Weak But Getting Weaker?

Opening Thoughts

Have you noticed that valet parking is on the rise? Valet service used to be a benchmark for expensive restaurants. Now hospitals, shopping centers, all kinds of restaurants, and even churches are featuring valet service. When did walking become an egregious thing? Are we getting weaker?

parking_Valet

An Observation

I understand valet service when the alternative is a parking garage three blocks away. I get it. But when you can park across the street? 

 I recently ate at a restaurant located in a mall. Actually, it was a pedestrian mall, a cool place with all kinds of interesting shops, trendy restaurants, and a movie theater with waiters and menus. There’s nothing better than a cheeseburger and fries in a big screen movie theater. O wait, there is something better. You can have all that and valet parking. Valet parking for a pedestrian mall? Really?

The valet service was curb side, about forty feet from the no-cost parking lot. Honestly, I was tempted to pull up, toss the guy my keys, and saunter in like a movie star. But I didn’t. 

My Concern

Are we weak and getting weaker? Or is it just me? We’re already weak from all the eating out and valet parking, but I refer to our mental state of mind.

Two Examples

  1. I’ve seen cars buzzing around mall parking lots, passing space after space, searching for one closer to the entrance. I know this because I’ve done it many times, and let me tell you, those people can be really irritating. 
  2.  I’ve seen people at my health club drive around and around waiting for a car to leave, so they can park closer to the door, at the gym, to exercise. Really? (I go early in the morning and get a good spot by right by the door.) 

robots at home.jpgThe appeal of convenience and the attraction to things being easier, faster, and with less effort have become an obsession. Within twenty years we’ll see robots in our homes doing most of the things we normally do.

One-upmanship used to be about cars, boats, and campers. Or being the first to get a pool. Soon, it will be who has the latest model of robot.

New inventions like modern appliances, computers and personal electronics were supposed to be time-savers, resulting in better family life and the happy pursuit of our interests. But that’s not even close to being true.

In Closing

Are we weak and getting weaker?

Why are we mesmerized by the coolest and greatest gadgets? Will the cool things make our lives any better? They won’t. Well, they might, but in a month or two, when the next greatest thing comes out, we’ll rush down to the store, pay $8.00 for valet parking, and with vibrating anticipation, await our turn to own it.

Actually, that seems like a lot of bother, I think I’ll send my robot.

 

 

 

Sixty

Opening Thought

It’s 48 days until my birthday. It’s likely I’ll mention it again before it arrives. Why? Because I’ll be turning sixty.

n-60TH-BIRTHDAY-BALLOONS-628x314

For Consideration

What’s in a number? It’s just a number, right? Nothing to worry about?

There are milestone birthdays in life that draw attention.

  1. Turning 13
  2. Turning 18
  3. Turning 21
  4. Turning 40
  5. Turning 50
  6. Turing 60
  7. And others… 

It feels like the”60″ milestone is really far down on the list.

Some Properties of The Number Sixty

  1. Sixty represents the global karma of the universe and the general providential action exerted on the whole of the world. (I have no idea)
  2. Paul wrote that at sixty a woman could be placed on the list of widows.
  3. The distance from the earth to the moon is sixty times the terrestrial ray.
  4. Sabbath is mentioned sixty times in the N.T.  
  5. Sixty is the natural number following 59 and preceding 61. (this is my favorite)

For Consideration

I’m not sure how I feel about turning sixty. Is there something I should be feeling? Will it feel different then when I turned 59? Is sixty the first year of no longer being middle aged? Or do I still have five years until I’m officially old? 

Someone told me that sixty is the new fifty. I don’t really get that. But okay. 

There are some things already happening before I turn sixty.

  1. My hair is totally grey.
  2. I have stiffness, aches and pains I didn’t have at fifty.
  3. Restaurants, theaters, and other places are asking if I want a senior discount.

But there are some other things happening as well.

  1. I’ve never had as much enthusiasm for God’s kingdom as I do right now.
  2. There is more to study, learn, and absorb than I ever imagined!
  3. The goals I’ve set for my sixties are more challenging than any other decade. 

