No Turning Back (Kenworths and Zombies)

I find this statement from Jesus  about not looking back kind of perplexing and frankly a little disturbing but I have recently come to see it in a new light. An encouraging one at that.

fog-mist-walking-journey-path-400w-tn“I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9: 61,62 

Years ago I was Elk hunting up in Paradise Valley south of Livingston MT. It had been a long weekend of early mornings and very long hikes, unsuccessful unfortunately, so no, this is not really a hunting story. Driving home in my ’77 Chevy short box with my hunting partner Dale, it felt good to be on the road sitting in a soft seat and moving at a pace faster than a trudge up a mountain in the snow.

We got past Livingston and onto the Interstate heading home and the fatigue started to set in. I knew I was tired but I didn’t realize I was also sleepy. I remember this well because it scared the snot out of me. As we cruised along I saw on the other side of the highway a Big ‘ol Kenworth coming down the road and as he passed I looked in my side mirror to get a last look at what I apparently thought was a real pretty truck.

Problem is, apparently I forgot to look back up from the mirror. Next thing I know Dale is yelling Dan! And I looked up to see that I was starting to drift off the road. I had fallen asleep and didn’t even see it coming. I quickly regained my wits and corrected course but I was embarrassed and stammered; “Oh, Sorry, I was just looking at that truck in the mirror.” But, as I came to the realization that I had fallen asleep and if I had been alone I may not have waken’ up—l was suddenly wide awake. That was probably 30 years ago now and whenever I start feeling sleepy while driving I still remember that experience and I pull over as soon as I can to walk around or take a nap.

Thots

An interesting statement: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9 I used to always say, if you’re looking back while your plowing your rows will be crooked. But this seems to be much more serious than that. It’s not just a matter of doing a good job of plowing, it’s a matter of life or death. Jesus was essentially telling this guy; ‘I’m sorry but if you’re not going forward, looking ahead and not letting those who are not also coming along hinder you— then you may as well just behind stay with them. You are not following me.’

He looked back and it cost him his chance to follow Jesus, to know him, to find the eternal life he was offering to those who did choose to leave all behind and follow. Looking in the rear view mirror cost him his soul—Just as looking in the mirror that day at the pretty Kenworth Truck, a truck that reminded me of my father—nearly cost me my life

I was obsessed with trucks because my dad was a truck driver, as was one of my stepfathers—I had been raised by truck drivers. So I was looking back, lulled into sleep by shiny things and visions of the past. This man was standing there, eye to eye with Jesus, yet he was looking back at his father who was beckoning; “Son, stay here, take care of me, secure your inheritance, you can catch up with this Jesus fellow later.” If not literally then certainly this was the man’s thoughts.

I believe that’s the point Jesus was trying to make and why he was so adamant as to even have scripture record this on the heels of two other like encounters—you are either following me or you’re not, there is no turning back, there is no putting it off until later— this is the day of your salvation, this is the day I am calling you.

Praying about this I saw in my mind’s eye the things in my life that keep threatening to discourage me from following; things I did, said, or thought recently or even yesterday and thought; I am so unworthy of following. You all know the feeling; “Lord how can you love me, how can you use me when I am such a miserable sinner, when I keep getting lulled back into or deceived by the same old tricks. It wasn’t so much a picture as a feeling at this point, a feeling of frustration and doubt and I thought— here’s why people let go of the plow.

Frustration, shame, weariness of the battle, the pain of serving people you love and seeing them hurt, even being hurt by them— ‘I deserve this, who am I that I should be able to boldly follow the Lord, it would be so much easier to just turn back, let go and plop down in the dirt, have a beer or 6, and just give up and give in.’ And then I saw the picture, I don’t think it was a vision, it’s just the way my mind works, I think in pictures, I even see words as I think them. I thought about this section of scripture and I saw myself holding a great sword in my hand, I turned around and looked straight at these things which were yapping at me from behind, raised that sword and brought it crashing down shattering all these lies into oblivion.

