Monday, April 14, 2014

Is My Life Half Over?

If the average lifespan of a man is 75, that means today, April 14th, as I celebrate my 45th birthday my life is more than half over! Dang that means I have 30 years left! Though I figure with being a vegetarian, “eating twigs and berries…” as my friend Chad jokes, “you should live to be 324!” I do expect to live into my 90’s without much problem, but still even then I have lived half my life. Still my thought is, “dang!” I have so much more to do, I better get busy doing it!

I assume I am officially “middle-aged” now… why do I NOT like the sound of that?! Seriously! I had another friend say, “Man, don’t you hate birthdays?” To which I responded, “No, it’s so much better than the alternative – not having a birthday!” Boom, Ha ha! I truly hope that no matter what I will truly feel what I feel today, that each day is a precious gift from God! Thank you God, seriously! Life is good.

Clarification: Saying, “Life is good!” Doesn't mean that everything in my life is good or always goes well or that nothing bad ever happens, but it’s an attitude of the heart. It might be better said, “God is good, and life is what it is!”

THANKFUL

I am thankful to be having a birthday! I am also very thankful to be healthy, somewhat sane, to be married (and happy about it) and she is my first wife (and hopefully my only). I have 2 beautiful healthy children, a job I truly love, friends who are true friends, both my parents are still alive, and a set of grandparents on my Mother’s side too!

There is something weird about the 40’s that is fascinating though. It’s almost like I find myself looking at what I don’t have more than appreciating all that I do have, like the skin on my neck that used to be really tight. Do you do that? I need to stop that. There are some good things that started happening when I hit 40. I started to calm down and began to desire and even appreciate simpler things. I feel the need to remove the clutter, the excess in my life. I want to ENJOY life more, like a good cigar and a good Brandy in the company of good friends, and not just be so busy busy! Things that used to matter to me don’t matter anymore, and the things that are really important, like my hair for example begin to really matter! LMAO (Laugh My Angel Off - the Christian version)! ON a serious note, I mean things like marriage, family, friendships, career (making a difference), doing what I love with those I love, that's what matters. I also have been craving reading time, (that sounded old right there). I also find myself just refusing to stress (still struggle occasionally) but I just don’t have time for it. It does me no good to stress over something I cannot control. I find myself saying more and more, “it is what it is!” 

So there you go, I turned 45 today, and I am happy about it, though the thought of 50 only being 5 years away is really weird for me, I've always felt that people who were 50 were old. I am working on changing my thoughts on that!

Over-all I am thrilled with my life up to this point, of course I have things I wish were different, I think that is normal and even if it’s not I still wrestle with it. I am constantly reflecting on how to get where I want to be, and hope to never just settle in and get complacent. I am still eager to not just leave a legacy, but to make a difference.

Bottom line: I would want to be missed if I was gone! Wouldn't you?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

NO CRIME FOR A WEEK

We are in the midst of Lent. For the Christian, Lent is a time of self-reflection, sacrifice, fasting, soul searching and spiritual renewal as we approach Easter Sunday.

As I have been doing my own reflecting I felt compelled to issue a challenge to the Mercy Church congregation I serve and the city we live in, Kansas City, to LIVE HOLY THE WEEK OF HOLY WEEK - April 13 – 19. Unfortunately “living holy” can and often means different things to different people, so allow me to clarify.

I am NOT referring to a bunch of rules that the religious-church-folk often impose on us, like NO Drinking, NO Dancing, NO rated “R” movies, NO reading Harry Potter Books and definitely NO Tattoos! These are only some of the ridiculous man-made “religious” rules that we thought if we could adhere to would get God to like us more. I was raised in that legalistic culture and now see why so many people who came from that no longer attend church. It’s heart-breaking!

