College was fun. I remember days when walking across the campus I felt like I knew almost everyone. I went to a small school and most of us enjoyed large friendship circles. The manner in which we greeted varied from person to person. Hugs, handshakes, high fives, shouts from too far away, running up and scaring the unsuspecting person, waving, etc.
The greeting depended on the person and the mood. With most people, they would ask, “how was your weekend?”. And the general consensus is that they didn’t really want to know but it would be rude not to ask. So the universal answer was, “fine, how was yours?”. They too were obligated to answer in one positive or up beat word and move on.
The exception were your true friends. These were much rarer. When asked how your weekend was, you could freely answer… and then some. And we would often joke about the silly social structure where everyone asked but most didn’t care. My friends and I decided that, just for fun, we would unload all of our deepest, darkest, most terrifying secrets, hopes and dreams on the next person to insincerely ask.
We never did… but we laughed out loud every time someone brought it up. “hey! how was your weekend?”… “sit down, this will take a while… you don’t have any plans, right? Where should I start…” Can you imagine? 😉
How do we greet God? Public prayers are interesting. It seems a very popular opening is the “Dear God…”. Which to me, sounds like a letter. And the last time I used “Dear anything” in a letter the contents were equivalent of a “to whom it may concern” document.
It just doesn’t seem right, if I’m addressing my friend, I would not say, “dear friend” as an opening. I usually just call them by name. Then we get the formal prayers. “Almighty God in Heaven….” Nothing wrong with that either. But how natural feeling is that? Do we greet anyone else with a name, descriptor AND location?
My starting point of choice is, “Father”. But if I’m honest with myself, that stands out too. I don’t call my father on earth, ‘father’… I call him dad. Most times, I just start talking and don’t really call anyone anything.
The point is that I think its a good exercise to think about our relationship with God. In short, have you prepared enough during the good and restful times, that you can communicate properly during the desperate and painful times? Do you struggle sometimes to address Him at all? Perhaps nothing important is going on? Maybe you feel like you bug Him too much? You have already asked for this once before?
The quick Bible reference for today is, “pray without ceasing”. I’m going to take that literally. Your next sentence to God shouldn’t start with a long proclamation and greeting… because you should have been talking to him just a few minutes ago. Building God up is part of any good prayer, but I hope you get the point in that we should always have the phone off hook (so to speak).
I was talking to my wife on the phone. She put me on hold when someone else called and when she came back to me… we just kept talking. She didn’t have to identify herself again or undergo any assumed pleasantries. Is God different? Allow me to share one way that I approach God when things are not going well…
I throw myself at God. Not because I need to. Not because I deduce it logically. But, because it is the only option my body, mind, and soul instinctually know.
Red light and danger signs with alarms start going off… what is our instinct when that happens? I need safety. I need comfort. I need love. I need compassion. I need someone that understands my side… my perspective.
I leap straight up and into His arms and do not let go.
This is like falling to your knees, crying or laughing… You don’t plan on it, you respond to the momentum in your heart.
Do you know what God does when you jump into His arms? He holds you tight and protects you. (2 Samuel 22: 3-4). When you shout God’s name, there is never the chance of an awkward moment where He doesn’t hear you but everyone else does. When you approach with an arm up in the air… He won’t leave you hanging. That is right. I firmly believe God is a high fiving type of Lord. Sacrilegious? Not according to the Bible.
We are made in the image of God. Our traits come from Him. His joy is in us. He went to great lengths to save us. Maybe a high five is too specific. Perhaps He will have a secret handshake involving the chicken wing or a 3 pointer fade away? Silly? I think its silly to think that God loves us enough to give up His Son and then wouldn’t physically and visibly welcome us to the Kingdom with an expression of affection.
In all seriousness, I think the high fives and other expressions will come later. When I first meet my Lord, I believe we are going to hug. We are going to shed tears. He is going to claim that I was worth it, and I am going to thank Him and praise Him.
God is God and He deserves reverence. God is also Jesus. Man. And He understands weddings. He attends parties. He laughs. He loves. He has joy. How is your relationship with Him? I’m not at all asking anyone to drop the reverence from their relationship… but I also think that we are family. Our God Father and Jesus Brother know us on an intimate and personal level. Lets get to know them. Lets speak to them with love.