I don’t have to worry about the failures of yesterday, I don’t have to pine away for the easy life of not having to have any discipline or responsibilities to anyone who’s not giving me something in return. I don’t have to worry that tomorrow the Lord may grow weary of me and cast me aside— today I can stand firmly and securely in the Kingdom of God knowing, that I am worthy because he is worthy—that as long as I choose this day to keep moving forward, to follow him and even keep wrestling that plow through the briar patches he seems to lead me through, I will be used by him and I will be victorious in my own life.

Zombies

Every day is a new day and every day is a day that the Lord has made. Who wants to go back, who wants to be stuck in the past, the only ones who aren’t moving forward are the dead. Unless of course you’re a zombie and then you just move real slow and lose body parts on the way. That sword works really well on zombies too by the way, take of their heads and they stop chasing you.

But seriously, that’s what you need to do, keep moving forward and when that zombie hand of temptation, frustration, shame and fear reaches out to snag you— cut ‘em down. Take a sword to the things of the past that keep threatening to destroy your today. Crucify the flesh—don’t let yesterday’s failures ruin your today.

Clear the table and start fresh.

Don’t let anything stop you from following Jesus, he won’t stop you, he just asks that your heart be in it. The sure sign that it is, that your heart is in it,
is the very pain that your failures and doubts can cause you.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Heb 10:35,36

Jesus Wept

 

Do you remember?

I remember in the weeks after the attacks on 9-11-01 the churches filled up. People were looking for answers, people were looking for comfort. There was a sudden realization that all that we knew, all that we took for granted, could be world-trade-center-cross-620x410gone in an instant and we all wanted to know that there was something, someone, bigger than all of that, a God we could trust. I remember asking my Mother in Law: “I know you were just a little girl then, but in the days after Pearl Harbor was there a revival— did the churches fill up?”

She had to think about it a little but she said; “Yes, they did, people turned to the church and the Lord.” Looking back now with a better sense of history and a few years removed from 9-11 I can see the big difference between Pearl Harbor and 9-11. Back then people largely kept going to church. The churches stayed full through the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. That’s why we have all these huge Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian church buildings — what we now call mainline churches— that our grandparents filled up every Sunday.

Those old buildings are now largely empty and today, even after our own Pearl harbor, the vast majority of Americans play golf or watch their kids do sporting events on Sunday mornings. We briefly turned back to God for our protection—and received it— but we have soon forgotten and become arrogant and I see that sovereign hand of protection slowly moving away once again. It’s evidenced in all the Allah-Akbar shootings we have had just in recent months.

I don’t believe in this age of the covenant of grace that God actively punishes us, but when we turn away from him and go our own way we remove ourselves from his protection and allow the enemy of our souls to do as he pleases. I think that’s what happened on 9-11 and I fear it is happening again.

Like all believers I did a lot of praying in the days after the attacks and I sought answers: Lord what has happened and why did this happen? I believe God answered me.

In the uncertain and anxious days after that attack, even as some high profile preachers were proclaiming this to be the Judgement of God, the Spirit told me that this was not judgement, it was a loss of protection. The hand of God’s protection and blessing had been withdrawn, not by his vindictiveness or desire to see us suffer to teach us a lesson, but because we had forgotten from where our help comes, we got prideful and we pushed the Lord away. We were not judged, we rejected the hand of protection and allowed evil a place to strike.

God did not delight in our suffering, in the loss of thousands of lives, the agony of countless families who never got to say goodbye to their loved ones, God did not delight in seeing anyone suffer, I believe God wept for the lost, grieved for the hurting, and ached to bring back his hand of protection once again. And he did, because people flocked to the church, people turned to him and we once again enjoyed the protection. Between his sovereign hand, and the strong if not short lived resolve of a nation to fight to stop those who would destroy us, we were safe once again.

