|Thursday, April 30, 2020|
The glory of springtime in bloom withered with a rude awakening this week.
All I wanted to do was "simply" remove the worn wood siding on our storage barn and replace it with new. As it has been 35 years since we built the thing, it was overdue for an overhaul.
After emptying the ten-by-ten structure (a process which somehow filled our entire garage), I noticed the problem. One corner of the plywood floor had succumbed to rot.
As my fingers pressed deep into the spongy pulp, I knew this would be no small project. Time for a trip to the lumber yard!
The new floor looks great. But after installing it, we endured a mini-monsoon. Enough rain to prove that new plywood is not enough. My little barn has sunk over time, and the only way to avoid the return of rot is to jack the whole thing up on cinder blocks—pray for me!
The thing is, I probably could have avoided the disaster of the rotten floor! If only I hadn't been inattentive, or let so much time go by before taking action. And if we could (somehow) live in a world without destructive elements.
Sadly, that barn is a metaphor for the way we maintain—or don't maintain—our spiritual lives. A lack of attention over prolonged time combined with the destructive elements of our fallen world always leads to soul rot.
Yet we somehow persist in the foolish belief that maintenance is optional or can be delayed again and again. Worse, we sometimes live as if we disbelieve in the reality of spiritual destruction all around us.
In the parable of Jesus, the wise man built his barn (okay, house) upon the rock. He was attentive and took action—designing in a way that showed his awareness and alertness to destructive elements.
Rot—or not. The choice is ours.
|Thursday, April 23, 2020|
I am confused.
In our town—perhaps yours as well—we see lots of signs encouraging us to “stay safe—stay home.” Point taken. COVID-19 continues to threaten and kill.
Yet our town also features signs that say, “Businesses are open. Shop local.”
Hmm....what are we really saying? "Stay home unless you have dough to spend, and unless you intend to spend that dough locally?" Or maybe the intended message is "Spend your money here first—THEN stay home. To me, it's a mixed message.
Sure, I get the fact that everybody needs milk and eggs and toilet paper. Which means there is a point at which we do have to leave home. And we do have a choice in where we shop. Still, it just feels like a mixed message.
But as I was contemplating this curiosity (unintentionally pointing the finger at our civic leaders), God reminded me four fingers were pointing back at me. Am I not equally guilty of sending mixed messages?
Early in the morning, I ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet an hour or two later, I am so often so filled with myself, Jesus can't even get in the throne room of my heart, let alone find a place on the throne. Mixed Message.
I talk about the importance of a daily quiet time with God, but allow—even create—so much noise (activity) in my life, it all but drowns out the possibility for quiet. Even if I do squeeze in the formality of a few minutes with Him. Mixed message.
I encourage others to share their faith with unsaved friends and neighbors. Yet my own heart can be virtually unmoved by the ticket to Hell that seems almost visible in the hands of so many I know. Mixed Message.
I could go on. But looking in my "soul mirror" is painful. The antidote? Psalm 86:11, a prayer of David:
|An Inconvenient Snow
|Thursday, April 16, 2020|
On April 15, it snowed.
Enough to cover the grass. Enough that I could carve a heart on the windshield for my wife. Enough to cause a 50 vehicle pile-up on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway, sending twelve people to the hospital.
It's tempting to call this an "inconvenient snow." It is spring, after all. April showers, not April blizzards, are supposed to bring May flowers. For anybody now dealing with an insurance headache and a car in the body shop, it certainly was an inconvenient snow.
Me, I took a walk in it. I made sure that hike took me past a storybook spread of white-frosted pines. Pure magic!
The still-falling flakes brought to mind Psalm 51:7. “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
But God’s call to purity is rarely a thing of convenience, I’ve noticed. On the surface, life appears to be going well. Church is good. We’re engaged, perhaps, in our daily “quiet time” in the Word.
Yet, God knows our hearts. He sees the filth we've somehow allowed. Or collected. Or sprouted from the seeds of our dark deeds.
He sees it. Hates it. Offers to clean it—and us. Yet He does all of this only with our full cooperation.
Purity demands honesty.
Purity requires confession.
Purity insists on repentance.
Purity is not convenient.
But only a pure heart will see God.
|You Scared Myself!
|Thursday, April 09, 2020|
I'm still not sure how it happened. At one point, we were playing, laughing, and enjoying the antics that provoke little tykes to giggle (my specialty). Then, rather abruptly, a look of fright oozed all over three-year-old Ava's face. Something had startled her, but I didn't know exactly what. And her response was unforgettable.
“Hey, you scared myself!” She blurted accusingly. I couldn’t resist teasing her. So I fired back, “You scared myself?”
“No!” She insisted. “You scared MY-self!” (Emphasis on the “my”).
“Oh,” I feigned understanding. You scared MY-self.”
“No!” Ava insisted. “You scared MY-self.”
Whatever the original fear trigger, it got lost in a flurry of flamboyant debate. Whether or not Ava could tell I was pulling her leg (as precocious as she is, she probably did), it's a conversation I'll always treasure.
These days, thanks to COVID-19, we're spending a lot of time together—alone. Lots of time in small spaces that can lead to big misunderstandings. Conflicts that might ordinarily be contained have a way of gaining exponential explosiveness.
Explosions are bad enough. But explosions in small spaces can be deadly.
The unfortunate thing is that so many of these conflicts start small. Like my conversation with little Ava.
But as Christ-followers, we're called to be bomb diffusers. Our orders are to "seek peace and pursue it" (Psalms 34:14).
It looks like we'll be staying in place awhile longer. Isn't it time we learned to defuse and de-escalate conflict? To disconnect from the evil that leads to relational destruction?
The alternative is to live in a household of self-created land mines. To me, that is so frightening I would have to join with Ava in saying, “You scared myself!”
|Beware the Undertow
|Thursday, April 02, 2020|
My wife and I have proudly joined the 2010s. We now have Netflix on our TV. Since all the cool kids went there a long time ago, I guess we're not so cool. But we are enjoying a lot of what we see. From tours of English castles to hilarious movies to mind-expanding (and downright entertaining) TV series, it’s been fun.
But as delightfully distracting as Netflix is for a season like Coronavirus, it flows into our homes with a deceptive undertow.
I shouldn't be surprised by the unrelenting push to watch more episodes of whatever we just watched. But it does bug me that my helpful profile is that helpful.
Netflix (and its media twin, Hulu) have given birth to the concept of binge-watching. Our culture not only accepts the idea—we celebrate it.
Not so fast. Philippians 4:5 urges, "Let your moderation be known unto all men." Not your binge-watching. Why? The verse finishes, "The Lord is at hand."
I dislike that Netflix not only knows what I've seen but brings to my attention with annoying regularity those episodes I have not seen. As if I am cheating myself for being a TV slacker.
Understand—I don’t wish to trash Netflix. There is much good to celebrate in its offerings. But the most uncomfortable part of our streaming relationship is the inescapable undertow of evil. There is a relentless invitation—an urging, even— to watch things that are NOT honorable, pure, lovely, and of good repute, the biblical grid laid out in Philippians 4:8.
None of this is a surprise for genuine Christ-followers. And we are surely not the first to struggle with our culture. In his best-loved hymn, Isaac Watts asks, “ Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?” His reply must be ours as well:
Streaming television? It’s great!
Just beware of the undertow.
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