Friday, March 30, 2012


"You promote yourself every time you take on a new responsibility." William Gore

Well, I finally did it. I bought one of those electronic book devices so I could have the convenience of being able to hold a thousand volumes in the palm of my hand; to read at my leisure; and to go to whatever book happens to strike my fancy at any time of day or night. I love it!

I didn’t think I would ever say that, but I do. Actually, it would probably be more accurate to say I truly appreciate it, for “love” should be a term of endearment reserved for people and deities. Never-the-less, I do like my device.

It does have a problem common to electronic devices, however: power. I opened it up to read a daily devotional and … nothing. I thought I had powered it off last night, but apparently not, and so the battery was dead this morning. I must confess my Bible has never let me down that way, and neither have my magazines or other reading materials.

But, that’s life. We need to change or adapt as we make our way through this tangled thicket. Since I couldn’t read right away, I simply plugged the (rhymes with “book”) into the power supply and moved on to the next item on my agenda – writing.

You might suspect that I am not scratching this out with stylus and wax tablet, and your suspicion would be correct. Nor am I using quill and parchment, pen and paper, or even a typewriter. No, I am using a laptop computer and, when finished, will send this along neither by messenger, post, nor telegram, but via the internet where, with any luck, it will be in my friend and editor’s electronic Inbox within minutes (if not seconds).

Some people embrace change and others bristle at it, but what I have found is that while change is inevitable, misery is a choice. Some changes may be painful or awkward, but most seem to take place imperceptibly.

Have you ever gotten a breath of fresh air? Have you tried to hang onto it forever, because it is so good? No, of course not; life requires the constant exchange of new air for old. Even the freshest air will quickly grow stale as the body exchanges carbon dioxide for much needed oxygen.

So, we breathe normally and don’t think twice about it. The change isn’t painful – it is automatic, as it was designed to be.

One of the things I have found helpful in building a better relationship with change is learning to take the initiative – to be responsible.

Change seems to be more painful when it is imposed upon us from others. We can fight it with cries of “it isn’t fair” or “that’s not right,” but once a change has been implemented, it takes an act of Congress to take it back (or five gray-hairs on a bench – but we’ll save that discussion for another time).

Since we know change is inevitable, we can take the initiative in directing and controlling a lot of the changes we face.

I have a friend who absolutely hates his job. He wants to change jobs, but it is a tough market out there for job seekers. He cannot change the attitude or behavior of the people he works for, so he chooses, instead, to be a good, gracious, and effective employee so that when an opportunity presents itself to move on, he has an attitude others will want to bring on board.

In other words, he chooses what sort of person to be; he doesn’t let others mold him or twist his character; he goes the extra mile; he does his work with a smile; and he cleans up messes he finds in the aisle. He’s the kind of man I want to be when I grow up!

Spiritual maturity involves choosing to be the kind of people God wants us to be despite everything the world does to stamp or crumple us into something else.

Maturity is choosing not to play the victim, or to be the victim, but to be personally responsible for being and becoming the kind of people God intended us to be from the beginning of time.

That is a change worth embracing in this, our world. Peace!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Drop the Rocks

I will set a good example for someone else today. I will be living proof of the maxim "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be." Anon.

A friend recently told me a story – sort of a modern parable he had heard or read recently – that I would like to briefly share with you.

The story is told of a boat leaving port on a journey of exploration and discovery. A woman was late getting to port for one reason or another, thus missing the boat. She wanted to be on it so badly though, she jumped into the water and began to swim as fast as she could to catch up.

The passengers cheered her on, but she was moving too slowly; what is worse, she was struggling to stay afloat as she held a stone in each hand – making her efforts most futile.

Seeing her predicament, the explorers kept up their encouragement; they cheered her on, they clapped and whistled, they motioned for her to hurry up, but all to no avail.

Finally, one seasoned veteran decided that encouragement was not enough; nor could they stop the boat and turn around; instead, it would be up to the swimmer to do something quite radical, and so he called out to her through the megaphone, “Drop the rocks! Let go of the rocks!”

Hearing his advice, and knowing how the load was not just slowing her down, but likely would lead to her death, the woman dropped the stones from each of her hands, and swam quickly and safely to the slow-moving boat.

We continue our journey through Lent, a journey which truly is one of exploration and discovery. One challenge we face is knowing what to do with what we find, but more challenging yet is knowing what to leave behind as we begin (or began) our journey.

We tend to short-change ourselves if we limit our Lenten disciplines to inconsequential matters, like giving up chocolates or cookies for six weeks.

