Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Are You Running From God?

Mary Byrne “Beth” Smith is 30 years old, a mother of two children and the wife of Jason Smith, a Baptist pastor in Alabama. In March she traveled with a friend to Bossier City, Louisiana, to attend a Christian women’s conference featuring popular Bible teacher, Beth Moore. For two days she heard Bible lessons about living a life of spiritual victory by growing in faith in God.

Around 11:00 a.m. on March 24 Smith left her friend to go to the concessions stand and never returned. Later that afternoon the friend notified the police that Smith was missing.

Bossier City police used dogs, helicopters, airplanes and boats to search for Beth Smith in the days following her disappearance. An in-store video camera captured her picture in a pawn shop where she had sold her wedding ring. Authorities began to suspect that Smith had fled on her own volition.

Further investigation revealed that she had lost her school teaching position due to failing a drug test. There were reports of erratic behavior.

Monday Smith was finally located in New York State working in a fast food restaurant under an alias. Police have confirmed that it is Beth Smith and at a press conference announced that they did not know why she had run away from her life and family in Alabama because she would not disclose the reasons. She was not arrested nor is she in violation of any law.

Over the next few days we’re likely to find out more about what’s going on in Smith’s life and what led to her bizarre choices. Because I’m acquainted with the pressures of ministry, the stress of raising children, being a pastor’s wife and teaching in the school system I can imagine a story of being overwhelmed and feeling trapped.

Though Smith’s version of a runaway story may be a bit different, in another way it seems like a story that I’ve seen played out hundreds of times. I’ve been blessed to see many men and women find direction, peace, power and sanity as they have connected with God. I’ve also seen many come close, do some life with God and then begin to flee.

God is not a “pill” or “tonic” that makes life easier. God is a Person with whom we have a relationship that is a lot like family. A relationship with God, though dynamic and awesome, is also stressful and stretching. Knowing God and doing life with God brings about scenarios that demand we “grow up” and mature in ways that don’t happen outside of God.

That stirring to life change sometimes feels so uncomfortable to some that rather than persevere with God and experience life at a new level, they run from God and create a lot of distance with God. (See Jonah in the Old Testament)

Do you know anyone running from God? Are you running?

Today I’m praying that Beth Smith can find her way home. I’m praying for you to be “at home” with God.

Monday, July 30, 2007

How Important is God to You?

According to Stephen Spielberg, when Peter Pan grew up he became a self-absorbed, ladder climbing, workaholic baby boomer. So goes the story line of the movie “Hook”.

In some early scenes Peter promises his son numerous times that he would come to see him play in his baseball game. Time and again Peter tries to make it to the game but allows business to interrupt the plan and he misses the games. One time Peter even sends one of his office assistants to the ball game in his place. The movie goes on to depict the tension this creates between Peter and his son.

What do you think about a father who promises his son numerous times that he will come and cheer his son at a ball game and yet never comes? You may think that too much is made of sports these days. I would agree with you but don’t let that observation cause you to miss the point. It could have been a music recital or school play or academic performance. The point is, the ball game was something that was important to the son and the father made and broke promises to be at the games. What do you think about that?

Does that father love his son? Again, be careful about how you answer. Remember, love is primarily NOT a feeling. Love is something that you do. Love is a way of treating someone, caring for someone. Does that father love his son?

Does that father support his son? Support is not just saying, “I’m for you.” Support is being there when someone needs you.

Does that father value his son more than his work? You know what the correct answer is. “Of course he values his son more than his work.” Then why does the work always get the nod before his son does? Why didn’t the dad break business appointments instead of breaking ball game appointments?

You see, next to action words mean very little. I love you. I support you. I value you. These mean very little when your actions declare something else. Can you see that?

That’s enough about movie story lines. Let’s talk about real life. How important is God to you? In light of the analogy above, if you think that God is very important and deserving of your worship and allegiance, how well do your actions line up with your words?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Condition of the Heart

This past college football bowl season I went crazy over the Fiesta Bowl matchup between undefeated but lowly regarded Boise State and perennial power Oklahoma. You can read my post here. It was one of the best games I had ever seen.

