Do You Really Only Have One Shot?

I have always been amazed at how photographers can capture such amazing, seemingly magical moments by pressing a button at the precise moment that a breathtaking event occurs.

My recent exploration of cameras has pulled back the curtain as to how this actually happens.  First, there is a portion of time that is less than a second.  What I mean by this is you don’t just have one second to take a picture.  You can take pictures in fractions of a second.  One of the cameras I want to buy can take over 20 pictures in a single second.

Humans typically blink in a tenth of a second.  So you can quickly see how over 20 pictures during that second can get around one of many problems that can occur if you were to only snap a shot one time.  Cameras also come with a buffer.  This can hold those 20+ photos that are coming in every second for multiple seconds.  The camera is taking in pictures faster than it can permanently write them to storage so it needs a place to hold them while you are still capturing.

Once the buffer is full, or once you are done taking the pictures, it will then write the pictures captured to the camera storage for you to sort through later.  This can amount to hundreds of photos all captured in a matter of seconds.  And this explains how its done.  They just hold down the button and let the moment unfold before them.  A bird in flight, a baseball swing, a shooting star, that perfect smile…

I used to think that photographers had to stop, pull out their camera, turn it on, point, focus, and then press the button one time and hope that they were lucky enough to catch something good.  And if they missed.  If they were too early or too late… it was gone forever.

I tried photography years ago and found it frustrating because my images were always blurry and I felt like I missed every opportunity.  I feel like many of us live our lives like this.  We think we only get one shot.  And if we muster up enough of whatever we need to take it and it doesn’t go so well, we are through.

We only give our marriages one shot.  We give our friends one chance.  This situation gets only one round from me.  And if it gets painful, or hard, or frustrating… I’m out!  Maybe we give it two chances or three, but the end result is the same.  We know how to quit.  We are experts at giving up.  Wasting time on fruitless things is not something we like to do.

Whats worse is we give up on ourselves just as easily.  We get tired of making the same mistake over and over and over and we can’t comprehend how anyone could accept such failure.  Peter said that he does the things he should not do and he does not do the things he should.  I appreciate him sharing that.  It gives me hope.  I get the sense he is constantly at odds with himself.

God is the God of second chances.  But also third chances, forth chances, hundredth chances, and beyond.  Much, much beyond.  We cannot out-sin God’s grace.  It doesn’t mean we should try to, it just means we have hope if we desire a fresh start with our Father in heaven.

I want to encourage us to not only give others a chance, but to give ourselves a chance… lots of them.  God’s buffer never fills up.  If we can understand how He extends grace to others, remember that works for us too.  Bluntly put, we aren’t the exceptions we often think we are.  He loves us and forgives us when we seek that.  All of us.

 


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Are you plugged in?

I lost internet for two days over the weekend.  Many will read that sentence and feel my pain.  I can feel the shared sympathy.  Thank you!  There was a time when the internet could have gone out and I would have never known.  That time is long since past.  Now, it does not matter what I am doing, it involves the internet.

I have over 20 internet enabled devices in my home, and quite honestly, that is without trying.  I’ve passed on many options to include the internet that most likely won’t be options soon.  Did you know they make refrigerators that connect to the internet?  They have for years.  Soon it will be standard on all models.  I don’t own an internet watch, a web based doorbell, or WiFi light bulbs… but all of these have existed for quite some time.  My 20 devices online at the moment will likely become 40 in a very short amount of time… without even trying to buy internet enabled devices.

The true testament to how deeply I rely on the interwebs can be seen when the internet connection is dropped.  Because nearly everything we do relies on some form of connectivity, my plans are deviated when the outage occurs.  In other words, every single time the internet goes down, I have to find something else to do.  I have my own top 10 list of things I attempt to do to pass the time while the internet is out:

  1.   Organize my email (check from my backlog, reply, file things in folders, etc).
  2.   Play online games
  3.   Online banking
  4.   Get caught up on Facebook.
  5.   Watch videos on YouTube.
  6.   Talk to someone (using Skype or VOIP technology)
  7.   Just watch a movie (Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc)
  8.   Do some shopping (Amazon, Newegg, Slickdeals)
  9.   Engage any of my hobbies (writing, photography, etc all requiring online tools)
  10.   Misc (Check news, sports stats, fantasy teams, taxes, browsing, etc… all online).

