THE JESUS LIST

Early June I preached a message by the same title – the Jesus List.  Some of you know that I have made a practice of what I call the “gospel loop”.loop  What I mean by the gospel loop is I’m always reading through the gospels and when I finish with the gospel of John, I loop back to Matthew and start reading again.  Matthew / Mark / Luke / John / Repeat /

The point for me is to watch Jesus act and maneuver through everyday, real-life situations.  I want to hear him respond to questions, when does he answer a question, when is his answer another question.  As we listen, we learn and then as we find ourselves in everyday, real-life situations we have an opportunity to practice and pay attention to those things Jesus paid attention to.  Out of this came THE JESUS LIST.

Some of those things we know and we are called to respond and practice.  Love God, Love People…Serve One Another…Be the Light…Feed the Hungry…Heal the Sick…Bless those Who Curse You.  What follows is a list of 5 things that Jesus paid attention to.  5 things that need to begin showing up on our everyday radar.  the jesus list

1). JESUS INVESTED IN PEOPLE (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  Jesus spent time with people, he ate with them, he walked with them, laughed and wept with them.  He has entrusted the gospel message, the Jesus story, to them..to US!  God has entrusted the STORY to ordinary people – calling us to do the same thing knowing that God will do the extra-ordinary.

2). JESUS SAW LONG & FAR (John 17:20).  Jesus passed The Message, entrusted the Message to ordinary people who would pass The Message along to other ordinary people, who would pass The Message to… – you get the picture.  Eventually, THE MESSAGE came to us, you and me, living in the 21st century!  Jesus lived way beyond “the moment” and saw the long and far implications of this movement.  If you read the text from John, he prayed for us 2,000 years ago.  If we live only on the edge of what’s urgent, or the current crisis, and only deal with “now”, we shorten our vision. I’m not sure I know how to pray for people who are 2,000 years away, but I’m pretty sure I can begin praying for the grandchildren yet to be born!

3).  JESUS SENT PEOPLE ON MISSION (Luke 9:1,2; 10:1,2). As Jesus poured His life into those around Him, he wasn’t trying to gather up the biggest entourage in the game. Jesus wasn’t known as the “attractional” Rabbi.  He drew people to Him only to send them away in mission.  Come Follow…now GO DO!  Tom Bandy tells the story of The now extinct Passenger Pigeon in his book, Moving off the Map. bandy It’s a story of chicken sized pigeons who loved being around other passenger pigeons so much they only gathered and clustered with those who were like them.  Hunters became wise to this characteristic and because of generational in-breeding the genetic pool became weak and birth-rates dropped.  Enough said!

4).  JESUS GRIEVED FOR LOST COMMUNITIES (Luke 19:41,42; Matthew 23:37).  Jesus wept over whole communities that were broken and “shepherd-less”.  He understood the “lost” as those who are greatly treasured and missing.  His heart was moved with compassion, which gave birth to kingdom action.

5).  JESUS LED A BALANCED LIFE (Mark 1:35-37; Matthew 15:35).  I am convinced that this is a life-long pursuit.  When you think life is in balance a wave comes, the wind blows, and the quest for balance begins again!  Jesus invested in people.  Jesus met the crowd and retreated from the crowd.  Jesus spent time alone with the Father.

 

Bonhoeffer, Metaxas and Rick

I have to admit it.  I was first drawn to Eric Metaxas biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer bonhoefferbecause I noticed that Tim Keller wrote the Foreword.  I was in a bookstore, okay, those of you that know me wonder, when aren’t you in a bookstore?  On a recent road trip with Mariann, she has the same attraction to books that I have, I’m driving and she notices a new bookstore,“oh look, a bookstore, I think we should stop!”. Upon seeing Bonhoeffer: pastor, martyr, prophet, spy by Metaxas I must confess my thoughts were something like, “hmmm…Keller put his name on somebody else’s book, I should see what he wrote”.

I like Timothy Keller.  I like the way he thinks, I like the way he writes, I like the questions he poses, I even like where he went to seminary, (yes we did go to the same seminary although he was a few years ahead of me).  I picked up the book and immediately started reading Keller’s Foreword.  I was about to take up residence in a corner of the store intent on reading Bonhoeffer, when Mariann found me.  “We need to go”, she spoke.  Before I reluctantly put the book down I showed her the cover telling her, “If you ever need a great gift idea for me, this is it”.  Much to my delight, the gift showed up last summer.