Lets speak to them often. Consistently. Thoroughly. Without ceasing. Talk to God about your dreams, your sins, your life. Praise Him for who He is and what He has done. And then… talk about basketball. Talk about boys. Talk about women. Discuss politics. Facebook Him. Tweet Him. Instagram with Him. He is most certainly a rare and good friend worthy of your full story.
Something happened last night. You were sleeping. Perhaps you were awake and pondering life’s uncertainties? Maybe you were in the ER waiting for news? Could you have been driving down the road of despair? We all were in different places, experiencing a moment of life completely separate and apart from each other. But it happened all the same.
The sun rose. Dawn happened. The light came up and forced back the darkness. And now each of us… all of us… every last one of us, faces a new day. Whether you roll out of bed and curl your toes on fresh, clean carpet… or if you stand drenched in rain as an outcast in the world’s gutter… we all get a new day.
What is a new day? Hope. Opportunity. Wounds will scab over. Spoken words will sting less. Perspective will settle in. Deep breaths will draw attention to purpose. Heads may dare to look up. It’s a chance to roll up yesterday and mark it forever where it belongs to live… the past.
When your fingers clinch the dirt you can push yourself up knowing that today isn’t a mock-up of anything you have experienced before. The fresh smell of this new day confirms one thing to each one of us. Days aren’t templates spit out by machines forcing us to jump from day to day, learning patterns of life and accepting the mold dealt out to us.
No, we know better. Days are born. We get to mold them. And a new day… a fresh day… a morning untainted by yesterday’s mistakes is the best time to realize that we get another chance. A fresh start. A new beginning. We are not bound to yesterday’s mistakes. We are not condemned to the folly of our youth.
Today, on this new day, we can explode into a life that we cherish. We can create moments that we love. We can push forward out of trials and into tried. Learned from our experiences and ready to conquer. Today… we can. We get to. We have.
Pity is weak. Regret is banging on the locked door of the past. Lets take this new day and write out new legacy’s for ourselves. We can charter in a new era of positive thinking, success, and good memories.
The biggest mistake you could make is to assume this day isn’t yours. That it isn’t for you. That you can’t participate, NAY! Commandeer the day and make it perfect. Or… you can roll over, close your eyes, and see if maybe another one comes along tomorrow. It might. It might not. Today is at hand. Grasp it with yours and own it.
Christianity gut check:
Let’s say that Christ is coming back today! What is your immediate reaction? Excitement? Fear? Questions? Concerns? Need a moment?
Today’s homework is to ponder that simple question. What is your reaction if you were told, today is THE day? And its quite easy to determine where your relationship is with God based on your immediate response (not the one after you think about it for a few minutes… but the knee-jerk, instant, first response).
Is your response, “huzzah, I’m ready!”… or are you hoping that there is an essay portion to explain your current status? Don’t read into this a doomsday, better hurry, you aren’t right with God, etc. post. This is merely something you can do on your own, and your own response might surprise you.
If you reflect properly, you might catch some patterns that need tweaking. When you constantly ask the question, would God approve? your outlook changes.
Some of us get stuck in ruts and it takes someone shaking our shoulders and smacking us around a bit before we realize that life on autopilot is not the life God called us to live. I’m not even going to try and presuppose your position in life right now. But you can. Is God on your mind’s speed dial? Does your heart belong to Him during the good AND bad times? Are you excited at the thought of His perfect plan completing with the triumphant return of our King where eternity finally begins?
Be honest… you only have yourself to fool. Are you where you need to be today? If not… save yourself the panic, save you from desperation, prevent the cries for more time and the begging for another chance. Today is a chance… use that.
There are frequently two incorrect assumptions many assign to God.
1. I’m not good enough.
2. My sin is too great.
First, you may notice I said we assign those assumptions to God. That was not a typo. We may be sulking in our own history of mistakes, but we are effectively saying, “I have dug a hole so big even God can’t reach me!”
Do you really believe that is possible? Are we so great that our mishaps can limit our creator?
Secondly, lets revisit what God did to forgive our sins. He let His Son live a homeless, nomadic life on earth, allowed him to be mocked, tortured, and killed, and put all of our sins on Him in our place. Do we really believe that after all of that, His plan to save US had a flaw? Are we so clever we found a loophole?