Leviticus 11:44 “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” - NASB 

When I say “LIVE HOLY” I am referring to 3 things primarily that, if not all at least one, will make sense to you I am sure:

1) Keep the 10 Commandments 

ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.' TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.' THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.' FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.' FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.' SIX: 'You shall not murder.' SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.' EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.' NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.' TEN: 'You shall not covet…’

2) Live by the Golden Rule

Matthew 7:12 "So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the Law and the prophets." - RSV 

3) Love your Neighbor as yourself 

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” 

I am convinced that if we will commit to live holy the week of Holy Week it will not only impact us personally but also our churches, our friends, our neighbors, our cities and the world we live in.

On a very practical level let me give a bit more detail; the bible clearly states that we should “obey the laws of the land” as long as they do not hinder us from serving Christ, so included in this challenge is for us to live as law abiding citizens … no speeding (this is going to be a huge sacrifice for me, ha ha! I have a really heavy foot!), wear your seat belt, if you have had too much to drink - call a Taxi or a friend to drive you home, etc.

I can feel some of you rolling your eyes … listen take the challenge to Live Holy for one week, come on! You’ll be glad you did! Here’s the deal… if every person in Kansas City would do this it would be like utopia … like Heaven … everyone caring, giving and loving … it would be awesome! Crime would stop completely! Amazing! Wouldn't it be cool to see crime stand still for one week in our city, or whatever city you live in? I think so!

Blessings!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Movie Noah

I haven’t even seen the movie so I hesitate to even write a blog about it, but I must I must I must! Because what I am going to say is more about the controversy surrounding the movie than the movie itself. And I plan on seeing it this weekend, so I may share more thoughts following the viewing.

The reason I feel so compelled to write about the new big screen movie, Noah, is the Evangelical Christian Community which I am a part of, although not always proud of that, are having a hissy fit over it. And I must share my Evangelical Bible Believing thoughts so people can know we are not all alike in our views and judgment.

First, I do not remember hearing Darren Aronofsky, the film’s creator, ever mentioning that he is attempting to tell a Biblical story with absolute accuracy, except that the title of the film is a character name from the Bible. He hasn't said, to my knowledge, anything about trying to adhere to the scriptural text of the Christian Faith that I and so many others hold dear. It’s a movie. Just like Chronicles of Narnia which was awesome, but not a story you can follow along with in your Bible. It’s a movie for entertainment.

I've read blogs from various Evangelicals who are screaming, “Aronofsky is planting a deeper hidden message … deception, deception, bla, bla, bla!” It reminds me of the early 1980’s cassette tape burnings we had in church youth group because the devil was in the Rock Music … backward masking! The hidden message in all the Rock Music when you played it backwards. Ha ha! Funny really, cause I never listened to Rock Music backwards until that time! I so wish I had all those cassette tapes, they’d be worth a lot of money today!

The bottom line for me, a movie lover, is that I do not go to movies to develop my Biblical perspective. I do not go to the movies to learn about stories in the Bible. I do not go to movies to be discipled. I do not go to movies to find out how God created this world, or how He worked through one man and his family to save the world. I know this already from Biblical study, I don’t go to a movie to teach me Biblical truths. I go to movies to be entertained, amazed, captured, touched, carried away, and to escape into an unknown world (and other reasons I can’t think of right now.)

I think that had Darren Aronofsky entitled the movie, Timmy, he wouldn't have had any problems from the Evangelical Community, though I would have been thrilled. He is a smart man, lots of buzz surrounding his movie that he didn't even have to pay for, like this post right here!

My advice to the Christian, just watch Noah like you do every other film you go see, without thinking you know how it should be, or how it should end, or if it aligns with your Biblical knowledge of the actual story of Noah. Just watch it for what it is ... a Hollywood Movie entitled, Noah. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Love is Whack-A-Doodle

I was talking to a friend the other day about Love, Marriage, Friendship and Dating, and she said, “Love is whack-a-doodle!” After I picked myself up off the floor from laughing so hard I got to thinking how that’s really a profound way to express the complications of love. Love really is whack-a-doodle sometimes!