I re-read the Foreword, and enjoyed it as much the second time!  But the book…the book took me by surprise.  Initially, it was fun to see who Bonhoeffer was interacting with.  It was as if I was walking through the racks of books at the seminary library reacquainting myself and interacting with people whose books I read back then, Barth, Hegel, Schleiermacher, and others.  Metaxas surprised me with the scope of this project.  If he was going to write a book on Bonhoeffer, he needed to properly frame the context of his life.  The family he was born into, the Germany he grew up in, the rational drive of his father and the deep abiding faith of his mother.  Bonhoeffer was German aristocracy which, to me, makes his journey and life’s work all the more remarkable.

Over the years I have read what Bonhoeffer has written and offered Discipleship, Life Together, Letters and Papers from Prison, Ethic. Never had I spent that much time reading about Bonhoeffer, his family, his up-bringing, his engagement.  Obviously, his world view permeates his books, yet I had not truly connected Bonhoeffer “the man” and his experiences to his work, until Eric Metaxas book.

Bonhoeffer lived in a time when Germany presented themselves as ripe for the picking by someone promising them what young Adolf promised.  Bonhoeffer came from a class of people that were readily plucked and placed in Hitler’s basket, yet he never yielded his mind, nor his heart for God already held those.

My intention is not to help Metaxas sell books, he needs no help – his work stands on its own.  My intention is not to do a book review for good reads regarding Bonhoeffer by Metaxas.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer has impacted me, again.  The story told by Metaxas has inspired and challenged me, as one who lives in a time and culture that is not so different.  There are times it feels as if we are ripe and ready to be plucked by one promising more than anyone can deliver.  It is, I believe, a combination of our greed, fear, brokenness AND our great longing and need for hope.  It is my conviction that God is more than capable and has already shown me the way to go.  It is my hope and my prayer that the character and fiber of my faith direct my steps in that day.

11 years later…

A number of months ago, my friend Chip wrote something that I felt other people needed to see, so I created the first ever guest blog on rickeroad.  I received a note last night from Chip, on 9/11.  I knew that Chip had been in New York City on 9/11 with business.  I knew that he had survived – and with a story to tell.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard his story before yesterday.  This is a story other people need to hear, so I’ve created a first ever second guest blog!  Welcome back Chip!  Here it is, with Chip’s permission of course, unedited.

I’m having a great yet difficult morning.  It’s 9/11 and 11 years ago today, I was in NYC when the horror of 9/11 unfolded.  Just 15 or so blocks from the Twin Towers, I watched as our country was under attack, innocent people’s lives were lost and families were ripped apart.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I was never in any real danger, I wasn’t close enough to ground zero to be hurt physically, but I was close enough to be affected emotionally.  I’m watching the news as I work (or, at least as I try to work) and see the sadness in the children’s eyes and the longing of wives and husbands to be reunited with those they lost in the massacre.
That day I watched taxi cabs full of first responders speeding their way to ground zero to do something… anything. I witnessed as restaurants put stacks upon stacks of water on the sidewalk and people taking it IN to ground zero.  I saw people stop whatever they were doing and line up to give blood.  I saw a man walk out of the destruction, covered in soot, and people on the sidewalk outside my hotel wrap him in their arms and care for him.  I
was then, and am still today, humbled by what I saw.  In the middle of what seemed like hell, I saw a glimpse of Heaven.  I saw the hands and feet of God.

When I woke up this morning, there was a text waiting for me from my son
Jordan.  It reads “Good morning!  I just wanted to text you to let you know
how thankful I am that God decided not to take you 11 years ago.  I hope you
have a good day and I love you!”

How can you not have a good day when you get a wakeup call like that?  I’ve been reminded by a 14 year old of just how much I’ve been blessed and I’m also reminded that I’ve taken so much for granted.  I struggle to appreciate all the good things I’ve been given and I struggle to accept the grace that God has afforded me.  I didn’t lose anyone or anything that day.  I gained blessing and a perspective of God’s ability to stand in when we are shaken, lost, and in the midst of unimaginable loss.