When you claim your sins are too big, you are also saying God is too small. And incidentally, you are kind of saying the whole death on a cross thing was a bit of a dud. Equally so, if we assume our merit, in any way, affects God’s relationship with us, we have a gross misunderstanding of God’s plan from the beginning. Jesus came to save the sinner… of which we all are.
We cloak our statements so it sounds like we are so bad and unworthy…. but what we are really saying is that God can’t. Or God won’t. That line of thinking has a problem with tense. God did! It’s already done. The price has already been paid. To know that Jesus already died for your sins and then to believe you are exempt from that salvation is to call God’s plan a failure. You think you are saying, “no, I failed… ME!” but that is exactly why you have been forgiven… because we all fail. We all seek forgiveness… and God will give that grace-filled forgiveness to any and all who ask sincerely.
Why would He go through the agony of letting His Son die… Why would Jesus go through the whole of it… if it wasn’t a complete package deal? Did God tell Him, “sorry, Son, the liars and thieves can be saved but the adulterers and murderers are on their own? No.
No matter how sick, how disgusting, how repulsive you find yourself… Jesus bought those attributes from you. There might be something holding you back or keeping you from letting go of those sins… but nothing held Jesus back from dying for them.
So instead of shrugging off your Savior and condemning yourself… try asking for a little grace. Grace is that thing that NONE of us deserves, but He gives it to us anyway because He loves us. You don’t require MORE grace than anyone else. We all need grace. And to all who ask, all will receive.
One final reminder… One of Satan’s biggest lies is in the mirror. Its how we perceive ourselves. God loves us and wants us to be with Him. He payed dearly so we could be with Him. If you are feeling unwanted, useless, unworthy, or unloved… you are being deceived. God follows His own commands, of which the greatest is, to love all.
Here is the sad summary… you can choose not to accept grace. Many do. But it isn’t because it wasn’t offered. Can you get so hungry that food won’t help? Can you get so thirsty that water won’t work? Can you be so poor that you turn down money because it will just make things worse? I hope those all sound ridiculous to you. Because it seems quite silly to God that you would find yourself in a predicament that He can’t solve or forgive.
This isn’t a traditional post of mine, but its also not a full blown movie review either. I hope it finds you well whatever your expectations may be. (warning, this may delve more into politics and social issues than both of us would prefer… It’s on my heart so I am letting it out… a tad).
@PattyJenks tweeted a list of responses from kindergarten girls that had seen the film. While some are cute, I noticed a trend in many of the responses from the children, the press and reviewers around the world.
Female empowerment. Many are praising the films recognition that a woman can do great things. And quite frankly, this isn’t an issue that anyone should be on the other side of. Simply put, they can do great things, they have and they will.
What I wish people would focus on is the real accomplishment of the film. The lead actress, Gal Gadot, brought a level of genuine emotion, sincerity, and empathy that super hero fans aren’t used to. Not only did the plot build up why the Amazons were empathetic to the plight of mankind, but her specific story provides a greater level of compassion towards them.
Then, when needed, she flips the switch and pulls off epic ferocity, at least on par with, anything we have seen to date. The supporting cast (Chris Pine, et al), visuals, storyline, writing, directing, score, audio… you name it, nothing detracted from how amazing this movie was set out to be. And the world has responded. It nearly doubled the opening weekend sales of Pirates of the Caribbean 4: Dead Men Tell no Tales. (which preceded it the week before). (103 million, vs 62 million respectively – boxofficemojo).
Simply put, this was an amazing movie in every categorical possibility. This is, of course, in my opinion. (but various sales figures help back that up from an argumentative standpoint as well).
What I find interesting in it, is our seemingly inherent ability to divide ourselves over every possible issue we face… even those found in entertainment. Some may say this is just the god Ares (god of war) having his way with us (see I watched it!). If you aren’t aware some places have shown “women’s only screenings“.
Those screenings were henceforth protested by men wondering what happened to equality. There was a ban in Lebanon seemingly over the star actress’ heritage. And, as mentioned above, when asking a great many people what they thought of the film, an overwhelming number of woman felt it sparked positive movement for women (which isn’t meant to be listed as a negative attribute, but does mean that they graded the film more on political issues than the wonderful content that filled it).