In Closing

These are things I’ve promised or committed not to do as I grow older: 

  1. I’ve promised not to obsess about the weather.
  2. I’ve promised not to discuss my health issues with others.
  3. I’ve committed to being positive, to laugh and to make others laugh.
  4. I’ve committed to having a strong faith and a deep confidence in God.
  5. I’ve promised that as I get older I won’t write about getting older.

Oops. 

Have a great day all you young people.

birthday cake

You Have to Pay to Play

Opening Thoughts

Do you know Harley L. Lutz? I didn’t either. Well, more on him in a minute.

get your ez pass

Do you know what an EZ Pass is?  For those unfamiliar with toll roads, an EZ Pass is an electronic toll-collection system. It’s a small device that sticks to your windshield and “connects” to a transponder each time you drive through a toll booth. It allows you to maintain speed verses waiting in long, slow moving lines to pay in cash. The system works by charging your credit or debit card.

But here’s the thing. Your card has to be current and active. 

How Real Life Works

My EZ Pass account is linked to my debit card, or it was, I lost it about ten days ago. I called the bank to freeze the card and ordered a replacement. Meanwhile, my wife and I, who also has an EZ Pass, continued to happily drive Houston’s toll roads. That is until we got a notice from the EZ Pass people. They were not happy.

toll violation
It turns out you can’t use Houston’s toll roads without paying. In addition to all of the toll charges, we also ran up $165 in fines. There were some additional fees piled on to the fines for a grand total of $212.00. The new card is now active, but the damage was done.

downtownskyline_dusk_2200x1458_fb275565-0b6b-482b-8d06-43c2cb3f03fd

Life Lessons

Back to Harley Lutz. Mr. Lutz was an economist who in 1942 was quoted in the Oelwein Daily Register as saying, “There is no free lunch.” He is credited for saying it first, at least publicly. There is no free lunch. Huh, go figure. 

If you want to play, you have to pay. If you want to eat, you have to pay. If you want it, you gotta pay for it. The city of Houston takes a dim view of using their toll roads without paying. Some cities are funny that way.

In Closing

Good, honest, God fearing people pay their bills on time, they have integrity in their financial commitments, and take responsibility if mistakes are made. I’m trying. 

Can you believe it, $212.00.

I guess Mr. Lutz was right. 

The Day After

Part Six

Passover and Easter Morning

Opening Thought

The day after a day of days is always a let down. Such as the morning after Christmas, the day after a great vacation, or the morning after a much anticipated event. The day after a great day can be tough.

For Consideration

What was it like the day after the resurrection?

resurrection-of-christ.jpg

 

 Here is a list of things I think he didn’t do:

  1. Jesus didn’t sleep in.
  2. He didn’t shop for clothes and personal items.
  3. Jesus didn’t start a well deserved vacation.
  4. He didn’t see a doctor to have his wounds and injuries checked out.
  5. He didn’t muster an army to go to war with Rome.

Nope. None of the above seem viable. 

Scripture does tell us what Jesus did on the day of his resurrection. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to two disciples on their was to Emmaus, then later to the eleven and to those gathered with them. 

But as for the day after his resurrection, there is nothing mentioned.

So what are some possibilities for the day after?

  1. He gathered the apostles to encourage them.
  2. He spent some time with mother to reassure her.
  3. He gathered those who stood by him to bless them.
  4. He spoke about the coming kingdom and the day of Pentecost.
  5. He spoke about his ascension and the coming Holy Spirit.

Maybe? 

 I suggest that the day after the resurrection was anything but a let down, or a day to rest and recuperate. The forty days after his resurrection were a season of preparation. 

At the end of those days:

ascension 1.png

The Messiah would ascend. The Holy Spirit would arrive. The Kingdom would launch.

In Closing

The day after was the first day to ready his apostles for the great commission. It started the countdown to his ascension, to the New Covenant, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

My faith in Jesus Christ, and yours, is possible because that day. 

Thank you Jesus.

A Most Unlikely Story

Part Five

Passover and Easter Morning

Opening Thought

I’m blogging with a cup of fresh coffee, in our kitchen. It’s very early Easter morning.