Words cannot adequately reflect my gratitude for the blessings I have.  Yet I am shaken that I would think my pithy little world and it’s tiny issues can get to me sometimes like they do.  At 10:27 AM 11 years ago today, I watched the tower fall.  11 years later at 6:00 AM, my youngest son reminds me that God is present, He loves us, He cares for us, and He is involved in every detail of our life.  I know this because I’ve seen it.

God, bless and heal the hearts of the loved ones left behind in the wake of this horrible tragedy. Thank you for surrounding these families with Your love and hope.
You are an awesome God.
Thank you for the perspective I have gained through my walk with you.
Thank you for teaching me that life is short… that I take it for granted sometimes.
Thank you for my children, my family, my friends, my work, my church.
Thank you for reminding me that gratitude is a choice I should make every day.
Thank you for the placing it on my heart to tell others how grateful I am for them.
Thank you for Rick because he’s been your hands and feet and helped me through some tough storms.
Thank you God.  For everything – even the tough stuff.  All glory to you
Lord.
Amen.

Doors: the power to open, the freedom to close

Over the last few weeks I’ve posted some pictures on facebook.  I know I said I’d never do facebook, hopefully you read that story and we can move on!  The pictures I posted were of doors.  When I posted the pictures I told people that I wanted them to make up the caption.  Some of the comments I expected:  Possibilities await inside…I stand at the door and knock…Another chapter begins.  Some of the comments were provocative:  Just because you can see it does not mean you have the tools to acquire it…Hello & Good-Bye…Go on inside, that’s what counts…It’s not a door, it’s your heart…Reflections of the past, or a door to your future?  Some of the comments just made me laugh:  Do I push or do I pull?…Am I coming or am I going?…AND STAY OUT!…stop pinching your head!…

It was a fun exercise that stimulated some interesting conversations.  What I didn’t tell all of my fb “friends” was that I was too tired to think of things to say.   My schedule has been a little out of control.  Some of it has been my doing, just not following through on some necessary boundaries to protect myself.  Some of it has been the reality of the season, 5 weddings in 6 weeks and the weekend that I did not have a wedding I made a very hurried and necessary trip to Virginia Beach to attend a friend’s funeral.  The weeks have run together, weddings, normal work day fare and preaching, we have helped children move and relocate their lives to China, I’ve taken on extra work related meetings as the church is making an important hire for the Fall season.  All signs of normal life, and in their own right good things, yet, it seems too busy.  Perhaps there have been too many open doors, each of which requires time and energy to go through, look around and do what needs to be done.

I discovered long ago that you never “accomplish” balance in life, and I’m okay with that.  I’m a guy who likes things fluid.  I will take a different unknown way home because I like different.  I’m a process guy, I’m not structurally driven.  I can have four open projects that I’m working on and start a 5th, with excitement!  I like to read two or three books at a time.

Understanding that we never “accomplish” balance does not give me permission to quit working at and striving for balance.  It is essential that I work at balancing busy-ness and solitude.  It is important to open doors that invite me into the presence of God while closing doors that become competitive distractions to my faith.  During this recent season of busy-ness, one door I closed was this one, rickeroad, where I write and creatively think through issues of everyday life from a faith perspective.  It’s all about the journey!  I’m not sure that was a good door to close.  Closing it saved me some time (which I didn’t have) and made less work for me (I didn’t really need more work), but it also allowed busy distractions to move me out of a rhythm of wrestling through the faith-journey implications of a life that busy.  A rhythm that is important to me, to my call, and I believe to all of you!  A rhythm I am struggling to regain as I write this piece.

Opening doors AND closing doors require a necessary discipline to stay focused on what is important.  It is a way to practice the values I proclaim.  Jesus practiced a rhythm of busy-ness and solitude.  The solitude kept him close to the Father’s heart informing him of what his purpose and call were.  Healing is a good thing and Jesus definitely got the town’s attention, which is great, but it was not what the Father intended.  Because he kept that door open, while closing other doors, Jesus understood that and moved on.  This must have been a surprising decision to many.  Read the story.

MARK 1:32-38

That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus.  The whole town gathered at the door to watch.  So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.  Later Simon and the others went out to find him.  When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”

Do you know what you’re doing and why you’re here?  God can clarify that for you, but you need to close a few doors, get out into the quiet and listen.  We have some work to do here!  I’ll see you next time, right here, but first I’ve got some more doors to close, and a few I need to open wider than a crack!