When I walked out of the theater, I knew this was my new favorite movie. I had no clue that it was directed by a woman. I had no idea the actress was from Israel. I didn’t know about any political or social issues that it might be tied into. It was classic good versus evil and good won. It was a beautifully scripted and decorated picture, played over 2 entertaining hours that is worthy of praise. The current IMDB score is 8.2/10 and I find that low of a score insulting to the art that resulted from this movie.
But I would call myself a Martin Luther King-ian. I want equality. Patty is getting her accolades. That she is getting more for being a woman, IMHO, seems to be regression in that movement. Isn’t the idea for her to excel on her merit alone? I wanted Obama to be a good president… not a black president. I want Wonder Woman to be a highly successful movie, not a great movie… for a woman (which is what comes out when we laud and praise based on that fact).
What would you rather hear:
“Great job!, you put on the best performance” or…
“for a woman, that was really good”.
We all fit into our niches no matter how badly society wants to group us up just so they can tear us apart. How would you feel being graded not only on your accomplishments, but on every other distinguishing factor that makes you unique? I want black boys and girls playing with white boys and girls. I want that without having to sacrifice personality, heritage, traits, beliefs, or any other factor.
One of the many issues with trying to fix problems with the past is we tend to over-correct and that causes, in some ways, worse problems than we started with. There is a computer game coming out soon where the goal is to kill white southern Biblical based occultists. While that fits my demographic (except for the cult part 😉 ), its not offensive to me. I get it. I understand entertainment, fantasy, and what the developers of that game are going for.
What does frustrate me, are the people on the other side of the fence stating, “now its your time!”. What they are referencing are the Christians who are questioning the game’s motives. And the people answering are the same people who were against games that targeted terrorists (and so all the enemies in the game looked like middle easterners). Or the protesters that didn’t like another game set in Africa (where most of the enemies were black).
Instead of being consistent and also boycotting yet another game that seems to stereotype, or instead of learning their lesson and backing off… they are now openly cheering on a game that sticks it to their opponent. Once again, man kind doing what we do best. Fighting each other. They can’t judge the game based on its entertainment value, they have to dig deep until they find something to argue about. And once they do… the gloves come off. We can call names, insult, and even send death threats online over how our views differ.
Incidentally, the game isn’t even out yet… which really helps the biases to shine over the controversy.
I was just thinking about the song “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston (428 million views on Youtube). And how many men have successfully sang this song. Arguably some have. Arguably, the best man’s performance of this song pales in comparison to the plethora of females that have had various success. Would I like to be the one who sings it OK… for a man? no. Would I like to be the first man to sing it great? no. Would I like to be known for any achievement based on physical criteria granted to me at birth? no.
That is called an asterisk and I hate asterisks. One of the most quoted verses in the Bible is John 3:16. It says, “for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son…”. There is no asterisk there. He did that for the world. Everyone. All of us. Each one side by side and equally loved as the next.
Hatred is the opposite of that. Hate divides. Hate excludes. Hate categorizes. The first child, the best black, the only woman, the fastest foreigner… all asterisks.
Without trying to take anything away from those who have achieved in this world… wouldn’t it be much more rewarding to just be the best? Period. Let me ask it another way. Why does it feel rewarding if you have to compartmentalize yourself down into groups in order to weed out the pack you are competing against? In other words, if we are all swimming in different pools, it doesn’t mean much if you are just the best in your pool.
I loved the movie, Wonder Woman, because it was one of the best I’ve seen. I was impressed by the action sequences performed by Gal because she is one of the most talented I’ve witnessed. I’m not trying to say to women… that you shouldn’t enjoy that victory. I’m encouraging you… that the victory is greater than you are celebrating for. Don’t diminish the achievement into a subcategory which lessens the phenomenal accomplishment. Get rid of the asterisk and accept the true, raw, unaltered stats.