Have you been in-love with someone who didn't love you back? Have you had a marriage you thought would last forever end in divorce? Have you been in search of love and it just continues to allude you? Have you ever had your heart broken?

I am sure you answered yes to at least one of the questions above! I know I did! I think “Love is whack-a-doodle” means, it doesn't always make sense. It’s confusing at times. It’s weird. It’s difficult. It is painful. It’s not easy. It’s pure joy. It’s heartache. It’s a choice, but not always an easy choice. Sometimes it’s a feeling, but not always. It’s whack-a-doodle!

I think there is one scripture that isn't used for marriage all that much, but should be because I have found it to be a huge asset to having a healthy happy relationship and it is found in Colossians 3:13 “Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” 

 Now I must get this out there because like anything you can take scripture to an unhealthy extreme and get goofy! There is a lid to “making allowance for each other’s faults” this does not mean you allow someone to abuse you, walk all over you, treat you horribly, live a life of blatant sin with no recourse, etc. There is a time you must say, “Enough is enough, I must walk away!” But, in my counseling practice I typically see couples making very little allowance for each other’s faults! It’s like they expect perfection, at least from their mate, but want lots of grace in return. I think we all do this on some level. But I think it’s more than just making allowance for faults, but being willing to work to get through the faults to the healthy happier other side. “Making allowance” doesn't mean you are just shrugging an offense off, or ignoring an offense, but rather being willing to work through an offense. Make sense?

Life is about learning and growing with each passing moment. If you are in a relationship make sure to always work on “making allowance” which to me means to work on working through the faults.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Irreconcilable differences


I blog a lot about love and marriage because they are dear to my heart. I consider them to be critical parts to living a full happy life. When our relationships are going well it makes the rest of life better.

One of the main reasons people can go from loving each other like crazy to hating each other and feeling crazy is this whole idea of reconciliation. When we are at odds with someone we need to find a way to reconcile whatever the issue is. And what often keeps us from reconciling is pride, as well as hurt feelings and selfishness. I am right and you are wrong, of course!

To me reconciliation doesn’t mean we end up agreeing. It may mean we end up agreeing to disagree. I hate that I have used that line here, but it fits. When people speak of “irreconcilable differences” they are often referring to some thing they couldn’t reconcile, so it becomes irreconcilable. I personally feel there are only a couple things that are irreconcilable. But most everything else is totally reconcilable, you just gotta reconcile them. And to do that you need to reconcile.

In order to reconcile both people must remove the bullets and place the guns on the table. And really listen to the position of the person they are in relationship with. What they feel! Why they feel that way! And why it is important to them! Then you wrestle through to the point of being able to reconcile the issue. And when you reconcile it’s not always a 50/50 deal, sometimes it’s a 70/30 or even 80/20 deal. But trust me, there will come a time when it goes the other way and it becomes a 20/80 deal.

Happy marriages (committed relationships) are a give and take! And sometimes on some issues one does more giving and the other does more taking. But there will come a time when the one that did the taking will do more of the giving. It will go back and forth like this till one or both of you die. This is why you will often hear me say that marriage is most difficult for people who are super selfish! Because they only want to take, not give. And that doesn’t work.

Bottom line, if you are in a relationship and have an issue that needs reconciliation, be vigilant to reconcile whatever it is you need to reconcile! It’s worth it!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday x 1



Please enjoy this blog by my friend and fellow Teaching Pastor at Mercy Church, Chris Miller!
****


I grew up a Baptist … and today is a weird day.

It's Ash Wednesday. It's a day when people go to church and have ash put on their foreheads. Growing up as part of a denomination that did not typically celebrate it, I never understood what it was about. The first time one of my friends showed up at school with this marking on his head, I tried to help him wipe it off. I mean, why would someone want dirt on their face?

Now that I am in seminary, I have had a chance to learn a little bit more about this special (or weird) day on the church calendar. It's the first day of Lent — a period of time (40 days + 6 Sundays) leading up to Easter. Lent is a time of reflection and preparation. It's about getting ready to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. 

