It’s So Monday…

Mostly I write my blogs in the early mornings. Like today, it’s 6:00 AM and I’m writing about writing in the early mornings. Excellent, that’s already 28 words. 

cups-coffee-kitchen

I’m in my favorite coffee house, which officially opens at 6:00 but they let me in at 5:55.  The ambience is good. The music eclectic, like the chocolates, I never know what I’ll get. I like it here, this place makes me feel like a real writer, so I’m writing. Oh, and the coffee is excellent. 

coffee cup

 I’ll also begin capturing thoughts for next Sunday’s sermon. The funny thing about delivering sermons for a living is that no matter how it went on Sunday, a home run or a strike out, come Monday morning it starts all over again.

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In an average year, I’ll deliver 48 sermons to my church. I’ll teach 48 Sunday morning bible classes. I’ll teach 25 times on Wednesday nights. I’ll officiate 3 weddings and 8 funerals, although this year I have already conducted 11 funerals. I’ll speak for three to five other churches. I’ll attend 100-120 meetings and will provide counseling for a couple dozen people. We have a professional counseling ministry in our church, so I don’t do as much as I used to. I’ll have 96 breakfasts and 126 lunches with various church members for a variety of reasons. And there will be some other stuff too. 

Odd, it’s only 6:30 and I feel tired. 

It occurs to me that there really isn’t a message in this blog. 

So let me wrap up with something worthwhile. 

We are living our lives, doing our work, and taking care of business. But let’s take a moment to recognize that each day each of us has opportunities. The opportunity to smile at someone, to offer a kind word, and maybe to provide a thankless service. We have the opportunity to pray, anytime we want, for God runs the prayer channel, all prayers all the time, 24/7. We can read his love letter all we want, over and over, for God so loved the world he gave the Word just for us. 

So have a good week, be strong in the Lord, make your days count. Be awesome.

Shalom!

 

Cats, Candy, & Controllers

Cats

My son told me about a question he asked someone at church this morning. “How much weight can you lift?” The reply was, “I don’t know how much weight I can lift, but I can lift a lot of cats.”

kittens

Candy

My wife bought some dark chocolate, salted caramels. Yes, that’s right, I said dark chocolate. I can’t stand dark chocolate, its bitter and horrible. But I do like salted caramels. 

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Controllers 

 Last night we were talking about a Hunger Games movie, Mockingly, Part 1. We had seen it, or thought we had, we couldn’t remember. So I got the TV controller and pulled up our Amazon Fire TV and Netflix accounts. Turned out we had bought and downloaded the movie, watched about half of it, then never finished it. I have no idea. 

remote

 Observations

When it comes to lifting things, it’s easier if it’s something I like. I don’t care for cats, so lifting a basket of them would be egregious. But for those who do, then a basket full of cats would be easier to lift than a basket of bricks of comparable weight. 

I’ll put up with things I don’t like if it leads me to something I do like. The agony of dark chocolate is more bearable once I get to the salty caramel. My love for the salted caramel exceeds my disdain for the bitter chocolate. 

I’m slowly moving towards middle age defectiveness. I can’t remember ordering the movie. I can’t remember watching the first half. I have no idea what happened. It was weeks ago. 

Lessons Learned

1. God wants me to carry the burdens of others. Jesus wants me to carry the load of those exploiting me due to my faith. Some days the burden is cute baby kittens. Some days it’s a basket full of grief and heartache. Lesson: Carry it anyway. 

2. How much sin will I commit to get to something I want?  The momentary pleasure of wrong things always comes at a price, for there is bitterness in the deceitfulness of sin. Do I justify the bitterness to gain a small measure of pleasure?  Lesson: Live honorably. 

3. I need to finish what I start, not forgetting, and not procrastinating. Have my godly intentions dissolved? My relationship with God shouldn’t exist like land half plowed, with the plow abandoned in the field. Lesson: Finish the work.

Shalom

My Great Old Car

I got my first car in 1973. I was 16 and working hard to make the Honor Roll. Why? Because in our small town the students making the HR got their names in the paper. I think my parents liked the idea of my name being in the paper, for the awards, not the other stuff.