Subtle Trails

1983 had a lot going on!  It was the year I graduated from seminary, the year I was first called to pastor a church and the year I became a father for the second time!  I started at the church in July and it only took 6 months before the calendar flipped to 1984 and for the realization to hit of how unprepared I was for any of this.  I was overwhelmed by the reality that I didn’t really know what I was doing.  It’s now 2012 and I still get overwhelmed by that reality.  I’m not sure if I’m more comfortable with “not knowing” or perhaps I’ve actually grown, realizing that it’s okay to not have everything figured out.  That’s not my job!

In 1984, from that place of “feeling overwhelmed”, I began making a regular practice of taking a day to isolate myself and pray.  In order to do this, I would need to get away from the phone, from the familiar, and from the distractions that so easily enter the moments of each day.  Over the years I have borrowed cottages, gone to camps, and stayed over-night in motels.  It doesn’t matter where I end up, the routine is pretty similar.  I take my Bible, I bring some of my favorite “inspiring” music, some additional books to peruse and read, and just go.  Today is that day.  I am at a friend’s cabin in the woods near Lake Michigan.  It’s a pretty simple day.  An apple, some venison jerky, a thermos of water, some hot coffee, and an outdoor toilet, I’ve got everything I need!

Not wanting to waste the setting, I took some time to wander through the woods.  As I wandered from the cabin, I noticed a trail.  There was a subtle path, but someone had obviously taken the time to mark this trail through the woods.  I decided to follow it.  The longer I walked; I noticed that it wasn’t just the trail that was subtle.  As a city-kid, there was a little anxiety that began to creep into my awareness the farther I got from the cabin.  I found myself looking more intently for the trail markings.  I wasn’t familiar with the woods and I didn’t want to get lost.  At one point I actually stopped, wondering if the lure of adventure would outweigh the draw back to the safety of the cabin and what I knew.  The trail was subtle, but clear, I could always back-track, I reasoned, to my surprise – out loud!  So, I continued.  To my delight, there were wild turkeys, never close enough to see, but I could clearly hear them calling and scratching around in the woods.  There were so many deer tracks I stopped counting them and wondered what the place looked like at night when they were bedding down.  I continued into a bright opening and found this bush-complete with butterflies and bees!  As I enjoyed the sun and the butterflies, especially the one that confused my arm for a branch, I realized I had forgotten about trail markings and getting back.  Even the remnant of my subtle, low grade anxiety was gone.  If I had turned back I would’ve missed this moment, not just the beauty of creation, but the reality that any anxiety I carried around wasn’t just missing, it was gone.

The words of the Psalmist come to mind. Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path –Psalm 119:105. Often we want more than subtle markings.  We want to know more than the next step.  There are times I remember saying, God you’ve got to give me more than that if you expect me to follow.  There’s beauty in what God wants to show us.  There is wonder and mystery and majesty in following His call.  We don’t doubt that.  Sometimes, there’s a little anxiety too.  Especially, when He calls us to go somewhere we haven’t been, or to do something we haven’t done.  I’m not qualified, I’m not ready – even though God has promised to mark the trail, step by step – we turn back.  Those times I’ve turned back, afraid to go someplace I hadn’t been before, I wonder now what I’ve missed.  Had I turned back today I would have missed the butterflies.  I would have missed the reality of knowing that I was okay, and that my fear and anxiety were gone!  God wants us to discover the wonder of His creation.  He wants us to know that He has made us for more than this and we need to trust the trail enough to know that He will take us there.  In the process we will discover how God re-writes our hearts.  The wonder of how he grows us up, teaching us greater trust while removing a little anxiety and doubt with every step of His reliable, yet subtlety marked trail.

