Celebrating Ordinary

   
 
I’m on the long journey home today, flying from Singapore & landing a mere 5hours after the departure of my first flight (it’s the time change thing that turns today into a 37hour day). I have seriously enjoyed my time in Singapore, making new friends, ministering in new churches, exploring & learning – all things I enjoy. 
But I have an ache in my heart for home, what’s familiar & ordinary. I’m looking forward to opening my refrigerator to make a grocery list for the week. I want to be with my church friends on Wed night, worshipping with them & nestling into God’s Word together. I’m eager to be with my family, hold hands, make goofy faces & hear about their weekend. I’m looking forward to finding my car in the airport parking lot & hoping the alarm doesn’t inadvertently go off when I open the door. And a hamburger with double pickles, no onions would be nice as well ,)

Jesus, the Son of God, came into our ordinary living, did the skin thing with us & didn’t just live for the next surge, thrill or rush. Seems like Jesus probably liked the ordinary in human living & not just the exciting 🙂

What Bugs You?

There are things that get under my skin & there are things that BUG me. I get agitated when people tailgate me, I don’t like it when my family leaves a dirty knife on the counter & I don’t like that my car’s alarm goes off randomly. These things are annoying. But in the grand scheme of things, it BUGS me that we withhold our love because someone doesn’t believe like we do. It BUGS me that we use religious jargon to manipulate & even shame people. It BUGS me that I can sometimes be the same hypocrite that I judge someone else to be. 
It doesn’t bother me that my nails haven’t been manicured in countless years. It doesn’t stress me out that I wear wool socks to keep warm in the Winter & I’m not jittery that my clothes don’t always match well 🙂

Let’s keep the Main Thing the main thing 🙂

more Jesus please

I like alot of things:  snowboarding, swimming, coffee, travel, family, chiliquiles, pho, rain, friends, reading, sleep, etc.  But I can also overdose on all of these things – too much family, too much travel, too much reading, too much pho, etc.  But I have yet to find the limit of my appetite for genuine Jesus and in actual truth, I can’t seem to get enough of Jesus.

A strategy that helps me with getting more of Jesus in my life is being more integrated with Jesus.  Here are some ideas for integrating Jesus into our daily living more:

  • family – there are lots of times when I learn lessons about Jesus and have ample space to ask for Jesus to help me in relating constructively with my kids and husband
  • serving – I’m always blown away by how closely I feel connected to Jesus when I serve others (not to be noticed, validated or repaid), like some of our work with Saving Moses
  • praying – in my thinking, prayer is a two-way conversation with God and this can be happening all the time throughout any day;  I need this
  • watch – looking for Jesus and paying attention to Him helps me be more aware and attentive to Jesus’ involvement in my daily living

It’s Important to be Successful

In contrast to success, I don’t think any of us purposefully set out to fail or enjoy defeat. Indeed, the word, “defeat” causes me to recoil & evokes a gagging reflex in me. Truth be known, I’d rather not try & avoid defeat than to try & feel defeated – operative word, “feel”. 

How we feel & what we think about success is really important to consider because our thinking & feeling affect what we do & even how we organize our priorities. Let me suggest to you that we humans tend to frame success in the terms of results but maybe God frames success in different terms. Perhaps obedience is more important to God than results. Is it possible that God defines success as obedience more than results?  

Just some food for thought 🙂

hot topic: Memorial Day

Memories are important ingredients for learning & sometimes the lessons we apply from various memories aren’t very helpful.  For example, I remember an occasion as a kid when my dad came home from a later afternoon walk with our new puppy & my dad was sobbing & totally busted up.  I could barely figure out through his broken words & tears that our new puppy had been run over by a car & was dead.  My dad explained that our puppy had darted in front of a car into a busy street during rush hour traffic and was run over.

To this day, the place where my dog was hit still has negative associations for me & I find myself subconsciously avoiding that intersection.  That negative memory has shaped my behavior & I’d venture to guess that you may have some similar memories that shape your current behaviors & values.

I think it’s super important that our experiences and memories teach us valuable take aways, but let’s be sure that we choose the right lessons.

