Consumers

Emilie was jealous. Eyes open, staring at the dark ceiling night after night, jealous.

And the focus? Her husband, Chris.

She was jealous of how he could carry an enormous load of stress from his work, simply say a prayer or two at bedtime, and effortlessly fall asleep.

Chris was actually 19th-century pastor Christoph Blumhardt.

One night Emilie couldn’t take it anymore, so she pleaded with her husband, “Tell me your secret!”

He replied: “Is God so powerless that my worrying would help the well-being of our parish?”

Then he added, “There comes a moment each day when we must simply drop what weighs on us and hand it over to God.”

That’s what Paul meant when he encouraged his friends in Philippi:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Stop, drop and roll, friends. That’s how to put out the fire when you’re burning. [click to continue…]

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Lattice

In his book, Rekindled Flame, Steve Fry tells of moving to Nashville and talking to some Christian recording executives about a potential project.  When asked what he was working on, he told them about wanting to write a worship musical that focused on the character of God.  To his surprise, they were very cool to the idea.

Frankly, they said, most believers wouldn’t buy an album about God.

Seriously?

Yep.

According to their demographic studies, that kind of project wouldn’t appeal to most Christians.

Later he met with a book editor that he knew had his finger on the pulse of the Christian marketplace.

“I want to write about God!” he said. “I want to take snapshots of the many wonders of His character and just focus on Him.”

“I’d like to help you write that kind of a book,” he replied. “In fact, the Christian market desperately needs that kind of book. But honestly, the average Christian is not going to buy a book about God.” The editor added:  “The only way you can get the average believer to read a book about God is to somehow show them how God benefits them.”

I want to say I’m surprised, but I’m not.

I want to say I’m offended, but I’m not.

I want to say I’m the exception… [click to continue…]

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stained glass 2

How was church today?

That’s a pretty common question in my family.  With four households all involved in some sort of ministry, all living and attending four different worship venues, it’s not unusual for me to ask.

But it’s also important for me to remember that I’m asking a consumer question.

I’m basically asking somebody in my family to evaluate their experience.  To interpret an event.  Yes, to tell me what they got out of it or whether they liked the goings-on down at the church house.

Is that wrong?  Not necessarily.  But it’s a pitifully limited – and limiting – question. [click to continue…]

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Horseshoe

In one of old his “Peanuts” cartoons, Charles Schultz has Linus bringing manager Charlie Brown a statistical report on the baseball team.  “In twelve games,” he said, “we almost scored a run and in nine games the other team almost didn’t score before the first out.  In right field, Lucy almost caught three balls and once almost made the right play.”  Then Linus concluded in the cartoon’s last frame with this classic statement:  “We led the league in ‘almosts.’”

No doubt about it – Linus is prime preacher material.   How many times have you heard a pastor say, “We almost met our offering goal?”  Or, “We almost reached our attendance goal.”  How many people have you known who almost came to church, who almost decided to follow Christ, or who almost trusted their situation to God?  It happens – er, almost every weekend.

Come to think of it, we almost do so many things, we could start a whole new church – the First Church of Hand Grenades and Horseshoes.  [click to continue…]

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Renewal 2 The previous post – the one about Eagles’ Wings – was a significant one for this site – it was Post #1,000.  Over the last six-plus years, roughly three times a week, I have had the delight, challenge, and opportunity to share an insight, rant, celebration or half-baked idea on a wide variety of subjects.

And now this.  What to do to begin the next 1,000?

At first I had this crazy idea about going through the titles of every single post, in order, taking one word and writing a single piece. Yeah, that became pretty impossible, pretty fast.

Then I thought about other variations on that theme, playing off of previous post titles, etc.  Problem is, that, too would have taken an enormous amount of time, and I still didn’t know what I actually wanted to say in that format.

I thought about linking back to favorites – mine and yours… [click to continue…]

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Bored ChristmasThe other day my son-in-law and oldest grandson had this little exchange:

Cohen:  What does that sign say?
Curtis:  Pedestrian crossing. Are you a pedestrian?
Cohen: No. I’m a Christian.