Jesus weeps for us, we who call ourselves by the name of the Lord and those who have turned away. Just as he wept, and still weeps for Jerusalem;

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 18

Jesus doesn’t want to withdraw his hand of blessing and protection from us anymore then he did when Jerusalem rejected their King-ultimately allowing the Romans to destroy them. But, as in the days before 9-11, we have again gotten arrogant and forgot from whom our help comes and stopped asking for his protection; that is no one’s fault but our own.  Evil is very real and hell bent on destroying us and is looking for any opening- in our personal lives or our nation.  I can tell you that day pained him and he grieved right along with us in those evil days as his children wept for what was lost.

We have enjoyed his protection and divine help throughout our history and in healing from the terrible September, morning but I fear we have lost that once again, the attacks have resumed and this nation is in danger of collapse both from without and within.  We are now farther from the Lord than we have ever been. Our elected leadership has proclaimed us to be no longer a Christian nation, the highest court in the land has systematically stripped away our freedoms and rights as Christians and the church has spent more time worrying about sound systems and coffee bars than they have about the evil that is running this government and the greater evil that wants to destroy it—and us.

I know most of you reading this looks to God and cries out to him for your deliverance and strength but sadly, as a nation, we have turned our backs on him and I fear what is coming. We, the church, must be diligent to do what we can to be the beacon of hope, to keep trusting and sharing our hope. To weep for this nation and be on our knees. “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!

Pray—

if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

We are certainly called by the name of the Lord. Christ-ian. We are targeted by Muslim Jihadists because we are called by the name of the Lord. They refer us—Americans— as people of the cross. Let’s, prove them right.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col 2:15

 

We were not saved to be victims.

 

Religious like that?

 

 

 

Christ-in-garden-of-gethsemaneMartha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better Luke 10:42

A few weeks ago at work I was talking to the mason on the church addition I have been working on in Miles City MT, and he asked me about my plans for the weekend. I told him I usually spend my weekends getting ready for and then doing church— “I pastor a small church in Red Lodge.” He looked kind of surprised, as everyone does when I tell them I’m a pastor, and says; “I didn’t know you were religious like that.”

I bristled a little when he said and I almost gave my standard reply; “I don’t have a religion; I have a relationship.” But I sensed that this wasn’t the time for this response. Perhaps it was the Spirit, perhaps it was instinct—more likely it was instinct guided by the Spirit—but I’m glad I listened because over the course of the next few weeks I had multiple opportunities, (especially as we were working on a Catholic church where all the trappings of religion are very evident), to talk to him about my relationship with the Lord in a natural way just in the course of conversation between two men working together, without having to seem defensive or patronizing.

I got to tell him why I was “religious” —as he put it. I have chosen what is better. Better than life with no one but me in control, better than life with drugs and drink in control, better than life with an institution, who claims to represent God, in control—and better than serving and striving to please the notion of a God, the knowledge of whom comes only from books and the interpretations of people who claim to have the answers that no one else seems to have.

I have chosen the better— I have chosen to have a relationship with the living God— but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.

I am weak

I know myself well enough, I know my weaknesses well enough, my struggle with discipline and authority, even my inability to pay attention to someone, or anything, that is not that interesting to me. I know that I cannot have a religion and be diligent enough in it to have any meaningful and long term impact on my life— I have to have a relationship, and I suspect most of us do. That’s the way God made us— we are relational people.

Religion arises when people are persuaded that they cannot have a relationship with God and must defer to ministers for the guidance the Counselor, the Holy Spirit would give us—or people look to religion because they are afraid to submit to a God who wants to interact personally with them for fear of him dragging them out of their comfort zones.

“Just let me go to church, put my money in the plate, say a few Hail Marys, Hallelujahs, the apostle’s creed -or whatever, eat some crackers and juice or wine- whatever their serving, tell the preacher priest reverend rabbi that ‘you’re doing fine and you loved his message’ and then go on with life till the next mass service assembly meeting”— preferably as few as you can get away with attending without being called out for being a heretic or in danger if not being recognized at the gates of heaven.