I have to go through a routine of shock and confusion before it sinks in that everything I do routes back to the internet in some way.  Even with the knowledge that my connection has been severed, my gut reaction based on habit and muscle memory is to try to do things that I forgot relied on that link.

This is very similar to how our relationship with God should be.  All things lead to Him.  He is a part of everything.  Everything that we do should honor Him and point to Him in some way.  Should He ever be apart from us… we would be hopeless.  Lost.  Worthless.

Jesus was disconnected from God when He took our place on the cross.  We call that ‘Hell’.

It’s getting more difficult to find things to do when the data stops pouring into my home.  Can we think of things that we can accomplish without God?  Can we imagine a world without God?  My hope is that we are so committed to the life God blessed us with that we serve Him in every act, word, and thought… so much so, that even without thinking, our muscle memory and great habits take over and we continue to nurture others as we build on the relationship ourselves.

 

 


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Where Are My Gifts!?!!?

Gifts, in the eyes of man, are lacking in me.

I cannot sing. I cannot draw. I cannot play an instrument. I am not athletically advanced. I am not intelligenter.

According to how we grade each other in physical gifts, I am not very blessed.

In my dialogue with God I lean towards more meaningful gifts. Gifts of the Spirit. What has God given me? This is what really matters.

Well, I can’t speak in tongues. I don’t prophesy. I haven’t healed anyone. I have yet to turn water into Pepsi.

Perhaps you can relate to my struggle?

What is God’s plan for me? What am I supposed to be doing for Him? How do I work within my strengths, when I don’t know what they are, and often challenge weather I have any to begin with?

There is an often undesired answer. Read and pray. I’m going to stick with it for a reason. It’s what has worked for me. After a session of “why me” prayer and honest questioning of God, I finished my usual quiet time with a chapter in a book I was working through.

I read the most common sense statement that we all know. “Life is a gift. Every breath is a gift”. That was it. Nothing magical. Nothing really profound. But everything I needed to hear.

God proceeded to work through my heart how much forgiveness I needed. Which all by itself is a sad commentary.  I, the sinner, want to know where my gifts are!

I am a sinner. Jesus is a gift. Forgiveness is a gift… and how much of that I receive! Grace, salvation, heaven… all gifts. Not just gifts… the most important of all presents. Things I don’t deserve and yet am eternally nothing without.

I receive the most amazing gifts every day. I wake up. I breathe. I commune with The God. I am forgiven and I bask in epic and eternal promises from the creator of the world.

I asked where my gifts are and He showed me. I have more than most. I am overwhelmingly blessed. I hope you can see how you are too… and if you aren’t, how you can be.

 


I’m Special, You’re Not

One of the verses we often use to ‘comfort’ each other is the famous line from 1 Corinthians 10 that says ‘he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability’.  Further if tempted… ‘he will also provide the way of escape’. 

I put the word comfort in quotes because it’s rarely accomplished.  When the devil is beating you down, does this ancient quotation make you feel any better?

I call this verse a Just-Them verse.  It never really helps to hear it but we can’t stop saying it to them.  It’s almost like it makes us feel better… like we are really in there helping someone in need.  But what I think happens most often is our judgemental side starts to show.

Here is the condensed version:  “I’m tempted to steal while times are tough”.  “If you steal, its a sin because God gave you the ability to resist AND a way out!”.  Please understand that even if you don’t mean it that way, there is a high probability it still gets received that way.

The problem with temptation is that it appeals to each of us differently.  In the shortest terms, the devil is epic good at tuning his whispers directly to our situations and personalities.  So we develop this sense of understanding towards our own needs…. but we don’t forget that scripture for Just-Them.  They have a way out.  They have a God given ability to resist.

But for me… They don’t understand what I’m going through.  My pain is different.  My struggle is real.  My situation is worse.  I had no way out.  I had no option.  We may even claim abandonment in our struggles.  These verses of ‘comfort’ are just for them.  They could do better, but I have no choice.

We can fall into this trap for at least two different reasons.  The first is something we need to work on as a society.  This is the result of handing out trophies and certifications and helping everyone to feel special.  While we all are, especially in God’s eyes, we aren’t encouraging unique self appreciation in healthy ways.