The Wonder of Helicopter Seeds

I was up on a ladder a couple of weeks ago cleaning up what appeared to be 10 million Maple tree seeds that had landed on the roof of our garage last Fall.  I think you know the kind I’m talking about.  The little green (mine had turned brown over the winter) helicopters that spin their way from tree to ground, looking for warm, fertile soil to get stuck in, with plans to grow a new Maple tree.  Maple trees have done this for centuries.  One Maple tree developing itself, growing seeds in order to scatter itself across the land – Maple Tree Reproduction at its finest!  Last Fall, the Maple trees in our yard seemed especially eager to reproduce themselves.  Literally millions of these reproductive helicopters landed all over our yard.  They landed in our gardens, they grew up in our grass, they landed on our roof.  These dedicated helicopter seeds, flew with an attitude of reproduce!, multiply the Tree, wedging themselves among the rocks and sticking themselves in cracks of the sidewalk.  Each helicopter was a hopeful little seed, commissioned and sent with specific orders to produce a new Maple tree.  These seeds were serious and understood purpose and mission.  These seeds were intense and stopped at nothing to grow the Maple Tree Family.  Understand that my excitement over these mission minded seeds had nothing to do with my blood sugar levels, nor was it born out of an unnatural fear of Maple products.

I get it.  I understand that it is the mission of the tree to do this, to reproduce itself.  If the tree fails to reproduce then there is something wrong and it will die.  It has lost a sense of purpose, for part of its purpose is to make more trees!

As I was picking and pulling and plucking seeds out of places they had no place being (for trees do not grow well on garage roofs!) I couldn’t help but to think about life and faith and the call of purpose on all of us as followers of Jesus to Go!  Make Disciples!  God intended for his children to scatter themselves like these seeds – AND I could argue with the same kind of intensity and purpose.  So…are we?  Are we reproducing ourselves?  Are we disciples making disciples?  Are we taking what we have learned and scattering it with the Wind of God to those places He would plant us, intent on multiplying the life of Christ in others?!

In his book Radical, David Platt writes, Making disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching people the Word of Christ and then enabling them to do the same thing in other people’s lives – this is the plan God has for each of us to impact nations for the glory of Christ.  Platt continues, This plan seems so counter-intuitive to our way of thinking.  In a culture where bigger is always better and flashy is always more effective, Jesus beckons each of us to plainly, humbly, and quietly focus our lives on people….If the Son of God thought it necessary to focus his life on a small group of men, we are fooling ourselves to think we can mass-produce disciples today.  God’s design for taking the gospel to the world involves every one of his people sacrificing every facet of their lives to multiply the life of Christ in others.

As I looked at the eager sacrifice of the maple seeds I wondered, am I spending myself with that same kind of intentional intensity – to multiply Christ in me, in others?  That led me to ask myself, and you – if you are reading this, these questions.

Who have I asked to join me on this journey?  Who am I sharing the life of Christ with, that is, showing them what it means to follow Jesus?  Will I pray for the world?  Will I commit myself to a community that wants to give itself away…disciples making disciples?  What am I willing to sacrifice in order for this to become reality?  I am afraid that the flight of a maple seed, perhaps any seed for that matter, will always fill my head with questions and my heart with the urgency of Jesus’ word – GO!

Lessons Learned – Never Say Never to Neti! (pt.2)

I will NEVER use a Netipot!  There – I had drawn the line (or so I thought).  It was a good, strong, line.  I believed that it had been inscribed into granite.  The sentiment was deeply rooted in my consciousness.  It was upheld by every conviction inside me about all things gross.  But, it was more than sentiment.  I had announced it to my children, when I learned that they were now using this unnatural vessel.  Dad, they would argue, it is one of the best things you can do for your sinuses, it’s a proactive healthy approach.  (Since when has a guy who loves bacon  cheese burgers been interested in a proactive healthy approach?)  A Netipot, good for you!?  That was so counter-intuitive I didn’t even laugh.  That went against everything my mother taught me, and she was a nurse!  As a child, she made sure I knew how to swim, and I love to swim and play in the water to this day.  Never, was it a good idea to draw water into your nose!  Never was it remotely encouraged as some proactive means to greater health, just put your face in the water Rick and get a good snoot-fullNo, I insisted against my children’s pleas, it was wrong then and it’s just as wrong now.  Now, understand, I have had allergy issues.  In fact, both Mariann and I have battled through different seasonal allergy issues that are complete with sinus pressure and headaches.  Our children were relentless, you have to try this!  Mariann and I stood together and we stood strong for all that was right – the nose is built for breathing, not gargling!