Some important memory lessons could include:

  • mistakes and failures are merely practice and lessons for some great success, likely just around the corner
  • communion: Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  – may we never forget the infinite love Jesus expressed in His sacrifice for us
  • forgiveness – practice makes perfect
  • fond memories can be helpful motivations for endurance & perseverance 🙂
  • don’t forget the babies of prostitutes (the least of these) who need genuine love 🙂

keep it perky

Truth be known, I’m not a Mon morning fan & when I taught high school, I used to think that hell would be made up of perpetual Monday mornings.  So on that happy note, let’s think about some really awesome things to keep our Monday perky & uplifting:

  • God’s love is continuous & reliable
  • Life is about exploring God’s love for us throughout each day
  • nothing we do or don’t do can make God love us less
  • we can trust God to work in our lives to bring about good things as we stay in love with God & true to God’s purposes for us
  • God is in control, full stop

🙂  Have an awesome Monday!

winning

FinishLine   I love to win & I hate to lose – in pretty much everything.  So I automatically like all of the Bible verses that talk about me winning, being victorious, more than a conqueror, etc.  On the opposite end, the Bible verses that talk about sacrifice, losing my life, crucifixion, pain, . . . . these aren’t nearly as appealing to me as the winning verses.  But life seems to have both the winning and losing experiences wrapped into each day:  driving, competing at work / school, controversial conversations, competing against myself, etc.

I think that it can feel much better to win than lose, but let me throw out a few perks that can happen from losing:

  • losing can reveal our character when we might be at our lowest
  • empathy seems to grow better when we lose rather than win
  • winning can be sometimes be an impediment to connecting with someone
  • losing can be a place where strength, endurance and roots can grow
  • sometimes humility grows better in the soil of losing more than winning

Please don’t take this blog to mean that losing is everything.  On the flipside, winning isn’t everything either.  Maybe “everything” boils down to genuine love 🙂

#selah

Just say NO!!!

There are lots of things in our lives that we should affirm.  It’s super great to be positive and optimistic.  It’s also really helpful to say, “yes” to job promotions, good grades at school, kind offers from friends and unexpected blessings from random sources.

There are, nevertheless, several things that need to always require a “NO” reply.  Here are a few ideas:

  • doubt:  pre-decide that doubt always gets a “no” answer and faith always gets a “yes” answer
  • unforgiveness:  meditating about hurtful words and actions done by others should get a consistent “no”
  • mean actions & words:  give yourself “no” permission to react hatefully or with snarky words to someone else’s mean behaviors or libel
  • insecurity:  sometimes a simple mental “no” is enough to jolt us out of that destructive thinking pattern laced with the poison of insecurity
  • destructive behaviors:  let’s be certain that we’re consistently saying “no” to addictive patterns, an undisciplined lifestyle, debilitating relationships, poor eating habits and unproductive usage of time, to name a few suggestions

What else should we be saying “no” to in our lives?  I’d love to read your thoughts & wisdom 🙂

Hot Topic: Stress – the Good & Bad

If you live in America, the deadline for filing our taxes is next week.  Maybe that’s kind of stressful for you.  If you’re a pastor or highly committed church volunteer, you probably just survived a stressful season called Easter.  Some of the upcoming events and holidays might have some stress potential for you – Mother’s Day & Graduation / Commencement.  Despite our best efforts, I don’t think that any of us can immunize ourselves from stress.  But how we deal with stress is a different issue & there’s some potential for good outcomes with stress.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • relax & take a deep breath:  I’m learning from my physical therapy from shoulder surgery that getting tense & uptight doesn’t help my muscles.  When I relax & trust the therapist (aka Helper), we make better progress
  • let stress put some fuel and motivation in your efforts:  Sometimes I need deadlines and pressure to help me be more productive – smile 🙂
  • the lifestyle question:  stress as a lifestyle is entirely unhealthy and can cause us to make poor decisions in our health, relationships, priorities and time management;  consider that you might be addicted to stress and maybe it’s time to actively choose peace over stress  #selah

cheater lessons

Here’s the honest truth: without hair dye, I’m easily 60% grey.  To keep the grey at bay, I need to get my hair dyed at least every 6weeks or I start to look like a skunk with my roots growing out.  So my recent problem is that I haven’t been able to see my superhero hair stylist.  As such, I tried to buy some time with a box of cheater dye from Walmart, which apparently had expired because my hair is now various shades of purple, red, brown and even some pink, depending on your angle of observation.  All of these shades can be humorous to the observer, but not as funny to me 🙁

So here are my cheater lesson take aways:

  • there’s no substitute for professional help – this includes letting the Holy Spirit be our Professional Help 🙂
  • it’s healthy to admit mistakes and laugh at one’s self – valuable lessons in humility
  • I’m far more sympathetic with other’s mistakes when I can’t disguise or hide my own shortcomings & failures 🙂
  • cheating & shortcuts most often become expensive long cuts, so to speak 🙂