I must confess there are moments when I question the path of Jesus our Messiah. I get that he had to die, to be sacrificed. The theology of the Son of God giving up his life for the world is clear. But why did his death have to be so horrible, hateful, and violent? 

Some initial answers are:

  1. Prophecy pointed to a bloody Messianic death. 
  2. It was how God planned for it to happen.
  3. His death revealed the depth of God’s love for us.

But still, I wonder. The beatings, scourging, the eight inch nails, the crown of thorns, carrying his own cross, wow, it’s overwhelming. 

For Consideration

The Gospel makes its appeal from a most humble place. In spite of what I might think, the Gospel wasn’t going to be effective if it centered on a wealthy and powerful king. One who lived in high luxury with every pleasure, then sacrificed himself with a painless death. 

Jesus was a king, he established a new kingdom. But he paid for it in blood, his own. The message of the Christ appeals to the lowliest person, the poorest people, and the most sinful among us. It couldn’t be a gospel for the wealthy, the proud, and the arrogant. I know, impoverished people can be proud and arrogant too.

There is something about the passion of the christ that reaches deep inside every one of us. Jesus willingly went to a place that none of us would have gone to. It was a place of deprivation and abject poverty, a place with immense suffering and shame. It has the power to humble all of us. The violence of Calvary brings the entire world to it’s knees, crushing our pride and breaking our hearts. What’s left but to repent, to submit and surrender?

In Closing

The cross took place in real time, it happened in Roman occupied Israel, within the context and cultures of Jerusalem and Rome. The Gospel’s great paradox is that everything Jesus experienced was according to God’s plan, a plan that counted on the hatefulness and brutality of ignorant men. There could be no resurrection without a death.

jesus-cross-and-sun.jpg

He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. By his stripes we are healed. His punishment brought us peace. Isaiah 53

He is risen, he is risen indeed!

Shalom!

 

 

 

One Dark Night

Part Four

Passover and Easter Morning

Opening Thought

I’ve been called for jury duty several times. But so far, I’ve not been empaneled. Each time I was excused, or unneeded, I felt relief to not be sitting in court for a few days. But mostly, the relief was not having to sit in judgment of someone. In this week of Passover, we pause to recognize that Jesus was judged. The jury of his peers were only to happy to serve. 

Now Jesus

After his arrest, they led him away to be tried. Thus began a long and difficult night for Jesus, he was on trial for his life.

Jesus On Trial Banner

Jesus and The Night of Trials

  1. Jesus was taken to Caiaphas, the high priest.
  2. Then to the chief priests and Jewish Sanhedrin. 
  3. They pronounced him guilty and sent him to Pilate.
  4. Learning he was Galilean, Pilate sent him to Herod.
  5. Herod sent him back to Pilate.
  6. Pilate found no offense for death, but had Jesus scourged.
  7. The crowd unappeased, Pilate released him for crucifixion.

 

Thumb_TrialofJesus

The Sanhedrin, chief priests, and rabbi’s declared him guilty and worthy of death. The final straw was his answer to this question, “Are you the son of God?” Jesus said, “You are right in saying I am.”

In saying, “I am” was Jesus claiming to be as the Father, the great I Am?

The soldiers took him out to the crucifixion place. A large number of people followed, including women who mourned for him. Arriving at Golgotha, they nailed him to the cross.

For Consideration

I don’t understand why the high priest, Sanhedrin, and rabbis, were so hateful and violent towards Jesus.

The obvious reasons were:

  1. jealousy
  2. blasphemy
  3. envy of his popularity
  4. new interpretations of Torah 
  5. his authority
  6. age: he was early thirties and they much older
  7. failure to defeat him in rabbinic debates/discussions

I understand these reasons, but still.  

Were they really happy when he died? Did they celebrate their victory? As they gathered their families that evening for Passover-Sabbath, did they feel more joyful, were their observances more holy and righteous? 

Closing Thought

Imagine their thoughts, how they felt and reacted, when they saw Jesus resurrected. 