God didn’t create asterisks. He created unique and “wonderfully made” individuals that He loves equally. Our competition, our bias, and even our hate… that didn’t come from Him. That is where we have to overcome. That is where we have to step up. Don’t be the first girl to ignore sexism. Don’t be the first man to step above racism. Instead, be a hero. Be all that God made you and love the world the same way He does. Show compassion to all. Love all. Help all. Pray for all. As soon as you stop looking at the whole and start seeing parts… well then you become just like everyone else.
With Jesus’ death imminent, He prayed to God. “let them all be one as you and I are one”. He asked for unity. He spent enough time with mankind to know that this is what we needed most. It was there where we were weakest. We just can’t stop sizing each other up and putting each other into lists long enough to appreciate the wonderful gift we each are.
At the risk of getting into more political and social issues than I enjoy, I can’t think of a more perfect ending than Morgan Freeman’s response to baited questions about racism. His response would make MLK Jr. proud. When we stop looking at each other outwardly, and start looking into our hearts… perhaps then we can heal. (incidentally, 300k views on Morgan’s video. 428 million on Whitney’s.) Its almost as if people don’t want to solve our bigger problems. Do you?
Then I would encourage you to be like Wonder Woman and look past feminism completely. Be like Morgan and look past racism completely. Be like Jesus and look past classes completely. Stop talking about it. Stop looking at it. Start living like you wish everyone else would live towards you.
Am I trying to take away a female icon, role model, or success story? No. Dress as her all you like. Look up to her as young girls. My attempt is to only ask the questions that haunt all of us… who will we become if we can’t exist in a middle ground of understanding and acceptance? If this amazing movie can be made without spelling out that women were involved, why can’t the rest of life be lived out the same way… and across all issues. Why can’t we just enjoy what we like? Why do we insist on creating asterisks?
What if we stopped asking the question… “how would I live differently if I had a second chance… a do-over?”
And instead… we started living like this was our second chance? Our last chance? A moment in time where we haven’t yet blown the next big thing? How would you live? How will you live now that you know… you get to choose the next moment?
I was asked to contemplate an attribute of God. Any one I wanted. While that may sound simple, I didn’t want to bring anything into this. So I set my ears to ‘open’ and waited on something to grab my attention. I didn’t want to be the tiny human trying to explain the almighty God… I wanted Him to teach me something in this.
The very next day, in church, we were singing, “oh God how I need you”. Several emotions were stirred by this verbiage. The “oh” signifies desperation. Or possibly its just an amplification of how much we need Him. The “how” shows depth, which is a different type of need. I need you desperately, but also, in this many things. “oh” is qualitative, while “how” is quantitative. The “need” shows importance. I don’t just “want” You, Your presence is more significant than that. I’m at an impasse. The obstacles aren’t moving. Progress has stopped. If I’m ever to go forward, I “need” God.
And the final word, the one that hit me the hardest, was ‘God’. I was whisked away to a time years ago where I frequented chat rooms. (talking (rather typing) in real time to strangers on the internet, if you aren’t familiar with the term). I said something seemingly innocent in my own mind and caused quite a stir. I wrote ‘God’. I was quickly corrected. “You need to show some respect and type G-d.” Highly confused I opted for other words like Jesus, Lord, etc. At every turn I was met with extreme anger and prompt correction. They simply believed that you can’t say His name.
For some, it wasn’t even an issue of respect, it was a practice to prohibit taking God’s name in vain. For others, they held God so high above themselves that He was almost like a Greek deity. Up in the heavens and far too good to be in our presence. Think about that a moment. A God whose subjects can’t say His name? Or even type it?
Let’s compare my mom with my grandmother. I love my mom. But she had some rules that kept the house in order. It wasn’t so bad it felt like a museum, but it was close at times. No shoes on the furniture. Never, under any circumstances, could you jump on the furniture. No food outside of the kitchen, no running in the house. Etc.
Then I go to grandmother’s home. There she chose to spoil me. And I took full advantage. I would chase the dog relentlessly. I would get a running start to jump up and plop down on the sofa causing every cushion to suffer an aftershock. I ate ice cream and drank soda in every room of the home. Sometimes, I would chase the dog, while running, AND jumping with a drink in my hands. Multi-tasking!