If we only teach that everyone is special we set up future generations for this type of self pity and outward judgement.  A healthy, God’s-eye-view, mixed with reality will go a long way.  Which brings me to the second thing we can do.

We can stop skipping the verse that comes right before the ones I pointed out above.  Verse 13.  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”  That hurt, that massive pain, that thing that no one could possibly understand or even begin to imagine… yeah, we are all going through it.  The names may change, the details may skew over time, but temptation… all of it, is common.  

Not only should that help us put ourselves in the correct perspective between God and us and the rest of us and us… but it shows how diligent the devil really is.  He works so hard at ruining and condemning your life, that every single soul in the world has experienced the same level of torment.

What if instead of judging each other, we were there for each other, helping each other overcome the many schemes that are dealt out to ALL of us?  We may have resisted one sin someone else didn’t, but we neglected to find the way out on others that they did.  We can’t pick and choose which passages are for which people.  If the judgement is just for them, so is the reward.  I’m beginning to think of ‘them’ as a bad word.

Only God can use it accurately.  He is the only one without sin.  When we use it, we use it selectively to divide.  Them that failed.  Them that look different.  Them who speak different.  Them who score lower.  From our point of view, it should be about us.  The Bible is for us.  Jesus came to save us.  This passage of hope is about and for us.  We are God’s creation.  And, in two things, we are certainly equal.  God’s love for us and Satan’s desire to drag us kicking and screaming to hell.

That is another ‘us’.  The enemy wants us.  All of us.  Equally.  His attempts to drive us away from the love of God is common.  It is something we have all experienced.  And it is something that we can all help each other with based on first hand experience.

 


Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

Splish Splash Peter’s Taking a Bath

In John 13: 1-17 we find the account of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.  When He got to Peter, Peter protested.  No!  “You shall never wash my feet”.  I used to read this with an appreciation for Peter.  Good for him!  Know your place.  Of course I missed the same point Peter did.  The short conversation fascinates me.  Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.”  To which Peter responds, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

I love that response.  Don’t we all desire this level of yearning for the Savior?  The very thought of not being with Jesus caused Peter to not only turn a 180, but to double down as well.  It’s not comfortable having someone you admire and respect serving you, but Peter would allow it if it meant more of that relationship.

I’ve always aspired to be more like Peter.  To love Jesus the way he did, to be bold like he was… and then I realized… I’m just like Peter.  If that sounds pompous, you may not know the whole story.

Consider another context.  What if your boss walked in and said, “I want you to take my office”.  Well this would just be weird.  The boss would still be there.  You would still be working for him.  As nice as it may sound you just don’t like the thought of the social structure and hierarchy breaking down that way… what would your co-workers think?  So you politely decline.  You respect this boss and want to honor him.  He deserves the nicest and biggest office.  He follows up with, “if you don’t take my office, you can’t work here anymore”.

You depend on that salary, you love your job, and you have great relationships with all of your coworkers.  Losing this job is about the last thing you could ever want.  So with great jubilation you accept the bosses office and offer to take his car and salary too if that will help smooth things over.

I used to see this as a great relenting by Peter.  He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet, but He would offer up his whole body if that meant getting to stay near the Savior.  But I fear his response may have been more like the analogy I put above.  When threatened to lose everything, wouldn’t we back pedal?

Think about what Peter was in position to lose if he didn’t allow Jesus to wash his feet.  They were still a little confused about who Jesus was.  Jesus was still potential king and ruler to them.  Even in this passage He told Peter he didn’t understand what was going on now.  The crowds loved Jesus, to the point that those against Him were scared.  He performed miracles, he had a mission, there was great hope and promise.  It’s not exactly a sacrifice to say, well in lieu of losing all of that, I’ll take your offer… and then some more as well.

Why is this worth writing about?  Because the same Peter that said, “You shall never wash my feet” also said, “I will not deny you!”.

But he relented there as well.  I can say that I am just like Peter because my mouth often works faster than my heart does.  My words are one step ahead.  I can promise and proclaim and take stands… with my words.  But when the time comes to back them up, the rooster crows.

I’ve grown less impressed with Peter as I see the same failures in my own faith.  I promise God I will listen and obey… and then the rooster crows again.  I am certain I will never sin that way again… and the crowd starts to ask if I wasn’t with that man.