After the game I was watching the interviews of Boise State players. One of the players had his arm around a cheerleader and my wife commented, “Why is that cheerleader in the picture? She needs to step away and let the player talk about the game.” I thought it was a pretty funny comment from a former cheerleader.

Then in the next few moments the football player, Ian Johnson, abruptly stopped talking about the game to the interviewing reporter and on national television proposed to the cheerleader, Chrissy Popadics. Wow, what a day for Johnson who had just scored the winning points of the game and won the hearts of romantics all over the nation. Or did he?

Today is the wedding day for Johnson and Popadics in Boise, Idaho. In addition to their invited guests there is security personnel scattered throughout the crowd. Why? Johnson has been receiving threats. Why? Johnson is black and Popadics is white.

Surprised? Keith Anderson wasn’t. Anderson is a former Boise State player who has been married to a white woman for 14 years and has two sons. “When Ian did that on television, every black person I know said, ‘He’s a fool. That boy just asked for trouble.’”

Mamie Oliver, a leader in Idaho’s African-American community and a former professor of social work at Boise State said at the time, “Uh-oh, this is gonna bite him.”

Oliver added, “There’s some people that have the attitude that people don’t have the right to be in love with who they’re in love with. It became the black young man proposing to the white girl. People have baggage and it just caused that stuff to come out.”

Yes, people have “baggage”. But how did they get that baggage? There’s not space to address American history and that of Idaho, the seventh whitest state in the union and something of a haven for white supremacists. In short, people get a variety of broken life experiences packed in their bags (ie: heart) during the living of life. Prejudices, bitterness, envy, and hatred are some of the worst. And the bags tend to open when “triggers” are pulled like a black man proposing to a white woman on television.

Friends, this is why I’m a follower of Christ. Education can’t change the heart. Money and success can’t change the heart. Legislation can help protect us from the sick hearts of others but it can’t change those hearts. But when one becomes a follower of Christ they get a “heart transplant”. A believer receives the heart of Christ in place of his own.

You say, “Wow Scott, I know a lot of Christians that still seem prejudiced. I know some that are just as bitter or greedy as someone who is not religious.”

According to the Bible if a person has truly been born of Christ, then his life will go through a complete transformation. If the transformation doesn’t take place, then that person hasn’t really become a Christian, no matter how religious he is. (See 1 John 3:4-10)

Life transformation is a primary reason that I follow and serve Christ.

I’m praying for a blessed day full of joy and safety for Ian and Chrissy. God bless them in their marriage and life together.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When Trust is Broken

Scandal has rocked the National Basketball Association (NBA), again. Some are now referring to it as the National Betting Association. It was discovered this week that Tim Donaghy (pictured), a NBA official, has been betting on NBA games. At this writing it is not known if Donaghy called games in such a way that the outcome of a game was affected such as who won or what the point spread was. What does seem to be determined is that Donaghy bet on NBA games and passed on important information about the status or condition of key players to gamblers.

NBA Commissioner David Stern commented, “This is the worst situation that I have ever experienced, either as a fan of the NBA, a lawyer of the NBA, or a Commissioner of the NBA.” Stern has been involved in the NBA for four decades.

The NBA front office, teams and fans all put their trust in NBA officials that they will be objective, trustworthy and dependable to work the game so that it is a fair contest and that the better team wins. Donaghy has betrayed that trust.

This story is noteworthy to me this week. I’m not upset over another sport’s related scandal (ie: Michael Vick, Tour de France, PGA, Barry Bonds, etc.). There’s so many of them coming in rapid fire succession it’s getting hard to care.

This story is noteworthy to me because I’ve been involved in a half dozen situations of broken trust in the past four days. I’ve listened to heartaches and held hands and dried tears and prayed for God’s grace. At the moment I have a little “emotional hangover” from those scenarios.

Whether the trust is broken intentionally or with ignorance the result is the same. A life is wounded and a relationship is damaged. So here’s my reflection--
I know that I’m not perfectly trustworthy. I have the potential and power to deeply hurt others if I break trust.
1. Am I more trustworthy today than last year or any other time in my life? If not my life is headed in the wrong direction.