Hopefully I’ll get enough heavenly brownie points to get me into heaven when it’s all said and done or enough people who do have a stack of brownie points prays— or lights enough candles— to push me over the threshold of them pearly gates.

That’s religion and I want no part of that, neither I believe, does our God. If that were enough Jesus would not have had to leave his throne in heaven and the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane; “Father if there is another way let this cup pass from before me!” —would have been answered by the Father; ‘Yes, there is another way, forget about the cross, just tell people to never skip synagogue, keep the law flawlessly and don’t forget to tithe.’

But that’s not what happened because Jesus was not just another prophet come to warn and remind people to keep the law and to keep trusting their God for a redeemer— Jesus was the fulfillment of the law and he was, and is, the redeemer. He came in flesh and blood to prove that we could have a relationship with him, the creator, and he became the fulfillment of the law—the final sacrifice for sin—so that we could be in continual fellowship with him by his Holy Spirit.

Oh No!

I remember one day when my daughter Cally was about 5 years old I came home and found a grim scene.  Donna was looking worried and upset and Cally was looking terrified.  Donna said, “I told Cally you were going to be really mad because she knows she is not supposed to be messing with your stuff.”  She then pointed to my Bible which was sitting on my desk so I picked it up and leafed through it seeing that some of the pages were wrinkled.  Donna said “I tried to straighten them out but a couple of them are torn.” I just looked at Cally and said, “It’s ok, that’s what scotch tape is for. Now you know that you have to be really careful when you look at my Bible because the pages are really thin.”

They both looked at me like “who are you?”  They knew how important my Bible was to me and they were just sure I was going to be angry.  But you know what?  Because this book is in my heart and not just in my head, my love for my little girl was more important to me then the condition of this book—and it still is.  When I looked into her eyes and saw the fear, the fear that I was going to be upset with her, it just wasn’t in me.

That’s all Jesus is saying, it’s not just knowing the words that are important, it’s knowing the Lord who spoke them, and the love with which he spoke them— the intent of the law.

 

 

 

Worthless

The mind is often our worst enemy

-It’s about midnigDepressionht on a Saturday and I am sitting in the living room of our duplex in Billings MT. My stepfather—a 6’8” truck driver, former bull rider and cowboy—comes home drunk, nothing unusual there. For some reason my mother is not there, I think she was out looking for him— again. He walks in and stops at my chair, towering over me he commences to berate me; “Look at you, just sitting there watching TV, you’re worthless and lazy, you have always been worthless and lazy and you’ll never amount to anything.”

I was barely 16, going to school, working part time cleaning a clothing store in the evenings and often working on a ranch during the weekends but that didn’t matter— I was worthless and lazy—and for some reason, in my heart I believed it. Perhaps because I had heard exactly the same thing for five years from my former stepfather.

A couple of years later after leaving home and school to go into Job Corps where I would learn the construction trades I would get a visit from another Father. Around midnight as I was lying in bed on a Saturday night in a dorm room surrounded by other snoring guys about my age, far from home and family —I was having a melt-down. I don’t even know why, extreme cabin feve
r in the midst of one of the worst winters on record, fear of the future and my own ability to face it? Looking back with a little more understanding and wisdom I know now that I was most likely in the grips of depression, an ailment that runs strong in my family.

But this time the Father who showed up had a different tone. I couldn’t see him, he wasn’t towering over me with whiskey on his breath, he was just a presence of love and peace so strong that I could feel it. I was having a close encounter with the Lord himself who revealed to me in the anxiousness of a dark winter night in the mountains outside of Anaconda—his love for me. Suddenly my childhood long, unending longing for a loving fulltime father, to be a real part of my life was gone, and I realized that I did have a Father who loved me and was proud of me.