3 Important Things About Love

I know that Valentine’s Day was Sunday, but I’ve been musing about love & what that means for us with God. So here are a few things for your consideration:
*Measure – in our human experience, we unknowingly measure everything, maybe because we are finite. But genuine love has no measures – no start, no stop, no ground, no lid, no wall nor limit. Genuine love is immeasurable
*Pleasure – genuine love is very pleasing to not only the recipient but also the Giver; we bring God great pleasure because we are God’s treasure
*Treasure – you are God’s supreme treasure; you are so highly valuable to God, that He sent His one & only son to die in your place so that you & I could walk in daily sweet communion & fellowship, reminiscent even of the Garden of Eden God taking a stroll with Adam.
You are God’s pleasure & treasure with no measure 🙂

Hot Topic: Chopping off heads

Over the weekend, the news reported that IS (ISIS) chopped off the heads of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians because they were Christians. Unfortunately, the IS agenda is to kill anyone who doesn’t agree with their religious / political agenda. While I’m extremely outraged at the actions of IS, I shouldn’t be surprised by these actions. In the broad scope of history, it happens fairly often (depending on the country) that Jesus’ followers get persecuted & martyred. Before Jesus was crucified, He told us that this stuff would happen, but it’s unsettling nonetheless.
Here are some take aways:
*being a follower of Jesus doesn’t immunize us from hardship nor persecution.
*how we treat people who persecute us is very important – Jesus talked clearly about turning the other cheek.
*lets pray for our family of believers throughout the world that the Holy Spirit would help us to be strong & faithful followers of Jesus.

Losing things

Seems like I’ve been losing things lately – lost my wedding ring on Sun (found it), lost a book I’ve been reading, lost a water bottle in Cambodia last week & I’m sure there are some other things I’ve lost lately that I can’t recall at the moment. Nevertheless, losing things can be mildly unsettling to very disturbing so this kind of losing adventure is never in my top 3 fun experiences.
But, we there are a few things that we absolutely MUST LOSE. We must lose:
*critical & judgmental outlooks & attitudes – Paul says in Ephesians 4 that our words should build up each other
*deception – Jesus tells us in John 14 that the Helper (Holy Spirit) will guide us into truth; following the Helper means that we must lose deception
*insecurity – knowing that we are infinitely loved without condition by the Triune God doesn’t give us space to hold onto insecurity
Any other suggestions about things we should lose?
Have an awesome Wednesday!

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Is God a Vending Machine?

This sounds like a rhetorical question to which we automatically reply, “No!” But if we look at our actions & how we treat God, maybe we treat God like a vending machine: please answer my prayers, make my life comfy, give me the money & significance that I want, fix everything & I’ll pay You for Your services with possibly church attendance, tithing or at least a tip for good service – OUCH!!
This morning I read Jer 7:27 & God told Jeremiah to speak to the Israelites even though they wouldn’t listen. So here’s something to consider: do we obey God for the results or from being faithful to our relationship? Let’s not treat God like a vending machine 🙂

Hot Topic: I have a dream!

Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day!  In the US, today is a national holiday to honor Dr Martin Luther King Jr, a great leader in the Civil Rights Movement who was tragically assasinated in the prime of his life.  He’s famous for lots of things, but one of the things I love most about what we know of Dr King today is his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Despite facing atrocious, violent & barbaric opposition, Dr King persevered and overcame racial hatred, not with escalated violence, barbaric behavior & atrocious activism, but rather through exposing hatred, acrimony and injustice by contrasting behaviors and examples.  I think in each of us, God has placed a dream for something far greater and more powerful than our current living.  The dream that God has put in each of us is the beginning of something thoroughly divine, powerful and revolutionary.  If you can see the invisible, you can do the impossible – full stop.

Admit it!!!

The Bible is filled with people who didn’t want to admit their failures, weak spots, shortcomings & downfalls, starting with Adam who deflected his blame for eating the forbidden fruit to Eve.  When God confronted Cain, Adam & Eve’s son, about his sinful intentions toward his brother Abel, Cain also tried to wiggle out of the confrontation with the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  I could keep going with lots more examples (Aaron, Saul, Judas, etc) but my point is that by not owning their garbage & getting honest with God about their junk, they painted themselves into an ineffective and opaque corner.  Each of them had lots of potential but their potential was compromised from their lack of honesty.