Why start it off by putting ash on your forehead?

Because ashes represent death and Ash Wednesday is about … well, death. It's a day to remember that we are going to die. It's about facing the fact that we will not be here forever. Life is short.

I know that sounds pretty depressing. Nobody wants to think about their own death or the shortness of their life. But there's a reason we do this.

And that reason can best be describe using Super Mario Brothers.

For anyone who's ever played a video game, something that happens when you have one life left. When you have a ton of lives, you don't focus on what you are doing. You know that if you die, it's no big deal. You run around aimlessly and press buttons carelessly. Your lack of focus leads to dumb mistakes and you never really accomplish anything. There's no discipline involved.

However, when you have one life left, you know you have to make it count. This is it. Every move matters. You focus and avoid dumb mistakes … and you hopefully accomplish something. You concentrate on making it to the next level. Unlike before, you are disciplined.

There is something about death that makes us value life. Knowing we only get one Mario makes us focus on running in the right direction and pressing the right buttons. The book of James reminds of this, saying, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." It goes on to say that if we know what we should do, we should do it. Life is short. Make the most of it.

And that is what Lent is about. It's about discipline. It's about making changes in life to get the most out of life. It's about giving up the things we don't need and taking on the things we do need. It's about preparing ourselves for the next level. So today we start Lent … by remembering death.

Chris Miller 
Find me on Twitter, Facebook, or my blog.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Trust Overcomes Stress

One of the things that we all face is stress! Financial stress, family stress, relational stress … ugh! Sometimes it can almost be overwhelming. Have you ever felt stressed? Have you ever had that sinking feeling that made you wonder, “Are we going to make it?” Are you dealing with those feelings now?

These feelings plague us all; I hope it is of some comfort to know that you are not alone! I know, I know, sometimes that is no comfort, but if you apply it correctly it is. Here is what I mean; God is with us in those darkest moments of stress! We are not alone!

I believe that biggest and most important key to overcoming stress is trust! Total and complete trust! I know one of the biggest stressors for most of us is financial stress. It was strange for me to find this true for even the wealthiest friends I talked to. They even claim having more financial stress as they have more to be worried about. More people counting on them, depending on them and their wealth to care for so many people. So how does “trust” help us overcome “stress”? I find it here in my favorite scripture of all time …

Proverbs 3:1-10 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.[a] 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

It’s right there, v. 5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart …” v.6 “in all your ways submit to Him …” and one way we TRUST the Lord is to v.9 “Honor the Lord with your wealth …” many people hold tight to what they have and don’t even trust a portion of it to the Lord.

Now I am not talking about giving God what you might give a homeless person on the street corner, but really honoring God with a portion of your wealth. Many debate this, but I see the Bible teaching the principle of giving a tenth (tithe – 10%) to your local church (the community that you benefit from). Some interpret it different, but there is no interpretation that teaches stinginess. The Bible clearly teaches generosity!

One way I measure this in my own heart is by asking myself several questions, like, "If what I give to God was to be made public, would I be embarrassed about it?” I mean, “ … in proportion to what I earn do I feel good about what I give to God through my local church?” Another question I consider is, "if everyone in my church community gave like I did, how well would it be funded, if at all?" Not always an easy question, but again if we truly want to Trust and Honor God, then we must ask ourselves these questions. The last one I ask, because I enjoy coffee is, “Do I spend more at Starbucks each month, than I give to my local church?” Ouch! I wouldn't feel good about coming to the end of a year and having spent $500 on coffee, and only contributing $250 to my church.

Challenge: Trust God with your finances! Begin supporting the church community that you are a part of and that you find meaning from and in; contribute. Start where you can with what you can this Sunday, and I promise you will be so thrilled you did. And not only that, but when you begin to give to your church it will actually increase the love you have for the church you attend! I know at the church I pastor those who give are the ones who not only seem to be the happiest members, but the most interested in seeing it do well and fulfill God's purpose. Giving shows your love and gratitude.