It finally started to sink in that what my real Dad and my mother had been telling me was true, that I was a good person, and though it would take many more years for that to really sink in and bring me to a place of real healing— on this night in Anaconda, far from all of my family, the anxiousness that was consuming me as I was sinking into the death grip of depression and codependency was gone as my heavenly Father whispered to my heart that he was there for me, and would always be.

I heard him because I had cried out in desperation and opened my heart to hear. I had received Jesus years earlier but now I had accepted my adoption into the family of God, and though it would be a few years before I started hanging around with the Lord’s family in a church, at least now I knew who my true father was and that he loved me and was there for me in my darkest hours, not to berate me but to comfort me, to let me know that I was someone worth loving.

This realization is peace—this is happiness.

16Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?

17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy. Ps 94

Though this psalm starts with a need for deliverance from enemies, the focus of the psalm soon shifts to a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from inner demons so to speak. The writer (David) felt himself slipping into darkness, even the darkness of death— perhaps literally—as he feared the arrow of an enemy could find him at any moment as he was living as a refugee from the King and then as a King with many enemies who would like to see him gone— or the death like silence of a heart that has given in to total despair.

I believe David felt himself slipping into a despair from which death may even have been seen as a relief, a desperate and undesirable relief especially in light of the fact that the Hebrew notion of the grave before the doors of heaven were opened by Jesus, was a place below the earth, hades, where the dead waited for the resurrection, totally cut off from the living.

A heart that feared it was on a slippery slope of no return to the silence of death was an anxious heart indeed while at the same time an anxious heart that longed for the silence of death was a heart that was already in a kind of living death, either way, it is a bad place to be— it is a place with no love.

An anxious heart, a heart of despair, a heart that either fears or longs for death is a heart that has no love. David is plainly thanking the Lord here for delivering him from a heart issue. His heart was hurting, his heart was empty, his heart was about to give in and give up. It was perhaps a despair that was brought on by the relentless persecution of his enemies, but the real enemy soon became his own mind.

Then he receives consolation, and what is that consolation? The love of the Lord.

I believe the heart, the soul, the mind and the spirit are intricately
woven together in such complexity that only God can unravel and bring health and it is only by his word and by his Holy Spirit that we can even begin to understand it, and only through him that the damage that this fallen world and the sinfulness of the human heart has inflicted on it.

Love is the answer

We need love, we were created to be loved, and to give love. A heart that does not perceive itself as having love will not last for long, at least not in any kind of sustainable form. The ultimate deceit and victory of the enemy of our souls is convincing us that we are unloved— that we are unlovable—and that even God does not love us. He delights in isolating the human heart from any and all love but ultimately the love of God because then he has succeeded in not just destroying our lives, but also our eternal souls.

But rest assured, you Father loves you and he has a plan for you—A plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11

Look to him, he is waiting, he understands— he really does.

 

You can be happy

Attitude

-Happiness is something we all strive for, something we all long for, yet for all the attention being happy has garnered as a pursuit of mankind as it has been for eons, it has remained frustratingly illusive and even indefinable and unattainable to most no matter their station in life. It can’t be bought, stolen or forced—you can’t take it away from someone and they cannot give it to you.

Happiness can be very subjective and as fickle as the wind. This is because happiness is a state of mind, it is something we choose.

Going through Yellowstone park a couple weeks ago I was reminded of the words I learned as a child in the 60’s; Words of a great 20th century poet and singer of songs:

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd. 

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd. 

But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.

All you gotta do is set your mind to it, knuckle down buckle down, do it, do it, do it!

These words of wisdom are from the same man who also wrote the profound words: “I wish I had your good luck charm and you had a do-whaka-do-whaka-do-whaka-do, whaka-do.”Roger Miller

You can be happy, if you’ve a mind to. Obviously this is kind of a silly song but it is certainly sound principle. We choose our own attitudes and our attitude affects everything we do and everyone around us. Attitude is the greatest determiner of happiness there is. Our attitudes touch our very spirit and determine our reception to the blessings of God.

