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June 30, 2008

The First Day Back from Vacation

Playhouse_062608_001lrThe inbox is full.
The to-do list is running over.
The desk's a disaster.
The grass is long.
The house needs attention.
The bills are due.
The messages need to be returned.

Can I go back to the lake now?

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 10

TelevangelistSo, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can. 1 Corinthians 10:14 (TM)

I can't stand televangelists who spend all of their time asking for money. When I come across one I turn the channel as fast as I can. They spend all their time using God as something they can control. "Send me ten dollars and God will bless you with a hundred!" they will promise. God becomes your personal cash cow - a talisman - a good luck charm.

God is not a genie in a bottle. While He does care about our hearts' desires, He also cares more deeply about our heart condition. When He controls our hearts, our desires are true. When our hearts are filled with greed, envy and selfishness  - then our off-course desires are greedy, envious and selfish.

God is not in the business of making us what we want to be, but what He calls us to be: loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle and self-controlled.

Is God controlling me or am I trying to control God?

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and AHS Librarian

June 28, 2008

Taylor & Madison Pics

The following pics of the girls and their respective teams were on the Global Expeditions website...



Listen to Taylor from Romania!

Brasov_romaniaI was bummed to wake up this morning and find that I'd just missed a call from Taylor. It came on the heels of an e-mail from her team leader. All is well. Taylor, who sounded a bit like she was ready to get this whole trip over with a week ago, mentioned that she would be kind of sad to come home.

Tonight is their last night of ministry. They will be performing drama in one of the parks. Tomorrow they will worship with their host church and head to Brasov (see picture) for a free day of tourism before heading to Bucharest and beginning the journey home.

I've uploaded the voice-mail for any family who would like to hear it in her own sweet voice:

Download taylors_voice_mail.wav

June 27, 2008

Slowing Down

Playhouse_crittersWhen Wendy and I have travelled to the Playhouse on the lake, it's always been for a long weekend - at best. While those long weekends are always enjoyable there is always the feeling that you just got unpacked and it's time to go home. That's why we've been looking forward to this week, when we could spend several days enjoying ourselves on the water.

It's been raining on and off the past the past few days, so we haven't gotten out on the lake much. What we have been doing is a whole lot of nothing, and that's something we don't experience too often. Yesterday morning we sat on my grandparent's memorial glider rocker on the deck and watched all the critters around the bird feeder [I took the accompanying photos as I sat there - click on it for a larger image]. We have a young Mallard duck who has been following us for the past few days. He hopped up on the dock Wednesday morning while I was doing my quiet time and sat there about three feet away expecting a hand out. Yesterday he waddled up the yard and stood just feet away from Wendy and me as we sat on the glider looking for more free grub. We've dubbed him "Fred" as in "Freddie the Freeloader".

As we sat on the glider, Wendy lay her head against me and began to nap. I had this overwhelming sense that I should be doing something. I consciously told myself that the only thing I had to do was to sit, rest, and enjoy the moment. The sense of needing to get up and get busy eventually passed. I was reminded of a lecture by Dallas Willard in which he talked about rest as a spiritual discipline. I get that. Rest is something I have to work at it. In that sesne, I AM working hard this week ;-)

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 9

Finishing_the_marathonI don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. 1Corinthians 9:26-27 (TM)

I had the television on last night and heard mention of the average life span for an American male. It's been right around the 72 year mark for some time. Which means, at best, I'm on the backstretch of this marathon called life. Most people spend years not giving much thought to the finish line of life. You are young, you are strong out of the gate, and you are running hard....to where?

Death is a subject that most of us would rather avoid, but the truth is we will all finish this race someday. There is no guarantee when you will cross the tape. Some will live well beyond 72, and some will cross the finish line well before that. What if I'm in the homestretch and I don't even know it? Am I running this life aimlessly? Am I running sloppy with no thought to how I finish?

Marathons are not generally won in a photo finish. Marathons are won by the person who trains and gives careful thought to his or her pace, strength, timing, body, and desire throughout the race.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and rbackowski

June 26, 2008

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 8

Right_or_wrongChrist gave up his life for that person. Wouldn't you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn't really make any difference? 1 Corinthians 8:11 (TM)

Eating meat sacrificed to idols is not a huge issue among Christians today like it was for the believers in Corinth. Nevertheless, the principle applies to any number of activities upon which Christians have various opinions. I remember, when I was a teenager, I listened to a Christian scholar talking about gambling. I had always assumed that gambling was among the top ten sins along with "smoke, drink, chew and going out with girls who do." I was surprised to hear this respected scholar lay out a Biblical argument that gambling, while foolish, is not specifically a sin.