There weren’t different amounts of love between the two houses. There were simply different expectations. My grandmother who didn’t have to worry about my college, or my car, or my expenses, or her own job because she was retired… she just wanted me to be close. To be happy. She wanted to hear the words, “I want to go to grandmother’s home!”. When you aren’t responsible for the children, you seem like a superhero to them. Parents have rules and boundaries and curfews. Grandparents have candy, toys, and freedom. It’s really not fair to the parents. But hey…. who doesn’t want candy?
God has blessed us with free will. And just like grandma, He wants us to choose Him. I feel pretty comfortable in saying, our God, is a jump on the couch kind of God. He just wants us home with Him. He wants our laughter, our fat bellies, and our sticky fingers hugging Him around the neck. Heaven is not going to be a museum. Museum’s have rules, glass cases, locked doors and tons of security. Heaven is going to be a playground. There will be running and jumping and food and drink and singing. He has chosen to make Himself accessible. And this is the attribute I am focusing on.
Consider Matthew 12. Verse 50 says this: “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother”. And this is why I don’t find it irreverent to say God’s name… or type it… or sing it… or cry out to it! Written in the word’s of our Savior is that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus when we follow Him. Who is He following? God. Who is God? His daddy. Our brother, Jesus, calls God, Father. What father doesn’t yearn to hear his baby say, ‘dadda’? Why do children say mommy and daddy first? Because their parents are accessible.
Not only accessible, but constantly holding, feeding, changing, and teaching the child. Exactly what God does for us. And I do believe He wants us to call on His name. Father, daddy, pops, God, Lord. He has many names. (Isiah 9:6, et al). And His children are allowed to use them. And we are encouraged to use them.
The Lord’s prayer is exactly that. Our Lord and brother, Jesus stopped to teach us how to pray. He actually said the words, “This, then, is how you should pray…” And what words did He choose in this epic teaching moment? How do we start our conversations with God? “Our Father in heaven…”. God is accessible. He is near. He is present. We can sing to Him, we can speak to Him, we can worship and praise Him… like He is right in front of us… because He is.
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring. – Acts 17:27-28
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
It’s fun to dream about winning the lottery. Many of us already have our answers ready. Some have even practiced the interview and mastered that impending question… “What will you do with the money?”.
I remember one such interview where the bewildered winner couldn’t decide between fixing his house or his truck. He simply couldn’t comprehend what millions meant. That isn’t a number we tread often in. And that is exactly why it won’t help us.
In order to GIVE, we have to give of something. We take something of ours and it becomes someone else’s. At that point, we no longer have it anymore. Consider how the library works. If I go and check out a book, they no longer have it… I do! So if you go searching for that same book, their answer is, “Sorry, someone else has it”.
With the lottery, We can give and still have. While we may choose to do good things with the money, a key part of giving is absent… sacrifice. We could discuss earning versus winning as well, but I’ll leave that for now.
Let’s compare this to something more important than money. What if I see someone on the street and I wave at them and give a nice big smile? What have I done? I could argue I put on my Jesus face. I was friendly, inviting, polite, and I even felt a little awkward waving at a stranger.
But what have I actually given? Did it take any time? ah, time! something extremely valuable, and in limited resource. And just like the library, if I’m giving my time to someone, I can’t be giving it to something else. But the answer is, no, it took as much time to wave as it did effort.
I also didn’t speak. I didn’t share my story. I didn’t share God’s story. I didn’t offer the truth of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected. I didn’t show love or compassion. I didn’t offer any fruits of the Spirit. I waved. Nothing more, no matter how we dress it up. I gave pennies and kept millions for myself.
We know from the widow that gave two mites (Luke 21) that it isn’t about how much we give, but instead what percentage. The woman who gave so little, gave more than the richest of men, because she gave all she had, where they gave small portions. And thus the problem with so much money. Much is expected of those that have much.
Consider your time. We can’t win the ‘time’ lottery. 24 hours fill up a day no matter how lucky you are. Time puts us all in the same category. How much are you giving? Truly giving? Sacrificing? Investing in God’s will for you and others? God calls us to help each other out. We tithe because He asks us to. But money does not solve everything. And that is why He also calls us to go into the world and disciple others. How much time are we giving?
Whatever we are not willing to give up for God is a weakness that Satan will continue to exploit. The best tools of the devil are the things we hold most dear.