24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. Numbers 14

A Spirit of worship

Years ago— I will never forget this because it really rang true and gave me hope when one of my children, was giving me my first grey hairs, as she was struggling to find her way in the world—a good friend at our church, Jennifer, told Donna and I as we were talking about the challenges of raising teenagers, something which we helped each other do—she said: You know what? “I wouldn’t worry too much about Cally, Cally will be all right, she will always overcome, because she has a spirit of worship. I can see it in her”

This encouraged us greatly because we knew it was true. I had never thought about it this way—as a spirit—but it made sense. Our spirit is who we truly are deep inside, who we will always be, the part of us created in the image of God, and if that spirit has a love for worship then it is a spirit of worship.

Worship not an end in itself but it is merely a symptom, if you will, of just loving to be in the presence of a loving God, so a person with a spirit of worship is a person who has discovered that the vehicle to bring you into that presence, the place where you can be blessed, be safe, be strengthened—is by closing your eyes, shutting out the world and singing a song of praise to the God of the universe with the knowledge that he hears you and is pleased with you for coming to him.

A spirit, a heart, an attitude- one in the same? I believe so. A spirit of worship is one that acknowledges the Lord, one that recognizes the goodness, the possibilities, the truth of God’s goodness, his power, love and hand in our presence. That is a happy person who can overcome, who can see in the light of eternity and will be blessed.

Jesus said, the Father seeks those who will worship him in spirit and in truth.

If you listen and obey, make the right professions at the right time, see the world through the eyes of the promises of God, learn to have a spirit of worship—then you will overcome the giants in the land and enter into your blessing—just as Caleb did. That is a spirit that is free, that is truly happy.

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8

Freedom from fear of judgement, fear of failure, fear of condemnation and inadequacy, all things Jesus took away on the cross, those are all ours if we trust his word, look to him for our deliverance from whatever troubles us, even if all we can do is worship him in the middle of the storm— we will have a soul at peace, a spirit that is free, and that is happiness.

It’s not always easy— trust me I know,—but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.

 

Heart Treasures

 

-Making Memories- Hyellowstone-national-parkere’s a word for you parents with young children; don’t get so hung up on the challenges and frustrations of trying to shape young irrational, stubborn and impatient minds and souls that you miss out on the potential significance of want is happening right now. Don’t stress because your plans and fantasy of perfect children being raised by perfect parents in a home full of fun and educational crafts, fresh baked cookies, butterfly catching and smiling singing children who take naps on que and wake up ready for their piano lessons haven’t come to fruition.

Watch Mary Poppins, the Sound of Music, laugh hysterically, and then go treasure the fact that you have real children who have a strong will, a desire to get really dirty and want to rule the world starting with your house, because God has entrusted you to shape them into a force that will affect their world and advance the kingdom of God and you have no idea how you just being there with them every day— challenging them, correcting them, wiping their noses and just keeping them from killing one another—is going to affect their lives for eternity.

They won’t remember the times you didn’t flit into the dining wearing your apron and high heels carrying a pan full of made from scratch oatmeal cookies as they were practicing their spelling. But they will remember that you were there and you allowed them to be kids without allowing them to play in the street, jump off the roof with a garbage bag for a parachute, get a tattoo of the Ninja turtles when they were twelve or pierce their little sister’s ears for her with an ice pick and a potato.

They will remember that you cared enough to be there for them and have the struggles that allowed them to live to adulthood largely unscathed. And if you managed to instill some mental snapshots into their hearts of the good times you had as a family— then you have really excelled as a parent because these have become heart treasures, touchstones, that they will carry for eternity.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51

 

I didn’t write a blog last week because Donna and I had taken the weekend off to head to a place where we have created a full album in our hearts of mental snapshots— treasured memories; Yellowstone Park— just a short drive from where we live. Yellowstone is a place that indeed brings back many great memories and reminds me that life is an adventure worth living, a fight worth having.

So last Saturday Donna and I stopped at Canyon village in the Park for lunch. We waited for and got a seat at the very busy lunch counter in the café there.