Drinking, dancing, clapping in worship, working on the sabbath, and listening to rock music are other activities upon which I've heard a wide range of opinions among believers. The debate surrounding some subjects can turn heated and ugly. That's when Paul's discussion of food sacrificed to idols becomes an important guide. Our admonishon is to be kind, loving and gracious with one another. Those who take a permissive stance on such matters need to be considerate and show deference when you're around believers who feel differently - not flaunting your freedom and aggravating the situation.

It all comes back to putting others ahead of yourself.

Creative commons photo courtesy of Flickr and markybon

June 25, 2008

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 7

Small_house_simple_lifeI do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don't complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple —in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (TM)

I read an article many years back about a man in Iowa City, Iowa who built a beautiful home that fits on a small pull-behind trailer. The man was part of a Small House Society (http://www.resourcesforlife.com/small-house-society) that is dedicated to simplifying life and living in small spaces that don't require much time, energy or resources to maintain nor do they leave a giant footprint on the earth. I have to admit, there's a Henry David Thoreau inside of me that resonates with their desires. I think Paul, the author of the letter to the church of Corinth, would have resonated with them too.

Life is complicated, and the more stuff we own - the more stuff owns us. Stuff requires our time, our energy, and our resources. Stuff pulls us away from meaningful relationships with God and with others. Stuff distracts us from the important things in life and demands that we urgently pay attention to that which needs to acquired, fixed, maintained, updated, stored, patched, organized, gone through, cleaned, dusted, polished, detailed, fertilized, weeded, watered, rewired, called about, trimmed, washed, vacuumed, swept, hung, read, listened to, watched, painted, played, marked, or put together.

How can I simplify my life today so I have more time and energy for God? My loved ones? Myself?

June 24, 2008

I Made it to Cooperstown!

Tom_wendy_bhofWhen Wendy and I came out to Cobleskill, New York to visit our friends Jud and Jody, I had no idea that we would only be a 30 minute drive over the hills to Cooperstown, NY - home of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. Wendy and I were both pretty pumped when Jud and Jody asked if we'd like to pay a visit to the Hall.

Yesterday we packed up Jayla in her stroller and headed to the beautiful, small burg of Cooperstown. There we spent the afternoon wandering through baseball's cathedral. What a blast! Wendy and I have been slowly making our way through Ken Burns' documentary Baseball, so it was fun to watch as Wendy made connection to certain players, artifacts and historical markers she recognized from the series. In the DVD documentary of baseball history we've only made it through about the 1920's. As we made our way through the progression of the museum she turned and said, "Okay, I don't know anything past this point!"

I had never expected to make it to Cooperstown. But the cheesy tourist shot is evidence of our pilgrimage. It's not a trip I would have planned or gone out of my way to take. The fact that it happened to be nearby was an added blessing to our trip, and definitely a fun way to spend the day!

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 6

A_convicting_situationJust because something is technically legal doesn't mean that it's spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I'd be a slave to my whims. 1 Corinthians 6:12 (TM)

Many years ago I had the responsibility of operating a non-profit ministry for a believer who also had a for-profit private business. A wealthy business man came along and wanted my boss to do some work for him that, technically, fell under the umbrella of his for-profit business. My boss came to me with a large "donation" from this business man to the non-profit ministry I was charged with running.

"Deposit this," my boss said, "but keep it in a separate account. Whenever I perform a service for this business man I'll take the funds out of that account. This way, I get the money for my services and he gets the tax deduction for making a donation."

I did what I was told, but it didn't feel right. The money wasn't for the ministry, it was for my boss. I felt like I was laundering money. I expressed my concerns to my boss and was promptly visited by one of the ministry's board members, an accountant, who told me that what we were doing was completely legal and not to worry about it. It might be legal, I responded, but was it truly ethical? To quote today's verse, it might be technically legal, but was it spiritually appropriate? I asked what would be the response if this financial arrangement became public? Would the everyday supporters and donors of the non-profit ministry agree that this was okay?

Within a few weeks I was fired. No worries. That was just fine with me. I'm glad I stood up for what I knew to be spiritually appropriate. I stood for the convictions God gave me. In fact, God had another road full of blessing just waiting for me to follow out of that experience, a path which I am still walking today.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and shuttercat7