Lent only has lasting value when we identify things that hold us back, weigh us down, or that prevent us from being the kind of people God would have us be. Lent is a season that invites us to “drop those stones” – not just for survival, but for making progress on our journey of discovery.

What are the rocks that hold you back?

I can’t answer that question for you, but a good place to start would be those character defects that are pretty universal in nature: Sloth (refusing to take care of one’s responsibilities); Lust (refusing to love what one already has); Anger (preferring revenge over understanding); Pride (an oversized ego on steroids); Envy (turning a blind eye to what one has); Gluttony (abusing what one has received from God); and Greed (grabbing all one can at the expense of others).

No one has to wait for Lent in order to address the many things that separate us from being the people God wants us to be. No one has to stop changing, either, when the season of Lent has run its course.

One of the great joys of life is being able to admit that we are human, which means we are created in the image of God and able to be far better than we sometimes are. It also means that we are capable of doing far less than we ought, or doing far worse than is pleasing to God, loving to neighbor, or honorable to self.

Being human means we aren’t perfect, but we can improve; we can make progress in life. All it takes is a willingness to drop our rocks and to keep swimming. It means asking God, in prayer, to help along the way.

I believe God is MORE than willing to help us become the people God wants us to be – because God loves us THAT much.

At least that’s what I think this week in this, our world.


“God does not wait for the world to get ready, He enters right into the mess…because He comes for the messy.”Katie Davis, missionary to Uganda

Lent is upon us – the season of Spring Cleaning for the Soul. That’s a good thing. I could use a good dusting every now and then, and now is as good a time as any.

I suspect that if one were to conduct a poll, fewer and fewer people today would know what Lent is than would have known a decade or two ago. It seems (in a completely unscientific and biased opinion based upon personal observation) that attention has increasingly been drawn to Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Carnival – times of decadent feasting and merriment, followed by nausea, headaches, and memory loss. Wait, I am sure there is a pill for that!

Lent is increasingly becoming a lost and forgotten season. Even amongst those who honor the forty day season of self examination, prayer, and fasting, making it through all forty days unscathed is rare. One woman admitted to me yesterday, “If I make it one week past Ash Wednesday with my good intentions, that’ll be a miracle!”

What is so hard about Lent?

Perhaps the difficulty lies in not really understanding what the season is about. I call it Spring Cleaning for the Soul because that helps me to understand it better. There is a lot in life that gets in the way of my having a good or better relationship with my family, my friends, my community, and my God. One of the biggest barriers is my “intentions.”

See, I always want people to judge me based upon my intentions, because my intentions are always good – or so I tell myself. I didn’t mean to miss the party, I had the time wrong. I didn’t mean to forget to bring flowers home for Valentine’s Day; I just got too busy handling world crises. I didn’t mean to run into the light pole; it just happened to be on the sidewalk where I was driving.

As I have gotten older, of course, I have come to learn that people don’t judge one another based upon intentions, but upon actions. When the repair people don’t show up as scheduled, I don’t care what their intentions were; I care about their broken promise. When a person doesn’t return a phone call, I don’t care what their intentions were; I care about their letting me down.

I suspect that many people who believe in God in one form or another intend to honor God in a variety of ways; honoring God by being truthful, kind, honest, and generous of spirit. However, in practice, we often find there is a bit of a gulf between intentions and actions. The purpose of Lent is to work to close the gap between intents and actions.

We do not try to earn salvation by giving up chocolates, meats, or sweets, or by giving more generously to godly causes, or praying more fervently during this forty day season; rather, we simply strive to draw closer to God – acknowledging our actions don’t always live up to our ideals.

When I was a child and asked to dust the house on cleaning day, I would pick up knick knacks and dust under them; I would dust between every slat on the window blinds; I would dust the top, sides, and bottom of every piece of furniture ever so carefully – as long as Mom was in the room. But the moment she left, I figured everything the dust rag came within ten feet of was “properly dusted.”

In maturity, I dust properly – not because someone is watching (although that still helps a little) – but because that is the right thing to do; that’s the right way to do it.

Lent invites us to draw closer to God, not because God (or neighbor) is watching, but because drawing closer to God is the right thing to do. Spending time in prayer, meditating on scripture, eating healthy meals in smaller portions, and giving more generously to those in need – those are all ways to draw closer to God, and to help shrink the gap between our intentions and our actions.

I would suggest that might be worth trying out in this, our world. Have a blessed and holy Lent!