Sunday, September 30, 2007

And the winner is...

Jacque! Congratulations Jacque on winning September's drawing. Email me with your mailing address and I'll get the $25 gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond in the mail right away.

And for those of you who absolutely NEED your coffee in the morning, you'll be happy to know that the prize for next month's drawing is a $45 gift card to Starbucks!

Enjoy your day!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Just for Fun

My wife and I recently committed to staying in Pasadena after my graduation because we sensed that God had something in store for us here. And as we have continue to discuss our commitment to stay here we have begun talking about all the sports teams in southern California and figured that we should probably select at least one to support, one we can call "our team." We haven't settled on one team yet, but that didn't keep me from wondering who your team is. So who's YOUR team?

Respond to this post with your favorite sports team (at any level) and I'll enter you into the drawing for a $25 gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond for which the winner will be announced next week. And if you want, you can send me your opinion on which southern California team we should support.

Have a great weekend!

Peace

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When life gives you peanut butter...

Today was just one of those days at work: the kids I work with were extremely disrespectful, the team I serve on was not communicating very well (or at all), and on top of that I kinda got in trouble for doing what I thought was a good thing (getting healthy snacks-apples, raisins, orange juice, etc.-for kids who usually ingest chips, ho-ho's, microwave meals, and sodas all day). So I came to the lunch room feeling a bit frustrated to say the least and the goop that was on the menu didn't help matters at all (we typically label the goop as the "mystery meal" so as to not hurt the feelings of the cook, but seriously, it looks like something I wouldn't feed my dog, and I don't even have a dog!). Yet, something profound happened during the lunch hour.

I was caring for two boys who usually serve as the source for my headaches everyday, and even though they were having a rough morning (being disciplined is never fun is it?), they went to lunch, noticed what was being served, and went straight for the peanut butter jar. "This is not going to be good," I thought to myself, as I knew that a jar of peanut butter could be used for a myriad of things: as a weapon to knock one's brother unconscious or to start a food fight by spooning and flicking it all over the room (these were only two of the immediate thoughts I had). Yet, the boys who had been wreaking havoc all morning surprised me by grabbing the jar of peanut butter, turning toward me, and politely asking me to make them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in as innocent a tone as possible. It was as if all the events of the morning had never happened. They held the jar of peanut butter toward me, wanting my help, without holding any grudges toward me for the way I had disciplined them just minutes before.


So this got me thinking about the things I hold onto for way too long: my frustration, my pain, my mistakes. If I reflect for only a moment on the experiences that caused me this frustration and pain or the mistakes I made I would come to realize that they really aren't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life. In fact, the only reason they carry any significance at all is because I've held on to them for so long. If I had dropped them minutes after they had occurred I think I would have much more hair on my head and a few less wrinkles. This has led me to believe that the greatest hindrance in my life is myself. I often get in my own way by not letting go of the things that should be let go of.


I think Jesus highlights this very thing when he heals a man's withered hand on the sabbath. The religious authorities were so focused on their narrow, insignificant law which did not allow healing to take place on the sabbath that they failed to see the broader potential for the restorative healing of a man's hand and life (Matthew 12:9-14). It's amazing how narrow our focus can become sometimes.


Now the boys were definitely frustrated with me during the morning as I had to discipline them for their bad behavior, yet when they grabbed that peanut butter jar and were looking for help in making sandwiches, everything from the morning was forgotten. They were living in the present, not the past. They had let go of their frustration from the morning and were now solely focused on filling their rumbling stomachs with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And of course, I was honored, humbled, and delighted to turn their expected peanut butter deviance into sandwhiches that would nourish them because doing so was not only good for their stomachs, it was also good for my soul.


So when life gives you peanut butter...make pb & j sandwiches!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More rules

First, thanks for your feedback on the rules you had or have in your family. It's good to hear that I'm not the only one living in a place that has some goofy rules.

Also, I wanted to pass along a link to a recent message given by my pastor in Grand Rapids who I think does a magnificent job spelling out Jesus' approach to the legalistic society of his day. Click here and then download the September 16 message titled "Both Sides of the Cup."