Across the counter from us was a family of six. Parents with three young girls ages 8, 10 and 12 I’m guessing, and a little boy about 6. I don’t know where they were from but they weren’t speaking English, I couldn’t hear them well enough to even guess, they looked maybe the Mediterranean or even middle eastern.

What I could see though was that they had 4 beautiful children who were enjoying themselves playing with a bag of polished stones and other trinkets they had probably just bought in the gift shop next door as they waited for their lunch. This brought back many memories of taking our own daughters through the park, the fun times and all the challenges that go with that.

Suddenly the challenges presented themselves to this family as the little boy starting getting angry and causing a commotion. I saw the mother sitting next to him give her husband a “Do something with your son look.” Soon he was sitting next to the boy who was starting to throw a fit, pointing at his sisters and demanding something. His father tried to quietly diffuse the situation and apparently thought he had succeeded because he went back to his own stool leaving the little boy pouting with his arms crossed.

Suddenly he very resolutely announced something to his parents and quick as a wink he slid of the stool and stormed off under the divider and into the very busy store adjacent to the lunch counter. His mother looked at her husband for just a second with a mixed look of shock, anger and fear and took off running to fetch the boy on a mission, dragging him back screaming to the counter where he sat and pouted some more—but stayed put.

While all this was going on I was also watching the girls, I could tell because I know kids, that they were still having fun. They were in the park having the adventure of a lifetime and they knew their little brother would get over whatever was troubling him soon enough. Soon they all had their American cheese burgers and life went on.

Donna looked at me at the point where the mother was running after the boy into the crowd with a what is going on look and I said: I can’t understand what they’re saying but it seems as though the girls had something the little boy didn’t and he was bound and determined to go and get it—some things are universal.

All of this brought back memory after memory and I just wanted to go over to this shell shocked couple and say; “Cherish this day, this is a day your kids will remember for the rest of their lives and in years to come you will look back and say, wow, that was a special trip, I’m sure glad we did that.” And this stress of trying to herd little kids through a crowded tourist haven will be long forgotten. I was wishing I had one of my books— Hope For Families— on me to give them but they probably wouldn’t have been able to read it anyway. But I stayed put, and I didn’t talk to them, I try not to be a creeper and they didn’t need me—they were doing it, they were having an adventure and they were making heart treasures.

You see, it’s not being perfect, it’s not the money you spend or the grandeur of the adventure, it’s just being together. Taking the time, making the effort to be there, to make memories, to build monuments. Everyone in that family is going to remember something different from that trip but they are all going to remember it and I’ll bet someday they will bring their own kids there and then their hearts will be full when the memories come flooding back and they see their own kids making new memories of their own, adding to your treasures and the heart gets fuller and fuller just knowing that you are helping the next generation find their own heart treasures.

Don’t get so busy just trying to live that you neglect making memories. You will never have this day to live over again, you cannot redo your children’s childhood and you cannot add treasures to a heart that you don’t make time for.

You have to be intentional about finding your treasures, they don’t always just happen. It doesn’t have to be Yellowstone, it can be the city park, a favorite camping or picnic spot. An activity like fishing, bowling, riding, playing games, all of the above— you name it. The point is, be there, be intentional and treasure the times you have while always looking for opportunity to make more.

And realize that the kids in Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music had full time nannies raising them so they probably grew up to be spoiled neurotic adults who resented their parents for not raising them themselves—just a theory.

 

 

We Speak the Language

Say what?-

So, last week1944423809_jackie_chan_wtf_face_i16_answer_9_xlarge a project manager/estimator from our Construction firm and I are standing with an architect and a structural engineer looking at the steel roof structure of the church addition I am in charge of building in Miles City. The architect and engineer are debating the need for additional bracing on the steel tresses to restore the integrity of the structure for both lateral movement and snow deflection because some of the X-braces had to be removed in order to accommodate the duct work which had to be installed above the level of the suspended ceiling grid.

