A Weekend of (Trick or) Treats

It’s been a gorgeous autumn weekend. I missed most of last weekend because I was laid out with the flu. It’s all a bit foggy. This weekend, however, was a a nice weekend with the VL’s. Chad’s birthday was on Friday, so Wendy and I met Chad & Shay at Noah’s Ark in Des Moines to celebrate. It was one of those evenings when, after four hours of conversation and laughter, you finally leave the restaurant. Excellent evening.

I was surprised yesterday by my girls, who remembered it was my half-birthday. I had a nice pumpkin dessert waiting for me in the fridge from Taylor, and had a nice conversation with Madison in the morning. I love my girls.

Rehearsals for Annie are starting to heat up. From now through the second week of December Wendy and I wll be giving a good chunk of our evenings and Saturdays to rehearsal.

Last night we enjoyed the annual trick or treat visit of the VL boys. How hilarious. Gotta love the little beggars.

Chapter-a-Day Romans 16

Jail Cell
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Hello to my cousins Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. Romans 16:7a (MSG)

Just last week I was on a business trip that sent me and my coworker driving down I35 from San Antonio, Texas to Laredo and back. While we driving, I suddenly had a flood of memories. I was on that same stretch of interstate when I was 16. Around 40 kids from my church youth group drove from Des Moines, Iowa to Acapulco, Mexico and back in four vans of questionable road worthiness (talk about road trip). Even though it was 30 years ago, there are experiences from that trip that are permanently, vividly etched in my memory:

  • Breaking down. Frequently. (especially fun in the desert)
  • Sleeping on concrete. A lot.
  • Learning the true meaning of Montezuma’s Revenge, then thinking my sister really loved me enough to give up her “free day” in Acapulco to nurse me back to health. Later I found out she really just wanted an excuse, while I was unconscious in bed, to steal a pair of underwear from each of the boys so the girls could tie dye them all purple.
  • Singing, laughing, fighting, and sharing Jesus with others.

Shared experience connects us with others. You know that behind Paul’s greeting to Adronicus and Junias, there is a story. You don’t share a jail cell without there being a story or two.

Today, I’m grateful for those with whom I’ve shared some really incredible experiences along the journey.

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Chapter-a-Day Romans 15

APGS display
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Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”. Romans 15:1-2 (MSG)

My car has a navigation system, and one of the features of the system is to track the path you’ve travelled. Like little electronic bread crumbs dropped on the map, you can trace your journey. It’s interesting to look at where you’ve been. A good perspective of the past often provides clarity in your present position.

This morning, as I glance back and trace my journey of following Jesus, I two things stood out to me. First, the journey has consistently led away from myself and towards Christ. Just as Jesus selflessly emptied Himself to take up the cross for the good of all, following after Jesus constantly leads me away from self-consideration and toward putting others needs ahead of my own.

Also, as I trace my path, I see stretches of the journey where a little progress was made, but I also see entire stretches of the journey in which my path led around and around in circles. Like the people of Israel wandering for 40 years on their journey to the Promised Land when it should have taken them one, I have my own periods of useless meandering. Sometimes my life is a blur of motion with no progress to show for it.

I don’t want to wander through my day today. I want to make a little progress. How can I take one step away from myself and closer to Jesus?

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Chapter-a-Day Romans 14

Ran across this pic while doing some homework....
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If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. Romans 14:4b (MSG)

As I’ve walked the journey with many fellow believers of a wide range of theological persuasions, I’ve noticed a common issue in our interpersonal relationships. I now see the problem, though at one time I didn’t regard it as such. At one time I considered this nagging characteristic a badge of honor, and I see that many of my brothers and sisters continue to do so. I call it the “Junior Holy Spirit Badge.”

The Junior Holy Spirit badge is worn by those of us who believe it is our sworn duty to personally convict others of their wrong doing. Eyes like a hawk, we hold our favorite version of life’s rule book in one hand and our personal tally sheet in the other. Constantly aware of what others are doing around us, it is our sworn duty to get in their face, point out what they’re doing wrong, point to our dog-eared copy of the rule book and call them to step in line behind us. Where would God be if he didn’t have me, Junior Holy Spirit Badge emblazoned upon my chest, helping Him to daily separate the sheep from the goats? After all, how are people going to be convicted of their sin, if I don’t personally tell them they’re sinning?

