Monday, July 30, 2012

Beauty Where You Are...

If I were a more tech-savvy person I would post a few photos to spruce this post up a bit (not to mention fix the background of an earlier blog post, or two).  However, until I get more up to date you can close your eyes and imagine with me…well, after reading a bit further that is.  Just be sure to reopen them to continue reading. 

This past weekend we (wife Melissa and daughters Ellei and Charis) headed to Colorado for a friend’s wedding.  It was an enjoyable trip despite my tirechanging practice and lessons learned in parenting (future post).  In fact, I am going to post some thoughts and reflections on the trip both here and in subsequent posts. 

First, I will address the title of this post, “Beauty Where You Are”.  As most reading this will know, I live in Kansas.  I have lived here for all but two of my sojourning years on this earth to date.  I like it here.  I remember when we lived in Illinois (without our daughters, well, Ellei was in the womb for a few months while there) for a two years it was not uncommon for someone to quip one of two responses after learning of the state from which we had moved.  One was practically always hilarious to the person asking, and it went something like, “Oh, how is Toto doing?” or something like that.  While it did not bother me, on more than one occasion I thought of bursting out in laughter and after gathering myself 30 seconds or so later say something like, “Wow, I have never heard that before…you are so funny!!!” or “He’s dead.”   

The other relatively common response went something like, “Oh Kansas, that’s the long state we have to drive through to get to Colorado”.  I cannot remember saying the exact words, but I do recall thinking after a remark or two like that, “Why don’t you just move to Kansas and save some drive time?”  The implication of course being how the scenery of Illinois is pretty much the same as that of Kansas – i.e., “flat”. 

Granted, neither all of Illinois, nor all of Kansas is flat – and yes I do realize there is a state between those two as well.  The point is, far too often people fail to see beauty where they are.  Far too often people long for something other than what is right before them.  Granted, the mountains of Colorado are quite scenic.  I think it would be refreshing to see them day in and day out.  Yet after a while I imagine even they would run the risk of becoming “old hat” if you will. 

Truthfully, there is much great scenery in Kansas.  I would suggest getting an “8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook”.  If you do, or you click here, you will see there is more than physical scenery that is a “Wonder” in Kansas (as is the case in any state).  This same line of thinking goes for the aspect of beauty where you are.  But that is another post. 

In the meantime, you must also not forget the beauty of right where you live.  I am not saying going to a “scenic” spot on vacation is a waste of time or anything like that.  Yet far too often we miss the beauty right in front of our face. 

One of my favorite views is from the back cement porch at my parent’s home.  I have seen it thousands of times in my life.  Granted, I see it far less often now than when I first learned to appreciate it several years ago, but I still take the time to marvel at God’s creation through that view in particular when I am back there.  Funny, I imagine it became one of my favorite scenic views after I moved out…or was at least away to college. 

Oh the irony of how much beauty is not seen, or at least appreciated, until it is missed.  Irony? or Tragedy?  Whichever it is, there is a solution to it… 

Friday, July 20, 2012

If I Were God...

If I were God, I think I would have done things differently.  Yes, I realize the foolishness of that statement.  However, if I were God, I think I would have done things differently.  

One thing the Bible clearly shows us is how, even in the midst of judgment, God is graceful.  E.g., after "the fall" Adam and Eve are not kicked out of Eden because God is vindictive, mean, or pulling a power play.  The Bible says, 22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen3:22-24).  They were kicked out because God did not want the crowning point of His creation living in a perpetually fallen state and continually succumbing to the temptation to prolong a life in which our relationship with Him has been distorted (let alone how we would be killing one another to have access to that means).  In other words, without this act of grace fallen humanity would seek to live forever in these fallen/earthly vessels and therefore never experience the joy of an unhindered relationship with our Creator.  

This pattern of God's grace woven into judgment is throughout the Bible - quite amazing I think.  Yet as far as me doing things differently if I were God, let us look at another event.  In Genesis 11 God confuses the common tongue of humanity and disperses them to fill the earth.  This is an act of grace because it puts humanity on track with God's original intention rather than densely populating one place (cf. Gen1:28; 11:2,4).  We need to face reality, people blatantly disobeying God living in close quarters is never a good thing.  It simply compounds problems.  Yet out of this judgment (with grace woven into it) comes another act of grace - God calls Abram.  Most reading this know the basics of how that story goes.  

And here is where I would do things differently.  I would not have waited so long to call Abram, well, at least one like Abram (if you know what I mean).  After all, how long was it from Noah to Abram?  Let alone from Adam and Eve to Abram?  I have no idea.  In fact, no one really knows for sure.  So I have a dilemma.  On one hand I would not have waited that long "to call Abram".  Yet on the other hand I know I am finite and do not see the bigger picture.  So where does that leave me?  Well, if I am wise, it leaves me wrestling with living within the God-given gift of limitations.  

It is so easy to think "God needs to do ______."  It is also common to think "Well, if I do not ______ then no one will."  Granted, there is nothing wrong with seeing an injustice and thinking God ought to do something about it.  Furthermore, there are likely times where if you do not act another will not.  Yet do these realities mean if God does not act in your time frame then He will never act?  Or that if you do not do something then God is incapable of raising up someone else?  

Do you see why the gift of limits is a difficult one?  Receiving the gift of limits means I must (continually) acknowledge I am not God; I do not know best.  Receiving the gift of limits means I must also trust God; His faithfulness has been continually proven.  Receiving the gift of limits just might also mean many questions we ask and get bogged down with might not be that important...or at least they pale in importance to the question of whether or not we trust God.  

Ah yes, limitations.  We all have them...not many of us enjoy them.  Yet to be a growing disciple of Jesus we must embrace them.  Interestingly, since inherent in receiving the gift of limits is trusting God, it means we again must take a serious look at what He says is best for us.  After all, what He says defines our limits; He knows best.   

Here are some Scriptures that deal with what we are to "put on" and "put off" (Rom13:12-14; Gal3:27; Eph4:17-24, 25-32; 6:11-20; Col3:5-17; 1Thess5:6-11; Heb12:1-2; Jas1:19-27; 1Pet2:1-3).  If we are serious about receiving God's gift of limits we will seek to "put on" and "put off" what He says.  OR...would you rather to continue playing the game of "If I Were God..."?  

In other words, would you rather continue to redefine your limits?

Last August I started preaching through the gospel of Mark.  There was a short intermission for a focus on stewardship in November, a Sunday here and there have not been in Mark as well, but most of the time since last August we have been in Mark.  Then (along with a trip to Blessing Ranch in Colorado) I got to Mark 7 (particularly verses 20-23) in May.  Since that time we have been looking at issues of the heart.  After all, Jesus said that within our heart are all the problems of the world (cf. Mk7:21-22 and a list of 12 things, a Jewish number for completeness, that are evil and are within us).

So, with that in mind, plus using concepts from Peter Scazzero's The Emotionally Healthy Church, we have been looking at heart issues for the past several weeks.  This weekend we are looking at receiving the gift of limits.  This is a difficult topic for me...a few reflections you have likely already read.