And then it happened.  It was a brief moment when there was a persistent sinus ache.  Allergies were raging, and Mariann was looking for relief – anything to help.  In her moment of distress, she consulted with our daughter, a Netipot regular!  Mariann bought a Netipot and was appropriately afraid of using it.  It sat on our counter for several days, fully wrapped and in its original box!  She called our daughter, again, and asked her to walk her through it.  I wasn’t home when it happened.  When I came home she was smiling!  She said you won’t believe how good it feels, the relief it delivers!  Was I hearing this?!  She not only used it, but she liked and she is going to use it again!  My world started to spin.  I wasn’t sure how to recover, until Mariann reminded me that the spinning was probably a result of sinus pressure – which the Netipot could help address!  I didn’t want to believe that it was true, but, wait what’s that, deep inside me – this sense, a feeling, no more than a feeling – a hope that she was telling the truth.  I would like that kind of relief.  Could it be true?  I couldn’t tell Mariann that day, but I knew I wanted the Netipot to work and not just for her, but for me.  Several days went by and I would watch her go into the bathroom with a full Netipot and emerge with an empty one smiling.  Finally, I could wait no more.  It began as a whisper, wanting no one to hear, show me how to use it.  Mariann, turning to face me with a delightful smile, asked, what did you say?  Show me how to do this, please.  And now, well, the Netipot is part of my morning routine and has been for…well…about 2 weeks now!  Wow – what sweet relief!

As a pastor, I like parables.  I often see connections of everyday practices, everyday life with deeper spiritual truths.  The picture on top of my blog is one example.  Mariann first noticed the fallen log at First Beach on the Olympic Peninsula, WA.  I thought,  wow!-I need to take a picture of that. Mariann commented, it looks like praying hands.  So, there it sits, atop my blog – praying hands!  Typically, when I teach and preach I will see these connections.  The deeper truth of the Netipot has me stumped.  I have struggled with this rambling story of the Netipot, to see the metaphor, to understand the potential of some deeper spiritual truth.  I know it’s there, I just haven’t found a connection I’m comfortable with.  Hmmm…maybe it’s not about being comfortable.  Maybe there are choices we need to make because they are the right choices, not ones that secure our comfort.  Maybe there are things we need to practice because they are right, not because they are easy and we can do them comfortably.  There’s a running dialogue emerging…

GOD: Love your neighbor. 

RICK: You don’t know my neighbor God.

GOD: I don’t think that matters – it’s what I’m asking you to do.

GOD: Pray for those who curse you

RICK:…really, can’t I curse them first?

GOD: No, pray for me to bless them. 

RICK: I’m not comfortable with that.

GOD: Rick, I’m not as concerned with your comfort as I am with letting people know that I love them.

LESSONS LEARNED!

You will never see me with … a Netipot! (pt. 1)

I saw my first Netipot at an office Christmas party.  Let me clarify, the agency that Mariann worked for was having a Christmas party, and spouses were invited and welcome.  Since I knew many of the people she worked with, I thought this will be fun!  It was a great dinner, we all brought a dish to pass and a co-worker expertly grilled up some steak!  Maybe I’ve spent too many years attending pot-lucks and covered dish suppers as a pastor, but it’s pretty hard to beat home cooking and grilled steak!  After dinner there were a few games and then it was the event everyone was waiting for…the gift exchange.  The rules were simple.  Bring a unisex, inexpensive, nicely wrapped gift to pass.  As we entered the room, the gifts were piled on a table in the center of our circle.  You would select a gift from the pile on the table, unwrap it and if you liked it you could keep it, OR you could exchange it with another gift that someone else had unwrapped and was holding.  It’s sort of a legal version of gift stealing, especially if you have something you want to keep and someone snatches it, leaving you with what they didn’t want.  And once gone, you are not going to get it back.  The best position to hope for is the last gift because then you have your pick of any gift out there!  I wasn’t last, but this is about having fun – right?!  When it was my turn to choose, I picked up some sort of hand pumping mechanism that would be used to inflate air mattresses, and balls.  Okay, I thought not bad.  I quickly surveyed the crowd to see if anyone was eyeballing MY PUMP, and what I saw was a lot of bored indifference, that’s even better.  I was already thinking of potential uses for the pump.  The gift exchange continued as each gift was opened with a mixture of ooohs – aaahs – and laughter.  Yeah, I guess this was fun.  And then it happened.  Steve took his turn.  Steve opened up his gift and found a Netipot inside.  A Netipot?  What in the world was a Netipot.  Well this created quite a stir around the circle.  Ooohs and aaahs became, let me see that…eeeewwwhhh – look at the picture on the side of the box!  There’s water coming out of her nose!  What?!, let me see that!  The crowd was buzzing, until Steve grabbed his Netipot and said, I think I want that pump that Rick has.  What?  What pump?  Which Rick?  My head was spinning realizing that the pump was about to be stolen and I was soon to be the owner of a contraption that suggested completely unnatural practices as normal.  Think fast Rick…oooh – not fast enough.