Strong words.  Strong, heart felt, inspired words mean very little no matter how amazing they may sound.  We can accept Jesus serving us, we can promise to stand with him in death, we can even offer to walk out on the water to join with Him… but if we can’t even acknowledge Him when it matters most, we are nothing but an ill-tuned instrument blowing noise in the wind.

I’m embarrassingly like Peter.  I love Jesus.  I speak boldly.  But when it’s time to pick up my cross and follow in his footsteps, my actions can’t seem to match my words.  My faith is not sustained.

It’s important to remember that Peter was never intended to be our role model.  If we try to be like Peter, we may well be exactly that… and I wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s a hard and fruitless life.  Peter’s failures are meant to inspire, not his empty promises.  Where he fell short is meant to be our spring board into faith.  It was intended for us to follow Jesus.  Our example is much higher than where we often set our sights.

Maybe Peter wasn’t being selfish when he asked Jesus to wash his head and hands too.  But that doesn’t change that only seconds after proclaiming that Jesus would never wash him, water was splashing around his ankles.  The enemy loves it when we make promises because they are so easy to wreck.  God loves it when we act from the heart because that is where He tends to operate.

 


Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Smite My Enemies… But Forgive Me

We can’t properly understand God’s mercy until we grasp that we, whose lives directly act in contradiction to God, go to Him to ask that He fix all of the contradictions in our own lives. We are jailers seeking freedom. We are liars expecting truth. We are sinners that demand perfection. If we can turn, ‘why me?’ into ‘send me!’ we begin to step out of hypocrisy and into grace. If someone sins against us and we can discern that our own sin breaks the heart of Jesus before we judge others, then we are beginning to accept that gift.

 


Photo by Elti Meshau on Unsplash

Let’s Pray for the Jerks

Driving to work this morning I managed to make someone very angry.  I honestly can’t tell you what I did, though I can guess.  I was getting on an interstate using the on-ramp.  I was safely following the car in front of me.  We weren’t speeding and we weren’t going unbearably slow either.  But I think I have already described the problem… we weren’t speeding.  I was in… ‘his way’.

A car that wasn’t even in my mirror the last time I looked was swerving back and forth behind me while driving painfully close to my rear bumper.  He swerved so widely, I thought he might pass on either side on the shoulder.  I looked around a little confused and realized I was already driving as fast as the car in front allowed and couldn’t see anything that I could have done differently.

I looked up in the mirror again and the man behind proceeded to gesture that I was number 1 in his book.  A pose that he held for several seconds before trying to swerve again and shake both hands at me.  This was raw, pure, rage.  As soon as the pavement allowed he zoomed passed, driving over the crosshatch section (meaning no cars should use that space) and very promptly disappeared over the horizon.  I was driving about 70 (The speed limit), and as quickly as he moved passed he had to have exceeded triple digits.

I’m tempted in several ways.  I was tempted to return some gestures of my own.  I was not doing anything conceivably or inherently wrong.  Not only was I obeying the law, there was a physical barrier preventing me from doing otherwise.  This person’s expectations were completely unreasonable AND he misunderstood a basic principle my 5 year old understands… there are cars in front of other people… and only one car can occupy that space at any given time.

I was tempted to be livid.  I wanted to speed up and not let him pass.  I wanted to take a picture and call the police.  Not only was he dangerous on the road, he was a lunatic!  Yet another person that thinks hes better than everyone else, rules don’t apply to him, and he expects me to get out of his way and let him trample all over my life…

Two thoughts slowly entered my mind:

  1.  I have no idea what this person is going through.  On the way to the hospital?  Just got fired?  Wife just left him?  Kids in jail?  Perhaps, its a combination of multiple things.  Maybe life just added up on him?  Maybe he doesn’t know God?  Can we even imagine what it must be like to live in THIS world… without any hope?
  2. If his actions have ANY impact on me, I’m not as deeply rooted in Christ as I need to be.  (and they did impact me). If anyone has the ability to alter my behavior or my choices or my personality, then I am not what I have been called to be.  I am not about the Father’s business if some stranger’s temper tantrum can deter me.

One of God’s characteristics is to be immovable.  He is unchanging.  He is our Rock.  Steadfast.  I wanted to be immovable too… and not let that driver be so reckless.  I wanted to teach him some patience.  I wanted to put him in his place.  I wanted to dig in… in this world.  I wanted to stand my earthly ground.  God is immovable for us.  He is constant and unchanging.  I need to be that for Him.  But I choose to only be that when it benefits my many moods and constantly changing desires.

