identity in Christ lay languishing in scripture, buried in a mountain of extra-biblical babble.

If our opinion of ourselves isn't biblically accurate, then it isn't true and it injures us. And frankly, who we are in and through Christ is far better than what we were offering some years ago. Self opinion is, indeed, vital, and when ours matches up with what God thinks is true of us, then the glory of God is made visible to us and the angels rejoice.

All that to say that here's a guy who needs a really big lesson, one even bigger than tonight's so he can flee the repeated injury of a poorly inflated self estimation. It's probably going to be a long season for him.

This from the Associated Press tonight:

"In the first game between the storied programs since 1990, USC won its sixth straight against Ohio State and eighth in a row against the Big Ten. Ohio State gained only 35 yards in the second half. Buckeyes QB Todd Boeckman threw for just 84 yards and had two interceptions. This was Ohio State's worst loss since 1994 and its worst non-conference loss since 1989 at USC. It was the first time the Buckeyes were held without a touchdown since 1996 against Michigan. OSU quarterbacks were sacked 5 times."

And in the “Somebody pop that boy’s self-esteem bubble” category, Terrelle Pryor, freshman and second-string quarterback gets the #1 ranking by saying, "Tough team, and we did not execute very well at all. We did not pick up their blitzes very well. Tonight, we beat ourselves. I still feel like we have the best defense in the country."

He’ll need to stay in college a while longer. . .and pass his classes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mr. Smiley


Stopped at an intersection recently, I glanced at a bumper on the left and there it was—Mr. Smiley Face. I can’t begin to estimate how many times I have seen that yellow button: on a bumper, on a shirt, on a wall, on a sign, and now it accompanies emails as an animated “emoticon.”

Smiley is everywhere.

This Smiley was accompanied by that common phrase, “Smile, God loves you!” And I thought, “How cute, how corny.” But in the next moment it occurred to me that I should think about it.

God loves me. God loves me. God loves me. And in a moment I was completely and wonderfully overwhelmed. For the next few minutes I had revival in my car. I hadn’t been aware that I needed it, but God sure was.

I fancy myself to be one of the gurus on God’s love, a major player in telling the church and the world how well off we are because God loves. And I had somehow forgotten that God loves me. He doesn’t put up with me, He doesn’t consider me a bother, He’s not disturbed when I barge into His throne room—He loves me.

God loves me.

That’s the biggest influence of my life, and it would only make sense that that knowledge is one of the primary targets of the devil. Think what comes from knowing God’s love—obedience, love for others, a variety of godly works, a true perspective of the world and its inhabitants, and hope—authentic hope.

As far as I’m concerned, I live from the knowledge of God’s love for me. You too?

Smile, God loves you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Harley Davidson Way of Life


I think I’m like a Harley Davidson. Every time I hear one go past (I don’t have to actually see it to know it’s near) I wonder how it makes any progress sounding the way it does. And sometimes I wonder the same thing about me.

When I was a boy of about thirteen, I was happily riding in our family car piloted by my mother when I heard an awfully loud sputtering and popping come alongside—it was awful. I slowly glanced in the direction of the cacophony and saw what I assumed was a man atop the strangest looking motorcycle I had ever seen. Although he was right next to our car (I could barely make out his eyes and nose peering out from a sea of hair), the front tire on his bike was, I promise, forty-three feet away. It might have been less, but thinking back, it might have been more…I don’t know.

Anyway, it seemed he was having trouble keeping the engine going because he kept revving it up, only to have it almost die. Roooooooom, rooooooom—sputter, cough, gag—rooooooom, rooooooom—sputter, cough, gag. And I thought, “He’s going to go somewhere on that awful thing? No way.”

Then the signal light turned green.

After a final sputter, cough and gag, that slovenly beast propelled the leather clad fur ball like a missile down the road and out of sight. Stunned, I asked my mother, “What was that?” “I don’t know,” she replied, “but I sure don’t like it.”

I had been introduced to Harley Davidson, and to this day I don’t know how those things get anywhere. I have always believed that a smoothly running engine is the one you want—you can rely on it to get you where you want to go. If the engine is sputtering, there is something wrong and it’s time to worry. Who doesn’t know that? You had better get it to the mechanic or call that friend who likes poking around in engines because until you get it working smoothly, you’re in trouble. Isn’t life like that, too?

Not really.

From that first encounter with a Harley to the one I heard rumbling and stumbling past yesterday, Harley Davidson has taught me a lot about living. In between the zooms there’s a whole lot of sputtering—and that’s normal.

There is so much in the New Testament about growing up in what Jesus has made of us—sons of God, foreigners in this world, ambassadors of Christ—that growing pains must be a part. Who actually believes immediately after receiving Christ that we have become as foreign to this world as Jesus? That the change made to us through faith has made us genuine new creations? That we cannot ever again live the way we once did, but can and must now live by the Spirit? The challenge isn’t first to live and behave better, the challenge is to believe better. It’s normal that we sputter and cough to believe such incredible facts!

We all see and experience so much that tells us we’re not what God says we are. We fail to pray (cough), we fail to tell someone the gospel (gag), a hoped-for job advancement fails to come about (sputter), and we feel like we’re about to stall. While that kind of stuff might change our minds about ourselves, it doesn’t influence God, who knows what He has made of us and carries on accordingly. When I get stuck thinking I’m just a no good sputterer, the Holy Spirit works to rev me up because there’s some place to go. Miraculously, I’m going to get there. As a friend recently said, living is “steady growth by jerks.”

Until that day when we fully believe what God believes about us and about the way forward, it’s the Harley way for us—sputter, cough and gag—rooooom, rooooom. And that’s okay.

Sometimes we get to zoom.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The First Woman On The Moon!

(In honor of Sarah Palin, the first female Republican nominee for V.P., I offer the following.)

Anybody remember the Honeymooners? It was before my time, but I've seen some re-runs so I get it. You?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Skilled Counseling

I'm on vacation, so if you need some counseling I can't help you. But this video will—sort of. Maybe.

While sometimes we can go way overboard in our attempt to "plumb the depths" of our problems, as if by understanding them alone we will be helped and freed, this video shows the other way—understanding nothing.

It's hilarious, and it has one of my all-time favorite comedians in it, Bob Newhart.

If altering our behavior is what counseling is all about, then this surely must be the answer! Think it will work?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What We're Doing On Vacation

Here's a short video of my wife, Sarah, doing what she does on vacation. She's so good at this, don't you think?!

Okay, it's not Sarah, but it sure looks like fun.

video

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Petite Vacation


I'm taking some time to run off with my family. Given the type of summer we have endured, a good number of days away together is just the thing we need before the fall months make it impossible.

So, since I ain't at my desk for a week or so, you might take advantage of some of the links and blogs I've recommended, or head over to my ministry web site.

And—I've scheduled for some funny things to pop up here from day to day while I'm away. Comics and short videos—that sort of thing. I think you'll like them.

Bye!