A Netipot now sat in my lap.  A Netipot that no one else will claim and I will get to take home!  As I held the box, trying to keep it far away from my face – you don’t know where it’s been (or maybe you do!)…I tried to find something positive in all of this.  The only thing I could think of using the Netipot for was to show that picture to 4th grade boys and listen to them squeal and giggle, eventually you know they will try to make things come out their nose, just like the woman on the box!

I know the gift exchange continued, but I don’t really remember much of what happened.  I think I was in some sort of Netipot shock, until the last person picked up her gift.  I don’t remember how it happened, but she came for my Netipot.  I have been looking for one of those!  She was so excited.  It has been suggested that my husband try this for his sinus congestion.  (Of course I thought, how noble, try it on the spouse first!)  She grabbed the Netipot from my lap, replaced it with whatever gift she opened and sat down with such a beautiful smile on her face, I couldn’t help but smile back!  As we cleaned up the room, we moved back into the dining area, desert time!  Ice cream, Christmas cookies and ironically, I could breathe again.  That was 10 years ago.                                                       Next: Lessons Learned in Never say Never to Neti! (pt. 2)

You will never see me on facbook

I didn’t want to do it.  I had secretly vowed…never (watch out for that word!)…never…I will never be on facebook.  I was like the old professor who decided it was his destiny to fight grade inflation – by himself.  You know the one who told you, I don’t give out A’s, after you got the highest score in class, and ended up with a B. I repeated my mantra for years.  I will not sign-up for facebook.  I will not get a facebook account.  Not only do I NOT want to do it, but I have seen the ugly, destructive side of social media in people I have counseled.  Social Media is not…cannot be the wave of the future.  It doesn’t connect us, it pseudo connects us in ways that allow real FTF human interaction to diminish.  Our social skill muscles are atrophying as we type!!!  Social media is a fad, a phase, a flash in the pan with no sustaining power.  People will never choose a virtual world over a real one!  Saying this then, and repeating it now I am reminded of the time I told my son: …rap music, hip-hop, whatever you call it will run its course.  Come on, it’s not really music (this was one of those moments in parenting when I realized that I had just become my dad!).  I give rap music 10 years.  That was 1995.

Facebook is not to blame, but it does connect us into too many un-boundaried, unhealthy relationships, stirring up relationships that went away for a reason so many years ago!  So, if we can’t blame facebook, and if we can’t blame all of social media, who can we hang out to dry for the unhealthy, cracking of our social and moral fibers?  Am I suggesting that facebook is just a tool and that the misuse of this tool is like the misuse of so many tools – that it is operator error?  Without being too hasty and not wanting to sound to critical – YUP!

So…what changed?  Nothing.  I still don’t want a facebook page.  I’m not looking for friends.  My profile picture is kind of squirrely looking – I’ve already posted that I should grow my beard back – aagghhh! why am I telling you that! STOP!                                                                                    As I preach through the book of ACTS, I’m noticing a rhythm to Paul’s journeys.  In Antioch Paul fights the insistence of Jewish Christians that all gentiles, in order to be true followers of Jesus must be circumcised.  After a few very sharp disputes, disagreements and arguing over this the Jerusalem church sends out a letter agreeing!  What’s important is follow Jesus, stay out of temples that will lead you someplace else spiritually, and keep yourselves sexually pure.  No circumcision, no food laws, no clothing laws – follow Jesus in thought, word and deed!  Makes sense.  So, when Paul returns to some cities that he and Barnabas had been to previously, he invites Timothy (yes, that Timothy) to join them.  Since Timothy had grown up with a Jewish mother and a Greek father he had never been circumcised.  So before leaving town to visit more churches and tell the Jesus-story, Paul circumcises Timothy!  My head threw the brakes on my reading as I shouted, What?  Wait a second, I thought that’s what the fight in Jerusalem was about.  No circumcision.  But that’s not what the fight was about.  It was about meeting people in their world, on their terms, with a story and the truth that will change both of those conditions!  Circumcision doesn’t equal salvation, but it might open a door or two for Timothy, since in Jewish culture you follow the faith of your mother and everyone knew his mother was Jewish.  Paul would do whatever it would take to open a door to tell the Jesus story.  To tell people about his conversion from Judaism, how he met Jesus on his way to Damascus and that changed everything!  Later Paul will write that he has become all things to all people, look at how he puts it in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (The Message)19-23Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