I did something today that I’ve never done before.  I prayed for that guy.  When it set in that he could be having the worst day of his life, and I’ll never know what he is feeling in the pit of his soul, I just wanted to pray for him.  And this isn’t to brag, I could go on endlessly about the horrible ways I usually react to this type of person (and I’m being kind to even give them people status… they are definitely my hot button).

This isn’t a brag because I realized how desperately I need to do this for everyone.  For every jerk, for every greedy person, for every misunderstood individual, for every person having a bad day… for everyone.  I need to love them the way I want God to love me.  If I need forgiveness… and I need a lot, I need to pray for them to have it too.  To find peace in their life.  To meet the master.  To gain perspective.  To have some hope.

If anyone needs prayer, its those that don’t know they have a Father to help with their struggles.  They don’t need self professed Christians like myself making their lives worse.  They don’t need judgement from other sinners, they don’t need retaliation, they don’t need worldly justice (as much as I have truly desired exactly that!).

What they need is to be treated like children.  The ones that were ushered through the disciples, who tried to shew them away, and led safely to the Lord who sees them for who they truly are.  We may not always have a ministry opportunity with people filled with hate, depression or despair.  But we can choose to not pile on more.  We could, maybe, be the first kind person they have met.

Jesus constantly found people in the middle of their mess.  Prostitutes, tax collectors, murderers, thieves… and yet they saw compassion and love when they deserved nothing but a taste of their own medicine.  Forever longing to be more like Jesus, I think prayer is the first thing we can do when we run across these people.  Prayer followed by a firm understanding of where we come from and who we serve.

I want to pray for the jerks… because I can be one of them.  And I can be down in my moments of discouragement.  And, its not my place to judge them.  I don’t have to reinforce their decisions, or appreciate their methods, or condone their behavior… I just have to love them and bring them to the Father as children that need Him.  And if I can do this honestly and repeatedly, perhaps I can climb off my pedestal and realize that we are all sinners in search of a King willing to save us.

If we have found that Savior, how much MORE should we love and have compassion for those still searching?  Tragedy is when souls seek forgiveness and find judgement from others who have found grace for themselves.


Photo by Nick Bolton on Unsplash

He Did Not Give Up. Why Do We?

♥  Jesus was a working class carpenter. He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus was not accepted. He was mocked and called out publically. He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus asked his most trusted friends to pray.  They slept.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus heard both Peter’s promise of camaraderie and his denial of relationship.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus asked God to rethink the painful plan.  Upon hearing no confirmation, He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus was tortured and publicly disgraced by men claiming to be godly.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus was prepped for death while Barabbas walked away.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus watched His mother weep, His friends disperse, and mankind scheme.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus felt forsaken by God and Father.  He did not give up on us.

♥  The tomb door sealed tightly.  Jesus came to save, the saved abandoned Him.  He did not give up on us.

We believe that we can create a rift between God that we cannot ever make our way back from.  When we start down this thought pattern it would be wise to think through what it means to give up.  It means to quit.  To stop.  To move forward no longer.  To cease having the ability to succeed.  To forfeit.  Jesus did NOT do this.  Simply, He is still pursuing us.  He still loves us.  He still desires us.  He still forgives.  He still saves.  He still redeems.

God is love.  Penned in the Bible’s definition of love… it keeps no record of wrongs.  If you are sinner like me, you have a gift from the cross of Jesus… hope.  If you are a great sinner like me, you have a gift from the blood of Christ… freedom from the bondage of evil.  If you are an unbelievable and shameful sinner like me, you have a gift from the tomb of our Lord… A new life.

Embrace your new life with Jesus by doing what He does so well… forgetting your sins and making a new covenant with Him.  Jesus destroyed the term, “Can’t”.  In Him, that word no longer exists.  Through Him, you absolutely CAN.  Even you!  Praise God, even me!  You either will or you won’t.  He is pursuing you and awaiting your response.

 


‘No!’… Because I Love You

Things my 4 to 5 year old has seriously wished for:

“I want to walk home from daycare today” (20 miles)

“I want a blue house” (it’s green).

“I wish you were dead”  (yup, that hurt a bit).