I have a confession to make. Somewhere along journey I took off my Junior Holy Spirit Badge and threw it in the ditch along the road along with my tally sheet and personal rule book. I realized that God’s message never asked me to convict people of their sin, but over and over again commanded me to forgive them. I also realized as I read His Message that I’m supposed to share God’s good news, which is love, grace, forgiveness, restoration, redemption and life. I didn’t have time to share the good news when I was busy sharing with people the bad news about what awful, terrible, sinful things they were doing and how it was going to land them in a world of spiritual hurt if they didn’t follow my prescribed version of personal obedience to God. I got tired of convicting people. It left me with no energy to love them.

And, I don’t want a merit badge for convicting people, I want a merit badge for loving them.

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Chapter-a-Day Romans 13

But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. Romans 13:11 (MSG)

I own several briefcases. I’ve amassed them over time. Several of them were given to me for my work. They are pretty ragged from years of life on the road, but I still keep them. I have a few others that I acquired for one reason or another. I like briefcases. They have all sorts of cool pockets and compartments for keeping (and losing) things.

I now have enough old briefcases that I’ve designated them to serve me in different functions of life. That way, I’m not packing and unpacking one briefcase for different needs each day. I just grab the appropriate briefcase for what I’m doing and go. I have my work briefcase, my theatre briefcase, my music briefcase, my church briefcase, and my on-the-go briefcase for random occasions that don’t fit in the major three categories. You should be impressed, this level of organization for someone as right brained as I am is just short of a miracle.

I noticed, however, that I compartmentalize my life with my briefcases. I finish my work, then put my work briefcase away. I get out my theatre briefcase for rehearsal. When rehearsal is over I put my theatre things away. Like my briefcases, my life seems to have compartments, which is the problem.

I’m noticing my penchant for treating God like a task to be compartmentalized. Read my chapter, write my post, say my prayers, then put the God briefcase away so I can take my work briefcase out.

God is not a task to be completed, and Jesus certainly isn’t an object to be taken out and put away like every other functionary item I use for my own purpose.  He is a person to be present with me in every moment. He is a friend to accompany me through each and every compartment of my day. He is Lord of my life, ever present to direct, protect, correct, and provide.

Lord have mercy on me. Forgive me for trying to shove you in a briefcase.

Chapter-a-Day Romans 12

Zhuyin on cell phone detail-2
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So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Romans 12:1 (MSG)

This weekend I was laid out with the flu. So, I watched a lot of television. Since DVR technology allows Wendy and me to fast forward through the commercial breaks of all our favorite shows, I was struck by all of the commercials I was forced to watch with live television. I was amazed at the sheer number of ads for phones and gadgets, and I was struck by the common theme of how they claim they will make our lives easier, more streamlined, and more whole. We can communicate faster and more efficiently, they tell us, thus the gadget will make our lives better.

As I sat fighting off bouts of nausea and chills, I thought about all of the claims. My experience is that technology has often made my life more fractured. Things that once had a dedicated time and place in my mind and schedule now have access to me 24/7/365. I can’t concentrate on one task without being beeped, buzzed, or reminded by pop-up of another task requiring my attention. The conversation I’m having with one person is interrupted by a text, IM, or tweet from another person.

I’m not bashing technology, which I appreciate and use to my advantage on a daily basis (like not having to watch commercials). I don’t, however, want to be blind to how it affects me and my life. When I read the beginning of today’s chapter, I asked myself how all of this is affecting my relationship with God. Am I more connected with God on a day-by-day basis and in deeper relationship, or am I more distracted? If my daily life is supposed to be an offering to God, what’s the quality of that offering?

Today, like most days, I have a lot more questions than answers. Nevertheless, God, here I am. Me, and my day, are yours.

Wait. Hold on a sec. I just got a text.

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