2. What tempts me to break trust? Selfishness? Greed? Lust? Immediate gratification? Carelessness? Am I placing myself in settings that tempt me to be untrustworthy?

3. How hard do I work to rebuild trust? Sometimes one withdrawal from the “trust” account demands several deposits before my bankruptcy can be overcome.

4. Am I growing in my capacity to trust God and trust others? Do I know how to grow in these ways?

The NBA will no doubt seek to disclose the extent of their broken trust and then establish safeguards to minimize the risk of a future breach. But, there is no way that a safeguard can work 100%. So, if there is going to be a NBA there will be risks associated with trust.

God can bring wisdom and discernment to our hearts to safeguard us from broken trust but if we are going to have marriages, friendships, collegial work relationships or community, there will always be risk.

God help us to continue to take risks with trust.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Life Is A Mist

Sunday the Tulsa Drillers were playing the Arkansas Travelers in a minor league baseball game in Little Rock. The Drillers, an affiliate of the Major League Colorado Rockies, experienced an on-field tragedy. First base coach Mike Coolbaugh (pictured) was hit in the head by a line drive foul ball and was killed.

Coolbaugh had played briefly in the Majors and had recently come to the Drillers as a coach. He is survived by his wife and two small children. He and his wife were expecting their third child. My sympathies and prayers are with them and their extended baseball family.

Often when I learn of a sudden and unexpected death like this I’m reminded of the scripture, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14, NIV)

Whether we get thirty-something years or eighty-something years in this world, compared to eternity it is like a mist that appears briefly and then vanishes.

Since we’re not promised tomorrow and we don’t know when our time is up, it behooves us to steward today well. Is there someone that needs to hear that you love them? Is there an act of kindness or generosity that you have felt stirred to do? Do you need to apologize and ask forgiveness from anyone? Is your connection with God what it needs to be?

God will give you grace and power to address the above matters today. I pray that you live today well.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Price of Love

On Saturday I’ll stand at an altar with a young couple as they commit their lives to God and to one another that they will love each other for a life time. After hours or premarital counseling and years of building their relationship this couple is aware more than most that their launch today into the marital adventure will have stormy seas as well as blue skies.

I’ve participated in many weddings through the years. Seldom have I seen a couple this young “get it” to the degree they have. Marriage is a lot of work.

One of the things I do with a couple is administer a temperament analysis that shows the couple visually with a graph where they are similar and where they are different. It is always an interesting exercise but also very sobering. Now we’re looking on a page where the price of love will be paid.

By that I mean, if a woman is very outgoing and social, and a man is very quiet and reserved, that means that the price of their love will be spent in meeting the other in loving ways where it is meaningful. The reserved guy will have to have some very social times if he is going to love his wife well.

Bottom line: love demands life change.

It has changed my life as I have grown to love my wife. There is a way that I like to love and I’m comfortable in giving and receiving love in that way. My wife likes love in ways that are different from me. If I’m going to connect with her where she is I must change. The reverse is also true if she is going to love me well.

The bottom, bottom line: loving Jesus Christ changes your life.

The “marital love” illustration truly paints the picture well of what relationship with Christ looks like. Becoming a Christ follower is not about becoming religious or even a good person. It is about developing a relationship with the Person called Jesus. It is about learning how to receive His love and to love Him well in return. That process changes your life.

The price of love? Life change. The rewards of love? Life change.

Relationship with Christ results in my becoming the person that God dreamed and destined me to become. Life doesn’t get any better than that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Price of Integrity

I love the game of basketball. I have not loved the version that the Seattle Sonics have played the past couple of years. You may be aware that the Sonics now have a new owner, general manager, and coach. We also have said good-bye to our old stars (Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis) and hello to a new star, Kevin Durant.

Picked second in the NBA draft, Durant comes to the Sonics with the potential to be a superstar. That’s why the shoe companies have been pitching a lot of money his way for an endorsement deal.

According to the Seattle Times, Durant was offered $60 million by Nike for a 7 year endorsement deal. Adidas offered $70 million. Either is the second greatest deal ever offered to an unproven rookie. LeBron James signed a $90 million deal with Nike in 2003.