“I wish I could eat ice cream for every meal” (Amen!)

“I wish I could never have to sleep”  (Then he sleeps for 12 hours before waking up on his own)

“I wish I owned every toy ever… except baby toys” (and he has far too many already)

“I wish I could destroy all the cars in the world so we could get home faster”  (I’m almost on board with this one)

“I don’t ever want to eat another vegetable again!”

“I want to be a garbage truck”


I haven’t wasted one second… not even a fraction of one second… legitimately pondering any one of these requests.  Not even a little.  To say that they are absurd is an understatement.  And to the 5 year old, he would actually attempt these because he lacks wisdom and life lessons to understand how little he has thought out and prepared for such ludicrous considerations.

If I had let him, he would have actually opened the car door and attempted to walk home… for about 5 minutes until he realized he didn’t know the direction, he didn’t understand the distance, and he didn’t calculate the danger.  All things I could warn him about, but he would ignore because his mind can’t process them.  Not yet.  Some day he will be able to, but right now his cognitive processes are growing and maturing to get him to that point.

For now, I get a laugh.  And, sometimes a tear at the things he will claim he wants.  I wonder how God feels when we ask for things?  Spouses that we aren’t ready for… oh, but we just ‘KNOW’ that we are!  Promotions we haven’t thought through… but we are convinced we deserve!  Relationships that aren’t healthy, money that we can’t manage, possessions that have no meaning, healing that hasn’t taught us anything yet… Do you think God laughs?  Or is it just tears?

We are mere children in terms of understanding God and His will for us.  How could we possibly understand how our desires intersect with the whole of everything else in the world?  It hurts to tell those cute little angels that they can’t have a third desert… but we love them enough to be the ‘bad guy’ sometimes.  Can we even comprehend how much God loves us?

It’s hard, but I’m trying to work on my appreciation for all things… even the things I don’t like.  When God says, ‘yes’, I’m very thankful.  When He says, ‘No’, I try to be even more thankful.  What did He prevent?  What did He just save me from?  What would have happened if I ran out into that street blindly expecting happiness and fun?

Thank you, God, for ‘No’s’.  Thank you for boundaries.  Thank you for what seems like pain but turns out to be growth.  Thank you for loneliness that shapes and lacking that produces abundance later.  Thank you for your forsaken Son, who ‘lost’ for an eternal victory.

 


Stop Wasting Time and Play Skee-Ball!

We held our child’s Fifth birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s. This is the place where you buy tokens to play games and some of the games reward your talents with tickets.  Those tickets can then be turned into prizes that you can take home with you.  You should note that I’m using finger quotes when I say the word, ‘prizes’ as they are underwhelming at best, and cost far more tickets than can be healthily earned in a reasonable amount of time.

I noticed two distinct tendencies from the children as they made their way through the arcade.  Especially from the youngest of kids.  The first thing is that they often chose to play the game that had no ticket payout.  These were often “rides” (again, finger quotes).  You burned a token and got to move about 6 inches in a couple of directions for a few seconds before the ride was complete.  Want to ride some more?  Another token.

These gimmicks were insulting.  They weren’t fast, they weren’t fun, and they didn’t pay out those precious tickets.  But the kids didn’t care.  They flocked to the airplanes, cars, and dinosaurs with seats on their backs, swiped their tokens away and laughed endlessly.  I kept prompting, play the games that payout!!!!! But they just kept going back to the rides.

And they laughed.  They would pile in, too.  Sitting in laps, hanging off the sides.  The whole currency exchange was completely foreign to them.  They saw someone having fun and they wanted in on it.  It never crossed their minds to wait their turn, pay with their own token, or sit in their own designated space.

car

Another trend that frustrated me, was the way the kids would simply leave the game the second it ended.  They would just turn and run.  I can’t count how many times I had to call out and remind them to come back and get their tickets.  They would just leave them dangling from the machine.  At first, I thought it was just our boy.  He had never been to this type of place before.

But he had.  Several times.  And all the kids were doing it.  When the game over screen flashed before their eyes, they knew one thing for certain… time to play another game.  And those chubby little legs pumped as quick as they knew how to head directly toward that goal.  Having fun.  That was all it was about.