How would you have felt?

empty_tomb_wide

Shalom 

Arrogant Gratitude?

Part Three

Passover and Easter Morning

 

Opening Thought

Sometimes, when I’m not thinking clearly, I think of myself as important. I’m not.

The Story

Yesterday morning, as I was paying for a coffee and bagel, I discovered I only had $2.00 in cash. 

Purchase_Coffee_and_Bagel.jpg

Reaching for my debit card, I remembered that I’d recently lost it. Then I reached for my rarely used credit card, which normally stays at home. It was in my wallet due to the lost debit card. I swiped the card and bingo: DECLINED.

The young lady looked at me with compassion. I’m not sure, but I think she felt sorry for me. She said the $2.00 was enough and told me not to worry about it. I was embarrassed and awkward. I wanted to say, “I’m an important man, believe me, I can afford coffee and a bagel” But I didn’t. I handed her the $2.00 and she gave me the, “It’s okay honey, I understand,” look.

I finished the bagel, called and got the CC glitch fixed, then went up to pay for it. But she wouldn’t accept it. She said, “I like getting to do something nice for someone.” Usually I’m the one doing something nice, you know, since I’m important. 

Now Jesus

On his way to Passover, a group of ten lepers approached him. They called out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” 

Jesus took pity. He sent them to a priest, so they could be pronounced clean, as they went, they were healed.

One came back, threw himself at Jesus’s feet, and thanked him. He was the only one. “Where are the other nine,” asked Jesus?  

Jesus was important, he was God among us, Isaiah’s Emanuel. The lepers knew he was important too. But not so important that they should take the time to thank him. 

To Think About

I think of him as being greater than anyone or anything in my life. He cleansed the leprosy of my sin, redeemed me and set me free.

Odd though, that in pursuit of being important, I haven’t fallen on my knees to thank him in a long time. I haven’t made the time to express appreciation. How important can he be? 

In Closing

As we approach Sunday and the resurrection celebration, let’s not forget the question Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?” 

Shalom

Are All Sins The Same?

Part Two

Passover and Easter Morning

Opening Thoughts

Are all sins are the same? Paul said, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So it looks like any sin will send us down, will separate us from God.

However, do we in daily life craft a hierarchical view of sin? Consider these lists.

The Not So Bad

  1. Participating in an off color joke with our off color friends.
  2. Making up an excuse for being late when we actually just over slept. 

The Really Bad

  1. Stealing from our employer.
  2. Abusive behaviors, especially towards women and children.

We wink at inappropriate jokes but rage at the embezzler. We abhor spousal abuse but chuckle at the made up excuses for being late. Our sense of right and wrong is deeply influenced by our ethics and value system. Lying about being late and lying about having an affair feels different, yet, both are lies. What did Jesus say about sin?

Jesus Our Messiah

Our Rabbi said that things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to the person who leads others into sin. He said it would be better to have a millstone tied around the neck and thrown into the sea. My question is: better than what? The answer is found in the word woe,”Woe to the one who causes others to sin.” The word woe means great sorrow.

millstone2.jpg

Leading others into sin results in great sorrow for judgment is about to fall on the leader. In fact, if given the choice, the millstone would be a far better option. 

In Jesus’s day, people believed demons came from the under world, rising up through water. Which made the prospect of being thrown into the sea with a millstone even more frightening. Imagine being pulled down to the demonic realm. However, the guilty person would still choose the millstone and demons over the wrath God’s judgement, if given the choice.

“So watch yourselves,” Jesus said.

Some Applications

Jesus willingly sacrificed himself for the sins we commit. But those who intentionally lead others into sin, especially the young believers, well, he felt different about them.

Was the millstone just hyperbole, exaggerating for effect? Maybe? A withdrawing of love, mercy, and grace seems inconsistent with Jesus. But however you understand it, be sure to grasp that leading others into sin was, for Jesus, an unforgivable abomination.

In Closing

So let’s be extra careful. I’m not sure if God’s grace has limits, but Jesus for sure wanted us to understand that leading others into sin is terribly offensive to him.

So let’s watch ourselves, carefully.