Dad’s deal was simple: if I made the Honor Roll then I got a car. It wouldn’t be new, or fancy, or anything close to what I wanted. However, it would work and it would be mine. Deal. 

At the semester’s end, my name was in the paper. I came home after school and there was Dad to congratulate me and to shake my hand. The car keys were in his hand. I was the newest owner of a 1961 Chevy Bel Air, four door sedan, with several katrillion (not a real word) miles. But it worked and it was mine. I was proud of it.

bel aire

A year later I sold it, added the money to my car fund and bought a better car, a 1964 Impala Super Sport. 

1964 Impala SS 2

It’s funny about cars. Early in 2009 I bought a 2008 Toyota that was less than a year old.  It had low miles, leather seats, and some really nice features and add-ons. I felt great driving it, my spirit was lifted and my ego was boosted. But somewhere in 2013 I began to grow tired of it. In 2014 I got the wandering eye and began noticing other cars. Last  year, in 2015, I began looking at new cars. Now, in 2016, Im giving serious thought to buying one. After all, the Toyota is about to turn 150,000 miles. 

Yep, going to get me something new and shiny and cutting edge. Something to lift my spirit and boost my ego. It’s a new car for Rick. No, it won’t be wildly expensive and it probably won’t be European. But it won’t be an Honor Roll car either.

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However, my car really does run fine. In fact, the engine runs fine most of the time and almost everything else works fine almost all the time. 

You know what? I’m starting to rethink buying a new one. Maybe I’ll keep it and drive it for another year to two. Maybe my spirit doesn’t need lifting. My ego is probably boosted quite enough already. 

Great decision Rick! Way to go.

Excuse me, but I need to get my car to the dealer. Some warning lights came on and something just stopped working. Maybe I’ll look at some cars while they fix it. 

Shalom.

Weekend Welcome

It’s 2:30 in the afternoon, central standard time. Which means it’s nearly Friday night which means it’s almost the weekend.

Many of you will go out tonight. You’ll eat in restaurants, go see a movie, stroll around in the mall, or even do some shopping. Others will stay in, order a pizza, and watch a movie. Some will play games, play with the kids, or just hang out with fiends. 

Young people will have dates tonight; and maybe even tomorrow night! They will soon be getting ready, excited, nervous, especially for those on the first date. Are they wondering if it will go well, or will it not? Actually, it’s a miracle any of us managed to get married. 

Some of you will go out to clubs and bars. You will drink and socialize, maybe dance and flirt, or maybe more. Some of you will get drunk, or stoned, or high. Some will be looking for things to do afterward. And some of you who are going to do these things are Christians, believers in Jesus Christ, hence the name Christian.

Didn’t somebody sing a song about it being pay day and getting drunk and somehow turning in to somebody important? Oh well. I can’t remember. Seems kind of pitiful.

Well, I’m not blogging to judge, lest I be judged, for I too am a sinner. But wearing the name of Christ should mean something to us. It should shape our values, streamline our activities, restrain our desires, and cause us to think some holy thoughts. Don’t you think?

Have a good weekend. Choose integrity, good character, and good decisions. 

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Make Jesus proud.

Not Even Jesus…

prima donna
Prima Donna, the Lead Female Singer

Do you know what a Prima Donna is? A PD is the principal female singer in an opera company, that’s the first definition. The second one needs a bit of caution, for it’s less attractive and most unflattering. Here it is: 

“A temperamental person; a person who takes adulation and privileged treatment as a right and reacts with petulance to criticism or inconvenience.”

Was Jesus ever irritated and reactive towards someone for some trifling offense? To the contrary, Jesus grieved over people, even those who rejected him. From Luke 13:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

In Luke 19, Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only  known on this day what would bring your peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.'”

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Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall at Night

 Jesus wanted only to wrap his divine arms around the city, to gather its people to his loving heart, and to grant them peace. But they were unwilling.  

Even our Lord and King, the co-creator of the universe, didn’t always get what he wanted. What he wanted most was to save, to heal, and to bless. He yearned to serve, to give, and to help. But many rejected his gifts of grace, still, Jesus wasn’t a petulant Prima Donna

I’m writing today because of the pain and suffering of friends.They are hurting and wishing they could turn back time, change the past, and orchestrate a different future. Sounds great, but they can’t, and they know. Today, they don’t get what they want. 