Enjoy!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just for Fun

Oops! I almost forgot to post the Just for Fun question of the day. Since I just finished up a post on rules, lets stick with that topic.

What's one of the strangest/funniest/most stupid rules your parents had as a child or you now have for your children?

And since I know you're curious, the prize for this month's drawing is a $25 gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond.

Have a great Friday!

Rules, rules, rules

An interesting tension has arisen within the team I serve on as we seek to move women and children toward greater wholeness in every aspect of their lives, and the tension is created by two different approaches to bringing about change. The approach most of my team members take is what I call the "rules" approach, which essentially is concerned with establishing and implementing rules with the hope that one day, after enough correction (using a system of reward and punishment), a person will succomb to the pressure of the system of rules put in place and learn to live the "right" way. This is also called "behavior modification." The other approach, one that I call the "love" approach and one that I operate with, is fueled by my experience and conviction that all the rules in the world will never bring about the permanent transformation that a personal encounter with the Creator of our being brings about. Following Jesus is at its core a journey toward greater freedom, not of obeying more rules.

Now I'm not saying that our society shouldn't have some rules-stopping at red lights is good as well as keeping all your stamping stuff in your room (one my wife really appreciates being reminded of!)-yet I think that having too many rules only breeds a lifestyle of legalism. And when many people within one region begin to take on the same legalistic lifestyle, a legalistic culture develops, which I think is perhaps one of the intended targets of Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30 where he says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." It appears that Jesus is contrasting the life of God (centered on freedom) with the life of the Pharisees (essentially centered on following rules-and they have a lot!).

A friend of mine recently told me something I think is deeply profound. He said, "Sometimes we try so hard to get close to God that we actually end up further away from him." What he was getting at is that the life of a Christian should be about embracing the love and grace of God as a gift, not trying to earn God's love, mercy, acceptance, etc. in whatever ways religion comes up with. Now I'm sure you've heard things along the lines of, "If you would only pray more, then you would feel the presence of God" or "If you would only give more then you would experience God's blessing." While those things sound good, they're not all that biblical. Rather than finding people who follow the rules well enough to earn God's love, grace or blessing what we find in the Scriptures is a bunch of people who according to the religious leaders of the day did not deserve God's blessing (the "sinners" and "tax collectors") but who experienced the favor of God and embraced it as a gift, not as compensation.

So what does it mean for you that Jesus' burden is light? Has following him been a journey toward greater freedom, closer relationships, increasing patience, and deeper trust in your Creator? Or has religion (and all its rules) gotten in the way of the life Jesus graciously offers you every morning you awake-a life of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8)? My prayer is that you will become people who ignore all the rules religion has asked you to obey and who learn to embrace more deeply the life God offers us-his own life.

Happy journeying!

Peace

Friday, September 14, 2007

Celebration

Late last night I finished a research paper which was the last requirement I had to meet in order to complete my seminary degree. Yeeeaaaahhh! My wife and I are truly overjoyed and we can't wait to celebrate this accomplishment this weekend.

While it's not the greatest accomplishment of my life, the completion of my degree is definitely high on the list, which leads me to the first Just-for-Fun question for September (I have yet to determine the prize. But trust me, it'll be good!)

What has been your greatest accomplishment in life?

Feel free to share anything you have taken great pride in and have a fantastic weekend.

Peace!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Regret and Celebration

I apologize to all my faithful readers for the lack of blog content the past couple weeks. The Internet was supposed to be installed last weekend when we moved but got postponed until this past Tuesday when it got postponed again (making my wife and I extremely frustrated with the cable company whose name I will not share-but it rhymes with "barter"! LOL). So with all that I've had the misfortune of being offline for the last 10 days or have not had a chance to post anything exciting, the least of which should have been the winner of last month's Just-for-Fun drawing. But it just so happens that just minutes ago the drawing took place and the winner of the $45 Kohls gift card is the person behind the screenname leenda. Congralutions leenda! Please email me with your mailing address so I can send you your prize.

The Just-for-Fun questions for September will begin next week. But if you want to submit a comment or just say hi, you're welcome to do that. Hopefully we'll have all our boxes unpacked by the middle of next week.

Have a great weekend!

Peace