Shalom

 

 

Gettin’ Down On The Farm

Opening Thoughts

I feel better when I work out and feel worse when I don’t. Working out reduces weight, lowers blood pressure, and increases energy. Feeling fit is fine. Lately, I’ve been slothful.

After months of watching my numbers go in bad directions, I repented. Back to the gym for Rick, at 5:00 AM. It was rough. 

I walked the treadmill, did some weights, and some stretching. Elapsed time: 8 minutes. Well, it was longer, but not much. 

weight-machines

To Think About

My grandparents didn’t have fitness centers or gym memberships. They would have scoffed at paying hard earned money to grunt, groan, and sweat.

They were trim, not heavy or fat, but really healthy looking.

They ate sausage, bacon, and eggs, with toast and biscuits with real butter and home made preserves. I don’t think they knew about cholesterol and trans-fat. They worked hard all their lives, right up to the time that they couldn’t, then they passed on.

A quick Google search revealed the following:

  1. An hour of chopping wood burns 500 calories.
  2. Carrying a 5 gallon bucket of water for an hour burns 600 calories. (If you walked 15 minutes each way to get water, twice a day, that’s an hour.)
  3. Walking burns 110 calories an hour. How many miles does a farmer walk each day?
  4. Then there were the general farm chores, projects, and planting and harvesting
  5. With modern farm implements, indoor plumbing and electricity, there was less physical labor, but still, farming was hard work.

The average farmer could burn 2500-3000 calories a day just doing his normal chores. He wouldn’t just be slim, his arms, chest, and legs would be really fit. His hands like vice grips. 

In Closing

I don’t chop wood, our fireplace doesn’t burn wood, it’s fueled by natural gas. The only water I carry is in the glass I drink at dinner, from the table and back again, wow, feel the burn. 

Not sure how much I walk each day, mostly I sit at a desk.

Tomorrow morning, 5:00 AM, its back to the gym, I’ll lift weights, burn some cardio, and stretch these knotted muscles. And will pay them for the privilege. 

I love modern life. 

Shalom

 

 

Hungry For Humility?

Opening Thoughts

I’ve done some impressive things in my life. I’ve also done some things that are not. The unimpressive things outnumber the former; and they stay with me always, living right beneath the surface. They remind me of the war being waged between pride and humility. Humility needs encouragement to keep advancing, to be victorious in combat. 

Some Of My Impressive Things

  1. Within a small High School context I was an accomplished athlete.
  2. I did a 3-day seminar for a church of 12,000 in Fujian Province, China.
  3. Many years ago I was active in Tae Kwon Do, rising to 3rd degree black belt.
  4. I’ve served as MC at fund raising events for national organizations.
  5. I was a member of a Christian drama group that toured nationally. 

Some Of My Unimpressive Things

  1. I backed out of the garage with the car door open, the door didn’t make it.
  2. In the attic, I’ve twice stepped through the ceiling: same house & same year.
  3. In my life, I’ve set fire to a fence, kitchen cabinets, and seven cotton trailers.
  4. I changed the car oil, from the ground, right under the filter, and got soaked. 
  5. I drove a farm tractor at its highest speed and tried to make a turn, it didn’t. 

Some More Unimpressive Things

  1. I’ve missed flights for being at the wrong gate, have done it several times. 
  2. I’ve cut through the power cords while using electric saws, several times. 
  3. I filled the gas tank with diesel, it was full before I realized what I had done.
  4. Turned the wrong way on to a one way street, was angry at the other cars. 
  5. I stuck my fingers into running fan with metal blades, I still have the scars. 

On the whole, my unimpressive side looms largest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the things I’ve managed to do well. And there are many. I’m proud of my wife and family, of the church I serve, and of the places domestic and foreign that I’ve been honored to serve. But there other unimpressive things too, things I’m not proud of.

God humbles the proud.

Somebody said it this way: “You can humble yourself today or God can knock you down tomorrow.” Either way, God is looking for me to surrender my pride and walk before him in humility.  

humility in prayer

           “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility….”    Zephaniah 2:3

Shalom