It’s comforting knowing that my Messiah coped with disappointment. Perhaps there is no heavier burden than wanting something for someone more than they want it for themselves, like Jesus and Jerusalem. How horrible would it be to watch a loved one die because they refused to take the cure you held in your hand? But that’s exactly what happened to Jesus every day of his life.

He didn’t always get everything he wanted. Not everything went his way and not everyone said yes.

You know what? It’s the same for me. So how do I respond? Prima Donna or Jesus? 
Shalom.

Speak Now Or Forever…

No, this isn’t a blog about archaic wedding questions posed by antiquated acolytes. It’s about speaking up when the occasion calls for it. For some, any occasion is right for speaking up, and they often do it rudely. We know who they are. For others, the right occasion has never arisen. They aren’t confrontational, they don’t like conflict. For them, there is no occasion that’s right for speaking up, nor will there ever be.

coffeeSo here is the thing. I was standing in line at a coffee place, waiting to order. There was only one person in front of me, which was pleasing, since there are often many. But the one person wasn’t doing well. A beverage was ordered but the patron required further assistance; and about what I never figured out. The gross tonnage of things I fail to figure out would stun a twenty mule team in its tracks. But finally, after twelve minutes of waiting that was probably only three, it was my turn.

I knew what I wanted and I wanted them to hurry, so I quickly made my order, gave my name, and stepped to the pick up counter. This wouldn’t take long, I thought. It did. Finally, I sat down to play with my phone anticipating my name being called any moment. It wasn’t. After twenty minutes it occured that there was a problem. So I asked if the beverage for Rick was nearly finished. It wasn’t. Actually, it hadn’t even started.

I was feeling righteous about being unrighteous. I was about to give a piece of my mind, something they were sure to dread. Then this happened next. The person meeting me for coffee encouraged me to back off, take a seat, and be quiet. I did. I don’t know what my friend said, but it worked. In record setting time our beverages were hand delivered. They were extra good, and two sizes larger than what I had ordered.

The moral of the story is this. It’s a good thing to speak up when the occasion requires it. But it’s never good to be grouchy, snippy, or rude. Those things Jesus never did.

The person behind the counter didn’t do it on purpose, she wasn’t being lazy or neglectful. It was an accident. I really enjoyed my extra large beverage and had a lovely conversation with my friend.

Shalom.

What’s Your Sign?

original

It’s a question people asked in the 70’s, “Hey man, what’s your sign?” It was a reference to the astrological chart and was a pop-culture phenomenon that lasted about 15 minutes. The question was a way of breaking the ice in new acquaintances and also served as a cheesy pick up line. For those who believed in astrology, it carried deeper weight.

For Jesus, a sign was a miracle performed with a message. The miracle itself revealed a truth or established confirmation. A miraculous sign was a divine reference point, it pointed people in the righteous direction of God. 

In Luke 11, Jesus spoke about two signs: the sign of Jonah and the sign of the Son of Man. Both were resurrection references. Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish and then deposited on the Mediterranean beach. For Jesus it was three days in the tomb and then raised to life again. For both, it was the coming out alive part that was the sign.

Jesus was teaching people with closed minds. Worse, they sought to discredit him by questioning his miracles and accusing him of using demonic powers. They had cold hearts of hardened stone.

Some people wouldn’t believe even if a dozen angels lifted them up and flew them around. The dead could be raised right in front of their eyes and they still wouldn’t believe. Rivers could run backwards, mountains topple, and the sky turn purple, it wouldn’t matter. They don’t want to believe. 

By the way, what is your sign? Are you grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Is your faith resting like granite on the power of the empty tomb? Do you have an unwavering, unswerving, unimpeachable confidence that Jesus walked out of Golgotha?

We all struggle at times, have moments of doubt, and even question God’s will. But we have an anchor that holds firm and fast, an anchor chained to our faith, it’s our eternal sign. For we know that whatever dark forces affect us; and however hard, confusing, and painful they may be, that we are going to survive and thrive.

How do we know this?

“For up from the grave he arose with a mighty triumph o’re his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.”

Do you believe?