Collectively the parents had to interrupt the fun and teach those bright eyed cherubs a new lesson in life.  “You forgot your tickets.”  “Those are yours!”  “You earned those”… “Don’t let someone else get your tickets!”.  The words started turning sour as I kept speaking them.  I was teaching him a form of greed.  Perhaps it was smart thinking.  Maybe it was a minor adjustment in strategy… but it felt wrong.

By default these kids had one goal.  Have fun.  And the adults kept interjecting… “its all about the prize”, “Its all about the stuff”, “Its all about winning”.  Inadvertently or not, we were teaching that behavior.  And the older kids knew it all too well.  They camped out at the high payout games and gathered reams of tickets.  They kept eyes out for abandoned tickets left by their younger, smaller versions, and were more than happy to pocket any dropped tickets as well.

tickets

Jesus’ encouragement to be more like children burned painfully in my gut.  (It wasn’t the pizza, I’m certain of that).

I felt like the kids were living out the intended Christian life.  Just living in God’s love and grace.  Happily moving freely from game to game.  Freedom from guilt, obligation, and captivity.  And the whispers came in (sadly from us older folks).

“Don’t play that game… try this one over here.”

“Don’t share that ride… you paid with your token, make them use theirs”

“You want the one that makes you feel better… and you feel better with more tickets.”

I was so proud of our boy.  They don’t actually sell tokens anymore for the games, they charge up debit cards.  The kids swipe those at each game to get credit and begin playing.  They all struggled at first, but I was able to show him how it works.  His friend sat next to him and wasn’t swiping it correctly so he couldn’t play.  Without giving it a single thought, our boy said, “here” and swiped his own card for the other child.

He thought of it in simple terms.  Your card wasn’t working and mine was.  So I’ll just use mine.  Welling up with pride, my protective side kicked in.  I had to take him aside and the lesson began again.  You have your own tokens and that boy has his own.  It’s awesome to share, but you won’t get to play much if you give all of your tokens away… and they will get to keep playing after using yours.

I felt dirty.  I felt cheap.  More whispering.

“Don’t give to others, they can get their own”

“Watch out for your own self and don’t worry about others”.

It’s hard to be like children.  They throw out the playbook.  They throw out all the books.  They don’t care about the tickets, or the time to leave, or the costs… they just want to ride the rides.

I think God set us up to ride the rides.  In this world’s arcade we are meant to have fun and just live in God’s protective grace.  We are genuinely meant to live in contentment as Paul learned to do.  But somewhere along the way, someone whispers.  What about these tickets?  And some of us will spend the rest of our lives chasing things that have no value.

And I literally mean, ‘no value’.  Have you seen the prizes from Chuck E. Cheese?

prizes

125 tickets for a plastic spider ring?!!!?  200 tickets for a bouncy ball?!?!?! The same size and quality that comes from a .25 cent bubble gum machine????  Cheap colorful plastic and candy.  ALL of it will melt, break, or be consumed, most likely, on the ride home.  But we still learn to ‘grow up’.

We learn that these items have meaning.  We hear the whispers and strive for more plastic, more colors, more brightly lit games that promise payout.  God says, I just want you to relax and ride this gentle motion and we say, “No!  I need this spider ring.  I must have this kazoo!”.  And we work endlessly for stuff.  Junk.  Garbage.

He wants us sharing and taking on each others burdens, but we have learned that its better to look out for ourselves.  We need that new car, that promotion, that nicer neighborhood, those other friends, or we want to shake that reputation… and we chase the whispers of a deceitful enemy.  All the while, contentment and safety rested in our Savior’s arms.

We may mean well, but we can’t sacrifice for others because we need that stuff.  If I give to this guy, then I won’t get what I want.  If I let him go first, then I’ll have to wait.  We use words like I earned, I deserve, and mine.  oh mine.  Mine, mine, mine.  What an ugly word all by itself.  Jesus said to give to Caesar, the things that belong to Caesar and to give to God, the things that belong to God.  Can you see who He didn’t include in that verse?  Me.  Us.  You.  When we think of things in terms of ownership… we really miss out on a basic biblical principle.  It’s all Gods, or it burns up in the end.  You can neatly place every single thing in your life into one of those two buckets.  There is no mine.  Mine is an illusion.  A lie.

Which one are you striving for?  Which one gets your attention?  Which one motivates and gets prioritized in your life?  Do you yearn for safety provided by the God that made you… or do you gotta have more tickets?