I needed to be involved in this conversation because I, as the project superintendent, am responsible for making happen whatever they decide was needed, and I wanted to make sure I understood the intent of the bracing, the method of application, and placement while using my years of experience to have intelligent input on what was obviously
a let’s make this up as we go along scenario on their part, which is what much of construction and post planning stage field engineering is.

Did any of you find that hard to follow? If you did it may be because you don’t speak the language. As is often the case─ and I know all of you can relate to this─ I found myself in a position where I had to put on my specialized hat and speak a language I wouldn’t use everywhere, or anywhere, else. I was using a jargon particular to this circumstance─ technical terms that communicate things only people with similar knowledge and experience understand yet require in order to A: understand you, and B: take you seriously in your position as the one to get it done.

It can be intimidating, and used to be— but I have been doing it long enough now that I am confident and at ease when having these conversations with people who have letters after their names, I speak the language.

So, Monday I am going to use a 110 wire feed with .30 wire to place ¼ fillet weld on the butts and intersections of the 1x1x1/16 angle I am adding as x-bracing in the first bay to create a box from which to stabilize all the other tresses that are connected by horizontal bracing already welded to the bottom cords.

You got that right? Many of you— not so much. I wonder if that’s the way a lot of the world feels when we talk to them about our faith or when they hear us talking to one another. Most of the world doesn’t speak Christian E’s, they don’t understand our language. What is sin anyway, sancti-what? Rapture, tithe, redemption, holiness, Old testament, New testament, epistle, gospel— sounds like a bunch of gobbly-gook to most of the world, the world we all live in.

In the world

There is an often used saying in the church, that we are “In the world but not of it” This comes largely from the words of Jesus in John 17 as he is praying for his disciples just before his arrest: 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 

Indeed, in the world—citizens and occupants of a world that was created for us by a loving God that has become corrupt and evil beyond description—but not of the world, for we have been redeemed, the ransom paid to save us from the ravishes of this world and the penalty to come for those who submitted to the powers of darkness that now dominate this world while refusing the truth and redemption freely offered to them by the creator.

I believe we go a long way towards fulfilling the great commission, towards honestly representing the Kingdom of Heaven so that others may choose to be saved from the despair of this world and judgement to come —on the perpetrators of that despair— by being open, honest and sincere. Being yourself while remembering who you are; a loved child of God who was created in his image and by him in a way that makes you unlike any other human being that has ever lived.

You are uniquely made —from the complexity of the DNA that makes you unique physiologically— to the spirit which gives your life and makes you cognizant of where and who you are in the universe while at the same time causing you to ask the questions as you try to understand more and more of the nature of that place.

No other creature in all of creation does that, we are unique, you are unique—truly created in the image of God. So you are inherently good. If we embrace the person who God created us to be while recognizing and shunning the corruption that creeps in from the evil influences of this fallen world, we can truly make a difference in this world─ In the world but not of it; the world needs us, people also created in his image, woefully deceived and misled need us, we need to learn to speak their language.  -Right?

Actually that was a trick question. All of us already speak several languages of this world, we just don’t realize it or recognize the importance and advantage of it, at least not for the Kingdom.

 Go where God leads you, preach the gospel he gives you to those in your world. We all have access to a world that few other believers may occupy, where even fewer believers are willing to occupy, let alone preach in. We all speak different languages and by that I don’t mean foreign languages, I mean that we can relate to people in certain circles, where we are comfortable, where we have had experience’s, where people don’t look at us and say, “Where are you from?”

Worry less about where you should or could go and look at those before you who are asking the questions; “What is it all for? Am I loved? Do I have a purpose? Can you tell me, can anyone tell me, I don’t understand!” Those questions are coming from your neighbors, your coworkers, your family… your children. You speak their language like no one else can, give them hope.

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. John 17

That’s why you were sent into this world. You have a purpose.

Be there, don’t give up.