The counter-examples are equally as powerful.  Consider David, after his downfall with Bathsheba and how he owned his garbage in Psalms 51.  While they lost the child that came from the affair, let’s also consider that their next child, Solomon, was the king of Israel during it’s most powerful time in history.  If you think about Paul in the New Testament, he’s the guy that said he was the chief of sinners in 1Timothy 1 and how the grace of God was powerful enough to change him, who was a very fallen and love-less man.  Paul was tremendously & powerfully used by God after he humbled himself and let God change his heart.

For each of us, let’s sidestep the denial and deception trap and live in synch with the Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus calls the Spirit of Truth 🙂

contaminated water bottles

My husband went skiing this morning & just before he left, he asked if we had any un-contaminated water bottles.  The backstory on this is that I’ve had a cough for more than a week and have germified all of our water bottles.  I did some quick hygiene work (soap & boiling water) so he could take a few water bottles with him, contamination free ,)

All that is to say that sometimes we drink out of contaminated water bottles, figuratively speaking, when we pick up garbage from other people.  Here are some examples:

  • when someone is having a bad day & they do / say something rude to you, when you dish back their cranky there’s a good chance you drank from a contaminated water bottle
  • if you pick up a friend’s offense from a situation or conversation they describe to you, there’s a good chance you drank from a contaminated water bottle
  • if you bring a failure expectation into a current opportunity, there’s a good chance you drank from a contaminated water bottle
  • if you secretly hope that a person fails because you’re jealous, there’s a good chance you drank from a contaminated water bottle

There are lots of other examples for consideration, but let’s always remember to daily practice Prov 4:23, guarding our hearts, so we don’t let contamination get into our bloodstream or life 🙂

Hot Topic: massacre in Paris

Yesterday, 12 journalists at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris were killed by radical Muslims. The news is full of details about this massacre, the motives for the slaughter & the subsequent manhunt to find the guilty individuals. There’s a large outcry against this atrocity, particularly from Western nations to say nothing of the journalism community who herald the cause of freedom of speech.
Here’s what gets me: the rationale for this massacre is based on the premise that this magazine said offensive things related to Islam so several Muslim men believed they were justified to reply to such insults with large scale murder. In essence, if you say something offensive enough to me, my extreme behavior is a justified response to your insults.
This kind of thinking doesn’t square with Jesus’ teachings about being insulted & turning the other cheek. While we are horrified with what happened yesterday, let’s be careful that we don’t pay back insults for insults 🙂

Puking in the car

Well, of course life has many exciting twists & turns with unexpected surprises, some good & others not as much. The wonderful part of the not so good surprises is that it’s a chance to look for the silver lining.
For example, on the way to the mountains for a family ski day, one of the kids puked in the car & one of the headlights on my car is burned out. So as we were looking for a gas station to clean up the puke, low & behold, across the street from the gas station is a battery & light bulb shop – thereby killing two birds with one stone, puke cleaning & bulb replacing.
Maybe when Jesus was born & there wasn’t any room in the Inn, maybe the silver lining was that a baby in a manger was much easier to find for the shepherds than a normal situation. Silver lining my friends 🙂
And like I said yesterday, Jesus take the wheel

presents and presence

I haven’t wrapped a single Christmas present yet & a few years ago, I didn’t wrap any until 11pm on Christmas Eve – what was the point in that?!???  I don’t think I’m generally a procrastinator, it’s just tricky to remember & find time.  Maybe this year, I’ll wrap our presents soon, maybe.  One question worth a little consideration is what will you & I be giving Jesus this year, to celebrate His birthday.  It seems kind of counterintuitive to give everyone but Jesus a present on Christmas, the day when we celebrate His birth 🙂

So going with the 5 Love Languages idea, here are some gift suggestions for Jesus:

  • affirmation – take some moments to sing one of your favorite praise / worship songs  directly to Jesus or make a brief list of reasons why you love Jesus and tell Him
  • touch – consider giving someone a hug that would appreciate that;  sometimes when we touch someone with genuine love it’s a nice way to communicate genuine love to Jesus (when you do this to the least of these, you’ve done it to Me – Matt 25:40)
  • gifts – think about giving a coat, hats, mittens, socks, etc to a homeless shelter or discretely helping a needy family in your church, maybe make an extra donation to a charity (Saving Moses is awesome – smile)
  • service – every church has extra services, usually, to support the Christmas season:  consider volunteering a little extra to share some love 🙂
  • quality time – consider dropping by a park and taking a brief walk with Jesus or waking up maybe 10min earlier just to give Jesus your presence, which is possibly the ultimate present He desires 🙂
  • coffee – that’s all I have to say on this one ,)

Merry Christmas!