Grace & Peace

water-464953_640

Raindrops

I think we got plenty of rain in June. Just think, in California, every spout is monitored. Water restrictions for all, including farmers. They would have loved a little bit of rain. What we bemoan, “enough is enough,” Californians pray for.

I often have the chance to meet folks who bemoan circumstances. When they tell me their story, I often concur, “that is messed up.” Hardly a person alive doesn’t have the opportunity to tell a story that is messed up. When it rains it pours. And yes, life is unfair.

As people of faith, we should be able to look at circumstances a little bit different. Paul says the trouble of this world cannot compare with the glory that is to be revealed. In this world we have trouble but Jesus has overcome the world. Be anxious about nothing. There are certainly a lot of place where the scriptures teach us to live above our circumstances. And most people ask me, “how can I do that?”

Knowing we are called to live above our circumstances and actually doing it are two very different things. I mean when it rains for three days straight and the yard is saturated and ready to come in the front door, it is hard to see anything else. Yet we are supposed to see something else.

Paul gives us they key. Find something good to think about. If there is anything lovely, anything valuable, anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Now he said this while he was in prison, about to be executed for being a believer. So the next time we find ourselves bemoaning our circumstances, consider Paul and find something good to consider.



Grace & Peace

frog-946854_640Frogs

One frog is cute. Croak…croak…croak. So adorable. Have a little rain and the frogs come out by the thousands: CROAK!!! CROAK!!! CROAK!!! A chorus of croaks, a veritable cacophony of unified croaking. All night long!

It is impossible to think one frog could keep all of Tampa awake all night, but one million. We now know what THAT sounds like. Where did they come from? And now? Where did they go? Lurking, waiting, ready to plague us once again. I had no idea that the plague of frogs in Exodus included so much noise.

The frogs pushed me to think about the power of “we.” One frog has a simple and cutesy impact on me. One million frogs making a unison chorus of croak really made me wonder, “what if they had an agenda?” I may be a bit paranoid.

Noise, the unified noise of we, can have a profound impact. Fans at the Lightning playoff game all know this. If the team is on a losing streak during the regular season and one guy stands up and starts shouting, he simply draws attention to himself and everyone remarks, “whew” as the shake their heads. But put the team in the playoffs and the same guy just adds to the desired effect. The noise of we can indeed make a difference in the game.

I went to a couple of graduation ceremonies in early June and must say they are a bit different from what I remember: lots of shouting for individuals, but no group shouting. I felt very out of place.
So what sort of we noise can the church make. We are filled with churches that have look at me noise. In the end, they lack conviction and power. What about the we? Paul tells the Thessalonians that their faith “rang out.” Now that is a joyful we noise, faith sounding forth, ringing out. Faith should ring out, make a loud noise, so that all those in Town and Country know we are God’s. God’s people at Wesley make a joyful noise.



Grace & Peace

lightning-1158027_1280Let all the world in every corner sing, “Our God is King!”

Last night we had a tremendous rain storm, Colin by name. When I woke this morning I could hear the birds singing. The lake by my home sang forth, a veritable choir rejoicing to the Lord. Though Colin lasted a few days, it did pass. I heard no birds singing through the thunder and the pounding rain. But the storm passed and the birds are singing now. During the storm they hunkered down, waiting.

Not all waiting is the same. My guess is that how we enter the storm determines the way we wait. If hope has not gotten ahold of us before the storm, we may dread the storm, or dramatize it, complain about it. But if hope has gotten us, when the storm comes we simply hunker down and wait for the morning when we know we will sing again as we have a hundred times before.

When our hope is in God’s faithfulness rather than our own resources, hunkering down becomes simply a necessary step in Gods redemptive plan. We know we will sing again. Saints of old knew this truth: “when the storms of life are raging stand by me. When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea. When the storms of life are raging stand by me.”

If you do not know your hope, then I invite you to get to know Jesus. This summer, read the gospel of John with the intent of getting to know Jesus. Meet him, listen to his teaching, experience the warmth of his spirit. Read slowly. Read, then think. Then think some more and then read some more. I would encourage you to use your thinking to make a decision. Some people think they are thinking when all they are doing is avoiding a decision. Meeting Jesus, really meeting him, will push you to make a decision about him. Is he actually who he says he is in this gospel? Imagine you are there, one of the twelve listening to him for the first time. Feel his compassion for others. When you have finished John, read it again. Then make a decision about Jesus. You can find hope as you read the stories and hear the teaching. No storm in life is ever the same once you have met Jesus.



Grace & Peace

book-897834_1280The trouble with thinking part 2

Information is so readily available to us. Our technology allows us to gather ideas and thoughts from around the world in an instant. Our minds quickly classify and categorize and filter the information into what we determine is useful and worth reading or considering and what we can simply discard as irrelevant or wrong. For example: We want to know if giving a child a vaccination is safe. So what do we do? We Google the name of the vaccination. More than 200,000 resources become available in less than a second. We quickly filter the articles and determine which ones are worth reading. Where did the filter come from? A conversation with a friend? A pastor? A show from 60 minutes I watched three years ago? The movement in the country that connects vaccinations to autism and has science to prove it? Or the hundreds of scientific studies that prove there is no link? Lots of people have lots to say on Facebook, maybe I should read their comments.

So maybe I should just trust the experts and ask my pediatrician. But maybe the pediatrician is a homeopathic quack or is getting a kickback from the pharmaceutical company. I mean I watch Law and Order and there are some really crazy people out there. The real trouble we have is that we want to have someone else make the decision for us and not actually think it through. In fact, problem solving is a diminishing skill in our specialty driven world: too much noise, too much confusion, too much advice, too much information.

The real trouble with thinking is that we would rather argue or run away or fight. As soon as there is a problem that requires some thought, we polarize it and create good guys and bad guys. This leads not to solutions but to sides and division. Evidence of this is so easy to see and hear. The conversation turns from “we have a problem and need to think our way through it” to “you are a liar and a thief.” Character assassination opposes solutions and thinking. Thinking people know this and get disgusted pretty quickly with it.

On the Apollo 13 mission, there were these famous words, “Houston we have a problem.” Everyone’s mind began to race to find solutions to the problem, and there were lots of ideas. Ultimately, the men on the flight had to make a decision about what to do. They had no time to polarize or elect a decision, no time to vet each other and attack someone’s character. There was no “you were wrong last time this happened.” They had to think, choose, and act. So they did.

There comes a time in a person’s life when they have to think and then decide, and then act. For a while, thinking is good. We have to filter. But remember, the purpose of thinking ultimately is to make a decision that leads to action. So how do I learn to think?

Thinking is a lot like preparing to write an essay. You begin with the problem or the idea. Lay out on the table the options, research all of the options and weigh what you learn, make a decision based on your research. Live out the decision. For me, this is why personal Bible Study is so very important in my life. Over the years I have learned that the Bible provides the answers to all of life’s problems. When I have a problem or a decision to make, I follow the thinking process and lay it all on the table. Inevitably God’s word brings clarity to the decision.