What would you do? I still play basketball two to three times a week and therefore still buy basketball shoes every year or so. Currently I’m wearing Adidas. My last pair was Nike. I like them both. My shoe buying decision always comes down to which shoe is on sale and costs less. I have little brand loyalty when it comes to basketball shoes.

However, Kevin Durant does have a strong preference about shoes. He chose the Nike deal. Why? He said that he had been wearing Nike since the 8th grade. Durant’s agent, Aaron Goodwin said, “It’s more authentic for him” to endorse Nike.

I’m truly impressed and shocked. The brand doesn’t matter to me but it does to him. Durant decided he wasn’t going to say that he liked Adidas best when he didn’t. That’s called integrity, when your outward behavior matches your inward convictions. That integrity cost Durant $10 million.

I’m now a fan of Durant and can’t wait to see more of this kid on the court. But, more than that, I’m challenged to examine my own integrity. Is there a price at which I would compromise a conviction? If so, what is that price and why do I have it?

We face issues and challenges every day with our work, the laws of the land, the IRS, and just simple truth telling with people that we love and some that we don’t like. My prayer is that God would form me on the inside in the likeness of Christ and that I would experience His grace and power to live that on the outside.


Do You Have an Advocate?

ABC News reports that media queen Oprah Winfrey is going to throw a fundraiser in Hollywood for presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Senator Obama has already raised $58 million, a tremendous effort at this point of the race, and the Oprah backing should see great results. Maybe equal to the money will be the value of having the popular TV star cheering for Obama. Oprah has far reaching influence.

Have you recently had someone of influence cheering for you? Has someone been your advocate in a public way?

Tuesday I was part of a panel in a leadership training in a nearby city. The facilitator and main presenter of this gathering of about 50 leaders made reference to me about a half dozen times with glowing remarks. Seriously, the last comment he made I was truly embarrassed. But, at the same time it felt great. You know what I mean?

Seeing the Oprah-Obama story reminded me of the power of advocacy. Do you use your personal influence to advocate for others? Are you a recipient of advocacy?

My prior two posts have carried a courtroom theme. I continue that today with a reminder that all of us will stand before God someday. He will be the Judge. We will be the defendant. And, for those who have chosen to be Christ followers, Jesus will be our Advocate. The Bible tells us that Jesus will speak on our behalf for the forgiveness and mercy of the court and that the Judge will accept Jesus’ advocacy and grant us access to heaven.

Truly, it is great to have an influential Friend.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Is There Enough Evidence to Convict God?

Have you got a list of “Things I never thought I would see?” You may want to add one more thing to the list.

Mircea Pavel, 40, is serving 20 years in prison for murder. In light of his incarcerated life this Romanian decided to sue God for fraud. That’s right. Pavel claims that God abused his trust for failing to answer his prayers. According to the daily Evenimentul Zilei, Pavel filed charges against “the defendant God, who lives in the heavens and is represented in Romania by the Orthodox Church.”

God is accused of “fraud, betrayal of trust, corruption and influence peddling.”

Pavel wrote, “At my christening, I made a deal with the defendant aimed at freeing me from evil. But the latter has not respected that agreement until now, although he received from me various assets and numerous prayers.”

The court in Timisoara, in western Romania, dismissed the case, ruling that “God is not subject to law and does not have an address.”

Though the story sounds silly or maybe even outrageous, do we not audaciously put God “on trial” many times ourselves?

No lawyers or courtroom involved and no press coverage, yet we decide that God doesn’t keep His promises, is unkind, punitive and abandons us in time of need. Therefore we ignore Him at best or insult, even blaspheme Him at worst. Do you find yourself treating God with disbelief or even contempt?

The fact is that God has already been put on trial and found to be guilty…over 2,000 years ago! His sentence was death by crucifixion. Yes, Pilate and lying religious leaders were involved but the Bible makes it clear that God the Father, as Judge, declared God the Son, Jesus to be guilty of traitorous, rebellious sin. Jesus, who had never sinned, became sin as He took our sins upon His shoulders and received our judgment and sentence (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).