Super funny at face value.  Typically profound as children’s funny things can be when you dig deeper.

Everybody knows what pedestrian, the noun, means, right?  “Walker.”

Or in more recent days, “somebody who texts without a seat belt.”

But as an adjective, “pedestrian” means something different.  The dictionary definition:

“lacking inspiration or excitement; dull.”

Synonyms include words like dull, boring, tedious, monotonous, uneventful, unremarkable, tiresome, wearisome, uninspired, unimaginative, unexciting, uninteresting, and uninvolving.

Are you pedestrian?

No.  I’m Christian.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if being a Christian really was the opposite of being pedestrian?  Wouldn’t it be amazing if somebody said, referring to one of us, “He’s too much of a Christian to live a pedestrian life”? [click to continue…]

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Ship TurningQuick question:  If you’re going 30 miles per hour and wanted to make a 180-degree turn, how fast could you do it and how much ground would you lose heading the other way?

Quick answer: It all depends on the vehicle.

And that matters more than you may realize.

If you’re on a motorcycle doing 30, a good rider can execute a 180 pretty quickly and only lose a few feet before he darts back in the opposite direction.

On the other hand, if you’re at the con of an aircraft carrier traveling 30 knots per hour, it would take about 72 seconds. And in the process, you’ve lost about half a nautical mile.

Changing direction takes time.  And momentum isn’t always on your side. And because of that your resolve will be tested.

Changing Direction Takes Time

I’ve never seen a hummingbird or bumblebee make a U-turn.  [click to continue…]

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worship surrender 2Raise your hand if you’ve ever stood in church and sung, “I surrender all.”

Raise your other hand if you were invited to “come to the altar and surrender all to Jesus.”

Both my hands are up. I’m typing with my toes.

Just two problems with that idea.  First, surrender isn’t something you do in church.  Second, surrender isn’t something you do at the end or the close of anything.

A few years ago I learned a new language – the language of surrender and freedom.  Inspired by someone’s idea of absolute commitment to Jesus expressed as, “I don’t have to survive,” I began a mental and spiritual journey of surrender.  What else can I let go of? How else can I be free?  And I began to make the list…

I don’t have to be successful…

I don’t have to get angry…

I don’t have to feel rejected…

I don’t have to be right…

You get the point.

Lately I’ve been revisiting that idea, for an important reason.  [click to continue…]

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ChickenSomebody just stumbled into a chicken-and-egg situation. And I’m not talking about foxes in the henhouse.  This is more of the “What came first?” variety. And the answer to that proverbial question has profound implications for your life.

Here’s the back story…

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published a report outlining how the average American spends his or her money.  Assuming you’re average, you spend a third of your income on housing, 17% on transportation, 13% on food, 11% on insurance, and 7% on healthcare. Entertainment lags back at 5% and the average American gives 4% to churches or charities. Interesting, there was no mention of debt service, at least in the report I read.

Of course, who’s average, right? So Derek Thompson of The Atlantic did some more figuring.  He split up income categories into quintiles – the top 20%, the bottom 20%, and the three in the middle. He then compared how the top fifth spend their money proportionally, compared to the bottom fifth.

Would it come as a shock that there is a difference? [click to continue…]

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Flying moneyEver try one of those teachable moments with your kids that gets turned back on you? As in, Who’s teaching whom?

Twenty or so years ago, we were living in West Alabama and I took Cassie, about age 9, to the local shopping center (translation: Walmart).  It was just before Easter.  We didn’t find whatever it was we were looking for, so we left past the customer service counter.

“Daddy,” she whispered.  “Look… those people are poor!

I looked.

“Those people” were a middle-aged married couple, standing at the customer service desk. They were very humbly dressed, to be sure. And they had all the individual parts to make their own Easter baskets – apparently not able to afford the prepackaged wonders that were for sale in the back.

Ah, Fatherhood! The opportunities we have to engage with our children at teachable moments to give them perspective, wisdom, and character.  This was certainly one of them, and a donned my SuperDad cape. [click to continue…]

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