Saturday, December 23, 2006

Promises, Promises

This morning's Bible reading was 2 Kings 8:16-24. Basically, David's great-great (and so on) grandson was king of Judah. He was not listening to God and was leading the nation away from God. But God wouldn't punish him and destroy Judah, even though it sounded like he really wanted to, because of a promise he made to David. Verse 19 really struck me:

"Yet the LORD would not destroy Judah for David his servant's sake, as he promised him to give him alway a light, and to his children."
That's KJV, of course. The Message translation says that God "promised to keep a lamp burning through David's descendants."

That got me to thinking about what promise God has kept for me that I want for my descendants. My first thought was that I want to be alive when Jesus comes back, because I really want to see the sky crack, so there shouldn't be too many descendants to bless. At the rate I'm going, I'll be lucky to see great-grandchildren.

Next, I thought about all of the stuff that God's kept constant in my life. I got a little overwhelmed and started feeling really grateful. Then, I thought about how much crap God has put up with from me, and I started feeling really ungrateful.

When I finally settled down to get serious, I came up with three things. I want my kids and grandkids (and great-grandkids, if the Lord should tarry) to have the incredible joy, the friendship with God, and the favor with man that God has blessed me with for as long as I can remember. These are the things that, for me, have defined my life and made it worth living. Even if everything else was going to pot, I could always count on them. I want my children to have that same confidence.

That's the promise that I want.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy (Belated) Birthday To Me!

Somehow I managed to not post this after I wrote it on my birthday last year (May 18th, 2005). Oddly enough, I was thinking along the same lines then as now. At least I'm consistent, I guess. Here's the blog:

Happy Birthday To Me!

So, today is my birthday. My 30th, actually. Ehhh…not such a big deal. I was expecting fireworks, a minor earthquake, at least some mild flatulence. But nothing. This side of 30 looks just like the other. The thunderbolt of wisdom, ambition, maturity and motivation that was scheduled to strike me this morning was clearly derailed somewhere in the upper stratosphere. I don’t even have any regrets. Well, there was that thing with two girls and the midget and the miniature schnauzer and the Baked Alaska that was surreptitiously caught on videotape. But, I regretted that last year. Plus, I recovered the videotape master and all of the copies were destroyed in that fire, so that doesn’t really count.

Seriously, though, I’m not mourning a misspent youth or squandered potential, or even rethinking my game plan. No major resolutions. Nothing. It feels good, I guess, if anticlimactic. So often people (and by “people” I mean that shadowy conglomerate noted when you have no one specific to blame) say, “if I knew then what I know now…” As it happens, I did know yesterday what I know today: life started a long time ago. I used to think that there was a magic point when my life would really begin – after high school, after college, with my first real job, with marriage, with my first child, on my 30th birthday. But as more and more of those magic turning points came and went without the accompanying magic turn, I realized that this, whatever I’m doing right now, is my life. A wise woman shared a quote with me, “Every step of the journey is the journey.” This is it. For better or worse.

I learned through lesson after lesson that becoming a different person is about being a different person, not vice-versa. If there’s a change I want to see, then I have to make it. One decision at a time. If I want to become more responsible, then I have to be more responsible, one kept promise at a time. If I want to become nicer, then I have to be nicer, one random act of kindness at a time.

Freewill is a heck of a thing. With every moment I choose and design the person that I want to be and the life that I want to live. I can be on time or not, I can give or not, I can forgive or not. It’s up to me, but I have to understand that every choice affects the choices after that choice. And every choice shapes my character. It's an important thing to remember as I slowly run out of choices.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

If I Can't Say A Word...

Some psychological study just published findings that the real test of any relationship is not how the two people handle fights, hardship, or tragedy. Instead, it is how they handle each other's good news.

Shrinks have been getting it right recently, as they more often "discover" the practical applications and wisdom of Biblical truths. Tonight, for me, was a demonstration of the whole good news thing. I heard good news about a good friend of mine. As I thought about it my heart got so full that I could literally feel it swelling. I was so overwhelmingly happy and so full of joy, and pride, and love, and worship. It's been a long time since I've felt that.

I need more good news!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More Fred (Part Two)

As I listened to the Fred Hammond mix, the song "Simply Put" stuck in my head. Quite fittingly, it talks about the methods and motives of church, religion and relationship that end up distracting us from expressing our truest needs to God and receiving his answer to them.

Give the lyrics a read:

I don’t really need to tell someone their future
I don’t really have to see the things that can’t be seen
I don’t need another hyped-up church encounter
Or another clever New Year’s theme

I’m not looking for another goose bump sermon
Or a word that leaves me passed out on the floor
My basic needs are really rather simple
To know you love me, you like me, and I am yours

My learning could go on throughout the ages
But I just need the plain and simple of what’s real
I could memorize and quote a million pages
But I’d rather just express the way I feel

I tried so hard to know the deepest revelation
So I could stand and tell the nation what it means
But I found the greatest gift wrapped in your salvation
It’s really much more simple than it seems

So I relinquish all my witty observations
Leave my so-called sacred knowledge at the door
When you died you answered every single question
You said you loved me, you liked me and I am yours

My learning could go on throughout the ages
But I just need the plain and simple of what’s real
I could memorize and quote a million pages
But I’d rather just express the way I feel
All those complicated things have no appeal
So I’d rather keep it simple, keep it real

Yes I’m done with all the things that make it difficult to know
You love me, you like me and I am yours

More Fred (Part One)

I started off this morning with an overwhelming barrage of thoughts: friends; church; plans for the day, the month, the rest of my life. All good stuff, but my initial purpose in starting up that train of thought was prayer. I wanted to talk to God, but I ended up talking to my friends and myself. It's been happening a lot more often lately, and it's a little troubling.

For me, it's more evidence that my heart is divided. God has given me so much, more than I could possibly explain in words, including the things that are now distracting me from him. All he asked for in return was my heart, and I am having a hard time giving him that. It's most evident in how I spend my time. For years, I had a schedule that included him, now that time has been given to my friends and my church work. All good stuff, but...

So, I stopped trying to pray. Instead, I spent some time in meditative worship. I turned off my phone, so that I wouldn't be interrupted by the call that I was expecting from a friend of mine. Then, I turned on some music - a mix of mellow Fred Hammond tunes - and closed my eyes.

As I listened, I tried to envision myself standing, singing before Jesus on the cross as I often do. Nothing came. I thought, "Crap, I must be further gone than I thought."

The image of the cross came in time, first empty, then with Jesus on it. I sang. Then my mind kind of went off in it's own direction. The vision went differently than it ever had before.

Usually, I'm alone, singing and kneeling or standing. This time, I was surrounded by a crowd of people. I sang, then they started singing along. As the song reached it's climax, the crowd chopped the cross down. They broke it off of its foundation, then carried it flat on their shoulders. As we walked away from Calvary, we raised the cross with Jesus on it, and marched singing into the city. It was pretty cool.