Our church has a facebook page.  I have noticed people asking questions, making comments, seeking spiritual direction, and passing along words of encouragement.  Even though I am free from the demands of Rick, dude, you have to get on facebook, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range…I did all this because of the Message to impact all and any to discover the greatness of Jesus Christ!  Just understand that it stops here…you will never catch me tweeting!

Wait…Wait…Wait for it (Part 2)

Currently at NERC we are moving through the Book of ACTS on Sunday mornings.  It began when Jesus told his followers to WAIT!…Don’t go anywhere, the gift my Father promised is coming, the Holy Spirit will come and live within you – you’re going to need the Holy Spirit to do the work I’ve called you to do.  Now, you have to understand, I’ve read ACTS before, I’ve preached in ACTS before, I’ve been pastoring for 29 years now and I understand the significance of ACTS 2 to the life of the church.  But, something was different this time.  It was almost like I was reading it for the first time.  There was a poignancy to Jesus saying WAIT! – you are going to need the Spirit to do the work I have for you.  There was no fear, there was no insecurity, it wasn’t as if I wasn’t hearing clearly – I wasn’t afraid that Jesus was talking to someone else in the room, even though as I looked around, I was it – no one else was in my office.  It was like being a kid again, and watching someone open a beautifully wrapped box that you know has something really special in it…you watch…anticipation builds…you know this is going to be GREAT!…you lean in a little closer…you are about ready to jump out of your skin, you are about ready to pop with expectancy…moving through the book of ACTS this time has been kind of like that!

I don’t know if I’ve seen everything that’s in the box yet, but I’ve gotten some glimpses.  Here are some things I’ve noticed.  As I’ve already said, these are not necessarily new, but they came with a new anticipation, with a new eagerness to lean in and follow Jesus…there’s freshness to the points they make.

1). God is doing things according to God – not me.  God has brought healing power upon my broken heart.  God has re-directed my orientation and my focus, those things I am most passionate about in life.  God has assured me of how deeply I am loved as His child.  Now, you might be thinking, that’s great…me too!…or I want some of that, but I haven’t even gotten to the kicker!  Here it is.  God is doing things according to God and not me – my healing; my hope; my focus; isn’t just about making me better.  It’s about making me better because God wants to gather me with other people He has made better to declare the wonder of who God is, to proclaim together the glory and wonder of God, that others might now and experience and marvel at who God truly is!  You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnessesit’s not about me-I’m not the focus of what God is doing, the point is to make me a witness to the greatness of God, making lifestyle choices that reflect that and telling the Jesus story – and doing that with others!   There is an urgency calling me to get up, get into the game, Rick – it’s time to get to busy!

2). The circle of who God is stirring with this awareness, dare I say, – with this awakening is a lot bigger than I can imagine.  When the early church ran into trouble in ACTS 6 with the distribution of food to the widows, you could see God’s deeper heartbeat.  God wanted the church to get the food to the widows, all of the widows-not just the ones from your church, but God was also expanding the box of who’s included.  Read about the Great Awakenings that took place a couple of centuries ago.  Notice how the Holy Spirit crosses the boundaries we have established to gather people together to proclaim the wonder of God.  Let me leave you with this…recently I was doing some reading on this and bumped into a video that told the story of the awakening that took place on the campus of Asbury College in Wilmore Kentucky.  It was 1970, a time when college students were marching, and protesting, and burning buildings.  The Holy Spirit was stirring a different kind of movement.  What’s interesting is that at this United Methodist college, you are never quite sure if this is a charismatic movement, a baptist movement, a revival tent meeting, but what is clear is that God is opening up people’s hearts, the gift of God has come – and people are moved to be my witnesses!  It’s about 35 minutes long, but worth your time – click here if you want to listen to Dr. Kinlaw tell the story.