Thursday, May 31, 2007

Church = Starbucks + Diamond Vision - Brains? (Nah. It's just Hank, Peggy & Bobby. What do you expect?)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I have been doing some thinking lately. That is not all that unusual. But I am usually thinking about things like food, baseball, napping, or food. I am not exactly certain what brought on this burst of real mental fortitude. I was spending some time alone with God a few days ago and, well, it just happened.

I had a thought.

Actually I had a series of thoughts. I started with one and it ran into another and it ran into another and it ran into another. You get the picture? The thoughts were not at all random. I am just not certain what triggered them. Let me try to explain. Maybe you can help me out.

God surprises me. I know, I know. You are thinking, "that's your big revelation?" Well, no. Not exactly. The revelation that shivers my timbers is the last in the series of thoughts. So let's take them in order and you can tell me if I'm crazy or not.

God loves. That is precisely where my mental excursion began. I was reading in the book of Exodus. Fascinating stuff. Try it sometime. And I was noticing how God, who by the way, had just made the world relatively recently, started doing really nice things for His people. The Jews were pretty much living under the thumb of the Egyptians. Forced labor, if you will. And God broke them out. It's a great story and it reminded me that God loves His chosen people, the Jews.

That thought delivered me to the doorway of John 3: 16 where it says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Did you pick-up on the not so subtle change? God loves His people the Jewish nation but God also loves the entire world.

I really do not have trouble believing either of these things. I am convinced by all I see in nature and read in God's Word that He is the very definition of love. And so it would make sense that He would love His special chosen few AND every person on the globe as well. Those thoughts flow for me. No sweat.

And all of that leads to my next major revelation. God loves me. ME. He really does. When He sent His Son Jesus to die on a bloody cross it was for me as much as it was for Billy Graham or the Pope. And I don't have trouble believing that because God IS love. It is His very nature. He is the definition of love.

You with me so far? Good. One more easy step and then it starts getting hairy.

God DID send Jesus to the cross to save all of those who will trust in Him. That is bordering on unbelievable. It is really, really close. But I do believe it. The God of the bible gave of Himself over and over and over. It is not a huge leap to understand that His love is SO HUGE (He is God, after all) that He would actually lay down His life for us. It's mind-boggling. But I can and do believe it.

Here is where it begins to get crazy for me.

It would seem logical to me that once God saves me ... once I have trusted in the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus ... He would sit back, relax, listen to some angel music, maybe cruise the galaxies and tinker with some black holes. Why not? He's God. He did what He came to do. Someday I'll die and I'll go to live with Him for eternity because He bought me back from satan (I refuse to capitalize his name.) You know, mission accomplished. Throne time.

But that is not the way He works. And this is where I get all breathless and confused and humbled and awe struck.

Instead of popping the top on a heavenly cold drink and waiting for us to show up ... God sticks around and gets involved. I-N-V-O-L-V-E-D. In my life. In the details.

Ok, I'm going to confess. You know what really got my brain started down this path? Here it is. I'll lay it out for you. Since resigning from the church I was youth pastor at for 23 years I have interviewed with several other churches and exchanged e-mails and telephone calls with even more. And you know what I have discovered? With a very few exceptions each one of them has been dysfunctional. Seriously dysfunctional. And I almost decided to go ahead and pastor one because, well, because somebody has got to do it and I have pastoring in my blood. And at the last minute ... just before I got to the point of putting myself into the position of saying "yes" God jerked my hand (mouth) out of the way. He said, "no." The details do not matter. Just trust me that He did.

And that is when I realized something HUGELY important. Over the last seven years of my life I have learned to meet God in an entirely new way. Well, new to me. Old to some people. But in those meetings I have discovered that God is SO INTIMATE with ME that I just cannot get over it. He is so real. He is so present. He is so dependable. He loves me so much ... and that is very hard for me to accept. He loves you the same way. I do not know if you have figured it out yet. I deeply believe that most Christian's never do figure it out. That goes for leadership as well as followers. If you have not felt God's arms hold you up when you could not stand on your own ... if you have not heard God speak words of love and unimaginable passion to your spirit ... you are missing far more than you realize. No, I am not an elitist. I am just like you. But I have learned to shut-up and listen. I hope you have too. It is in the shutting up and listening that God speaks. Try it if you haven't. You might get shocked.