That’s why many of us are forever grateful to God. Though He didn’t have to, He had His day in court on our behalf.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Is There Enough Evidence to Convict You?

Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge John Burlew (pictured) was on the bench in April when Eric Hine, 43, of Cincinnati, came before him on a charge of receiving stolen property. Hine’s attorney asked for a low bond, saying Hine had a full time job and was a regular churchgoer. Burlew told Hine that if he could recite the entire 23rd Psalm, he’d let him out of jail with just his signature. Hine recited all six verses.

Someone in California heard about the Judge’s action and filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court. The California activist claimed that the use of the Bible in a court of law was inappropriate. The Supreme Court found that Judge Burlew did nothing wrong. Hine didn’t receive preferential treatment because he was a Christian but rather his quoting of Scripture validated his attorney’s claim.

I was impressed that Hine could recite the entire Psalm. I can paraphrase the entire Psalm but I’m not sure that I would be able to give it verbatim.

I once attended a church that had a large sign up in their activity room that read, “If You Were Arrested For Being A Christian, Would There Be Enough Evidence To Convict You?” That question has stayed with me through the years. Am I so loving, giving, and forgiving that people would conclude, “Oh, he must be a follower of Christ”?

How do people experience and know you? What does the evidence say about your life?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Things We Remember All of Our Lives

Jessica Osborne is a waitress at Pizza Hut. She’s generally cheery and reported to be a nice young lady who takes care of her customers. Recently Jessica’s ordinary day became extraordinary as she worked at the Angola, Indiana restaurant and received a $10,000 tip!

“When I opened it up, I thought maybe I read too many zeroes and I lost my breath,” Osborne told ABC’s “Good Morning America”.

The tip came from regular customers who usually show up on Fridays and order a Meatlovers pizza. Through bits and pieces of conversations over the weeks the family discovered that Jessica didn’t get the financial aid she had hoped for from the local college and therefore wasn’t going to be able to attend.

Becky, the mom of the pizza loving family, felt that they ought to do something to help Jessica. Then tragedy struck. Becky’s husband and daughter were killed in a car accident. Becky was left with a large settlement and thus was able to give the $10,000 tip.

I loved this story of kindness, generosity, disappointment, tragic loss, and good coming from something bad. It occurred to me that Jessica will remember this for the rest of her life. She will be telling her children and grandchildren, not to mention scores of others through the years, about the $10,000 tip she received from the generous family that had also suffered an awful loss.

What has happened in your life that you will remember all of your life? No doubt there are some things that are on the negative side of the ledger. However, on the positive side I’ll always remember John Caldwell caring enough about me as a young 15 year old boy that he came over to my house one Saturday in November to share with me about how to become a Christ follower. Likewise, I’ve told that story hundreds of times through the years. I’ll continue to tell the story until I die.

“Thank You God for the powerful gifts you bring to us through simple yet profound people who are responsive to your promptings.”

Tending to the Soul

Thursday is my day off and I’ve needed to unplug and get away from my normal routine. My wife suggested that we take a drive to Rattlesnake Lake in the Cascades and spend the day sitting in the sunshine on the shore of the lake and just read or talk or nap.

We took a couple of back roads driving in my jeep with the top off. We brought a picnic and literally spent about 6 hours watching waves, listening to birds, hearing the laughter of children playing and swatting a few mosquitoes. I finally got in to the novel I’d been saving for summer and not only enjoyed it but had some “laugh out loud” moments.

My soul is renewed when I can enjoy God’s presence and His handiwork in creation. Today was a long drink of refreshment. I’m grateful.

Do you know what renews and refreshes your soul? Time off or getting away are factors but no guarantee of needed soul care. The essential piece is connecting with God so that He is breathing into your life. It’s called inspiration.

If you know how to go about that, consider today’s post a friendly reminder to tend to your soul. If you don’t know how to care for your soul get with a Christian you trust and learn from his or her example. If you have a resource that would be of benefit to other readers please leave a comment.