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Saturday

Do you love Saturday? Do you look forward to it all week long? Is it your favorite day of the week? Here are a few thoughts about Saturdays, actually, here’s eight of them.

1100_story_Family_Fitness

Shout hallelujah, its Saturday!

Apply yourself to the possibilities: ride bikes, blow bubbles, go to the beach.

Take the kids to the zoo, a movie, to a park, or just play in the yard.

Understand the power of a day off. Turn off your phone, computer, and TV.

Remember how to have fun and go have some.

Decide that today is going to be your best day ever.

Art, music, museums, theaters, concerts, plays, musicals…..

You have an opportunity to do something special, go for it.

family blowing bubbles

Saturdays are gifts. Enjoy the gift of today!

Shalom

family on beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Much From So Little

Words and Letters

books

Google says there are 129,864,880 books that have been published.

How can millions of books, written in English, come from just 26 letters? The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary includes entries for 171,476 words in current use, 47,156 obsolete words, and around 9500 derivative words. So about 225,000 words from 26 letters, amazing.

 

Songs and Notes

music

A different source suggests that there are 623,162,727 known songs in the world and roughly 46,000,000 that have been recorded and published.

How can millions of songs be written from just 12 notes in the octave scale?

So Much From So Little

It’s an unbelievable amount of books and songs; and all of them from just a few symbols. We say things like, “Big things come in small packages.” And this one, “The million mile journey begins with the first step.” How about this old chestnut, “Yard by yard its too hard, but inch by inch it’s a cinch.” My football coach would say that all first downs and touchdowns come one yard at a time, or even one foot at a time. He was right.

Jesus said that great trees come from small seeds, such as a mustard seed. He created the world, I guess he would know.

I keep thinking that things should get easier. But the rule continues to prove true. Everything good, everything great, happens only with hard work, tireless attention to detail, and the determination to never quit. People will say that some musician is an over night success; but the artist has probably been practicing and pursuing the dream for 20 years.

A few notes, a couple dozen letters; and hundreds of millions of books and songs. I guess big things come by the small steps of endless effort. I’m told that a new song is written every 2 minutes.

So what’s your excuse? Are you still waiting for it to get easier, simpler, or free? Trust me, it doesn’t.

Be encouraged, be inspired, to keep on going, to keep pursuing your goals, to not give up. Take the notes and letters and make something of your life. Make it better. Make it better for others. Change lives, inspire kids, fix problems, find solutions. Make your life count.

You are a mustard seed.

Shalom

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The Story of Two M’s

I love food. What I really love is food prepared and presented well. Many times have I enjoyed the fabulous hospitality of fantastic people. They excel at making me comfortable and assuring I have all I want. Their accommodations are perfect, the food is amazing, and their talents unrivaled. They are the best hosts!

kitchen.jpg

So when I read about Mary and Martha, our two M’s, I am encouraged to see a broader view. Martha invited Jesus and his apostles to her home, so she was preparing food for at least 13 hungry men. Hospitality to the Jews was a sacred thing. Guests were considered gifts from God, so they were honored in every way. Mary was listening to Jesus teach and Martha was busy making the meal. Martha wasn’t wrong.

The rub for Martha was that Mary wasn’t helping. She thought Mary was insensitive for not assisting with the preparations. She was also annoyed with Jesus for not saying something to Mary. Who was Martha the most irritated with? With Mary for not helping or with Jesus for not intervening?

But Jesus wasn’t moved to do so. He told Martha that Mary was doing something important and it wouldn’t be taken away. That was probably tough for Martha to hear.

Some observations for you

  1. Notice that Jesus didn’t tell Martha to stop cooking and start listening.
  2. Nor did he encouraged Mary to be more supportive of her sister.
  3. Their culture wouldn’t allow men to help, just the same, none of them did.
  4. Church and bible class are awesome. When its over, we all want lunch.
  5. How do you feel about those who are busy doing less important things?

We all know that listening to the Word of Christ is essential, it’s the highest priority. But in day to day life is there not room for both? Can I not feed myself spiritually and still make sure to serve my family and friends?

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So hang on to Jesus. Feed your family. Take care of your loved ones. Stop judging those investing in seemingly lesser endeavors. Jesus is Lord. He will take care of it.

Shalom