God loves ME so much that He will not allow me to "settle." He wants me where He wants me. I have no desire to pastor a flock that just pretends to want a shepherd. Nope. Not gonna happen. Not for me. I want to pastor a flock that is passionate and hungry for the bread of life, thirsty for living water, pacing with impatience waiting for God to show-up and do something so unexplainable that only He could have done it.

And that shocks me. God loves me that much. ME. Not simply "us." ME.

I would rather spend the rest of my life driving a bus that God told me to drive than spending it pastoring a church God did not tell me to pastor. I've taken too many hits, walked too many miles, fought too many battles at the gates of hell to give it all away now for a compromise. It's all or nothing.

I don't know what to do with the kind of love that God reduces from being simply corporate to totally personal. But I promise you one thing.

I am going to find out.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Getting the old "stink eye" from mom

Today is the first birthday of my wonderful granddaughter. Elle has had one heck of a year. She went from this huge baby with a mega-head to a huge one year old with a mega-head. But that is to be expected because that head is chock full of important information. Like most babies she went from sleeping in mom and dad's room into her own bedroom. She went from just laying there in an all "help me because I can't do anything for myself" kind of way to a rather motivated young thing that army crawls, walks around furniture holding herself up, and totally captivates any room full of adults.

In short ... my granddaughter is better than yours. So there! Get over it!

And now she is one. She knows sign language for "more." Comes in handy when she's around her grandpa (that would be me) and he's feeding her straws full of Coke when her mom's back is turned. And today? Today she got her first true fix of chocolate! Her party had a real chocolate fountain. I waited until everybody had their back turned and then Elle and I creeped over to it. I only meant to get her close enough to it for her to go "wow!" mentally. But then her little hand shot out and before I could react it was in her mouth ... in her face ... and probably several other places that her mom is still discovering.

That is when I got the old "stink eye." I am absolutely amazed by the changes in my own daughter in the past year. She did not just mature into a mom. She grew up into an entirely new person. And I love it! I love what I see in her! She was once the perfect daughter. I mean seriously. If I could have designed my own daughter she would have looked just like the one God gave me. But now Kelli ... well, Kelli is also the most amazingly (nearly) perfect mother on top of it all. Sometimes I am in a room with the entire family and I know I should be looking at Elle. Everybody else is looking at Elle. She's what the story is all about these days. But I catch myself watching MY daughter ... Kelli ... and just going, "Wow. God, look what you did. This is truly amazing. Again... wow." Today was one of those days. I did not even mind the stink eye. Hey, I deserved it. I rather figured that I would get it if I got caught. And I knew the odds of my getting caught were in the high 90 percentile. But in order to introduce my Elle to chocolate it was worth the risk. And yes, it was worth getting caught. I'd do it again. Heck, I probably will!

Happy 1st birthday, baby Elle. You aren't really a baby anymore. You are officially a "toddler" I think. And you'll love toddling. It opens a whole new world! I'd be honored if you would let me explore it with you. Just think of all the trouble we can get into together!

And happy 1st anniversary of parenting, Kelli and Joe. You amaze me. No, I'm not really surprised. I knew you were exemplary people. But you have taken it to the ridiculous stage. And that is a very, very good thing.

Well Elle ... we've done the Coke thing. We've done the chocolate thing. Give me a whisper in the ear when you are ready to check out ... PIZZA!!!!

I love you. I like you. I would fight to the death for you. And now I want to sit back and enjoy the journey you are beginning through this always interesting thing called "life." Thanks for letting me be your grandpa. But not just your grandpa ... your "tick tock grandfather clock" grandpa. Don't worry. You and I know what that means and that is really all that matters.
Can't wait for tomorrow ... Grandpa