God bless you as you live in concert with Him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Prayer Changes Lives

One of the great tools I enjoy is Bible software. For years now I have used Logos software. With a key stroke I can view 6 translations of a biblical text, or check out the Hebrew or Greek words that have been rendered into English, or compare thoughts of several commentators. What used to require a table with 10 books spread all over and a yellow pad I now have in my laptop.

Since I’m on the mailing list for Logos I discovered this morning that they had been vandalized over the weekend. According to the Seattle PI a man had painted Satanic and Nazi symbols all over the building, had replaced regular light bulbs with red ones and had created disturbing drawings and writings throughout the building.

Dale Sadler, 34, was arrested and confessed to the vandalism claiming that Logos should be making all of their materials available to people for free since it was the Bible.

Logos concluded their broadcast email to their customer base with a request for prayer confessing that the whole ordeal had been disturbing to all.

I receive dozens of communications a day from those known to me and not and the greater percentage of them contain some reference to or request for prayer. I believe in prayer and practice prayer and have seen many answered prayers. However, with such a great number of prayer requests, one that comes from a business will often be glossed over. But this one stood out to me.

Several years ago I was serving another church in another state. I arrived at my office one morning to find that someone had thrown a concrete block through my window, entered our offices and vandalized our sacred work space. It was very upsetting to look at all of the damage and then begin the process of cleaning up. After I had given a report to the police I turned to my staff that were all visibly shaken and asked them to join me in praying. I led us in praying for the person who had violated our offices. It seemed to me that anyone who would break in to a church office must have a lot of brokenness in his life.

About 10 years later I was living in Redmond, Washington and serving Meadowbrook Church. I received a phone call from the woman who had been my secretary years before in the other church. She said that the man who had broken into our offices had stopped by on the previous day and asked for forgiveness from the church for his break in. He shared some of his story. He was living a very troubled life at the time with a lot of confusion and anger. Sometime after vandalizing our office he was arrested for another crime and spent several years in prison. In prison he was introduced to Christ, became a Christian and was now going back to people and places that he had wronged in the attempt to make restitution.

My former secretary commented, “I thought you were crazy that morning when you asked us to pray for the person who had violated our office. Part of me knew you were right but I was so upset and angry I didn’t want to. Now to see how God answered that prayer I’m left in awe of God’s ability to change a life and to answer a prayer.”

I’m praying for Logos today, and for Dale Sadler.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Releasing the Past vs. Suppressing the Past

In the comment thread of my last post Sam posed a great question. I made the case that sometimes it is necessary to “bury” something from the past so that we can fully realize necessary change for the present and future. Sam asked how “burying something from the past” differed from having a “buried barrel of toxic waste” which was a comment I made in a talk a few weeks ago.

In short the difference is what is involved in releasing the past versus suppressing the past.

Suppression was the factor that I dealt with as an adolescent and young adult. I had experienced the absence and abandonment of my father, the death of my brother and a tragic loss of a beloved pet and therefore had developed a hidden message on my heart that said, “I’ll never give myself to anyone else. It hurts too much when they leave.”

That message protected me from hurt for some years but as an adult that decision was working against my having closeness in my marriage and with my friends. God began to reveal to me over the course of time through prayer, Bible study and counsel, that my “heart message” was like toxic waste in a barrel that has been buried beneath the ground. The barrel has a small leak and toxicity is slowing oozing and leaking out. The waste is poisoning my relationships and keeping my heart sick.

Therefore, I felt impressed by God to go through a process of unearthing that barrel and properly disposing of the toxic waste (experiences of abandonment and messages of self-protection). That disposal happened with the receiving of truth or a “true message” from God that (a) my abandonment experiences were a result of broken things that happen in a broken world, and (b) I have tremendous worth and value as a person and I am thoroughly loved by my heavenly Father. Putting this “big” issue in my life into the past then became very important for me to be able to move into the future with newly formed trust of significant people in my life.

The result? I’ve grown to be able to have deep and meaningful relationships where others love me well and I love them in return.

This is reason #473 that I am a follower of Christ. Not only did Christ live life better than anyone else who has ever drawn breath, but Christ gives me His power, His grace and His wisdom so that I might live life well also. What a deal.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What to Do When Time to Make a Change?

Is it time for a change in your marriage, parenting, vocation? Part of the process involves having a clear picture of the preferred future (aka, vision). You have to know where you are going and what you want to be true when you get there. You also have to leave behind the past, both successes and failures.

The New Orleans Saints have played a lot of miserable football for decades. Many of us remember the days when fans would sit in the stands wearing paper bags over their heads in embarrassment as they referred to their team as the “Aints”.

Enter a new coach and a few new players and 2006 became their most successful season ever, just when the hurricane ravaged city needed something to cheer about. As the team prepares for the 2007 season they are clear about their vision (win a Super Bowl). They are also clear about how to put the past into the past.

Jim Corbett reports in USA Today that “Instead of resting on their laurels, the Saints laid their laurels to rest under the shaded sideline of their practice field.”

Coach Sean Payton said, “We had a six-piece blues band, a preacher, a coffin, somber music as our players gathered around. We dug a hole in the ground and really put everything from last year in there.”

“We opened the casket and we put all these (replica) trophies in there--Executive of the Year, Coach of the Year, Pro Bowl jerseys--18 items that were put in this casket that represented the 2006 season…That was the last thing we did as a team, put that casket in the ground before breaking.”

This is what the Apostle Paul meant in Philippians 3:13-14 when he said, “…I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God is calling us.” (Note the clear goal/vision and the choice to leave things in the past in the past.)

Need to make a change? You just may also need to have a “funeral” and bury a few things. God is calling you to a new kind of living. Will you answer the call?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy 4th of July

America’s founders faced the dilemma of making room for the expression and practice of faith without religious beliefs being imposed by the government. A secular government can protect and permit freedom of religious expression. But a government that imposes Secularism prevents healthy pluralism.

This 4th I’m saying a prayer of thanksgiving for our nation being a place where there is freedom to experience God and express faith. I’m also saying a prayer that our freedom is preserved.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Reba & Kelly, An Exciting Combination

Channel surfing led me across the current edition of “Crossroads”. It is a television program produced by Country Music Television (CMT) that pairs a country artist with a pop or rock artist. The singers perform each other’s songs before a mostly country audience. I’ve seen it a few times and enjoyed the collaboration.

This week it was the pairing of Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson. I don’t really listen to the songs of either artist though I occasionally hear them on the radio. But, I lingered for a few minutes the other night and I was hooked. As I watched and listened to their performances of several songs and interviews in between I was moved and felt a wave of emotion throughout the program.

When the hour concluded I turned off the TV and reflected. “What just happened here? Why do I feel moved and emotional? Is something going on inside of me to which music merely opened a door?”

Here are my conclusions--
1. I have a great respect for anyone in any discipline that has worked to sharpen their gifts and abilities. These women write the songs that they perform. The vocal range was stunning, crisp and captivating.

2. The song writing was vivid story-telling. Much of the music these days is dependent upon a carefully produced video in order to sell the songs. With the Reba and Kelly songs I found my mind creating mental images to go along with their lyrics, sort of my own video making in my mind.

3. Both artists had a wonderful ability to take a commanding lead on a song and both were able to yield to the other’s lead and provide supportive harmonies. It was refreshing to me to see confidence and humility together.

4. There is a significant age difference between Reba and Kelly. It was obvious that Kelly had been a long time admirer of Reba, loving her songs and learning from her professionalism. And it seemed that Reba adored Kelly as well as celebrated her talent. The image was a contrast to the contemporary generational struggles where the older generation tries to hold on to jobs, influence or power and the younger is seeking to dethrone and make a name for self.

5. Finally, passion and intensity are always moving to me. These women were passionate about their songs and the performances came off whole heartedly.

As I sat in my den with the above thoughts it occurred to me that I had just viewed everything that I long to see and experience in Christians and the church. I long to see Christ followers who will sharpen their gifts, abilities and opportunities and seize the moment. I long to see us tell the “old, old story of Jesus and His glory” with vividness, freshness and power. I long to see respect and collaboration across generations, gender, races and denominations. I long to see passion about the work and mission that Christ has left to His people.

What I long to see in Christians and the church IS happening in many places. God help us to see it become the norm rather than the exception.