Shiny Pennies

us-pennyYou probably do it too.

The cashier says, “That’ll be $16.18.” You dig through your wallet or purse and you pull out a twenty, a dime, a nickel, and three pennies. But as you’re digging through your pennies, you see that you have three dingy, rusty ones, and one brand new, perfectly shiny one, minted in 2012.

Which three do you use to pay for your food?

The three old rusty ones, of course. It’s better to hold onto the shiny one. It’s prettier.

It’s shinier.

That’s what we do with the Gospel, isn’t it? Let’s be honest for a minute.

We want to fit in with our coworkers, so we throw in a few dirty jokes to get their approval. That’s a pretty dingy part of our character we’re spending on them, holding back the best part of us – the Christian part of us.

The part of us that’s supposed to be like Jesus Christ.

We’re slow to show forgiveness to our spouses. We’re a little rusty on being slow to anger, so that’s what they get from us. A rusty, sour attitude. Again, we’re holding back the beauty of forgiveness, keeping it deep in our pocket for our own sake.

Modesty, forgiveness, kindness, love – these are all aspects of the Gospel that we often decide to keep from others, day in, day out. All the while, we offer them the same thing everyone else gives – the worst part of who we are. Anger, selfishness, an unforgiving spirit…

So as you interact with your coworkers and loved ones this week, think about whether you’re giving them dirty, rusty pennies, or the bright shiny ones that everyone likes.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. -Matthew 5:16

So You Wanna Write Part 10 – “Take That Step”

5If you’ve ever been to church in your life, chances are you’ve seen this movie clip.

It’s probably the most overused clip in all churches ever.

And if it happens to be a church that doesn’t have a movie screen or projectors, then the youth pastor or the hip young intern has referenced the scene on stage at some point.

And the funny thing is, all these years later, these guys still get behind the pulpit and reference this movie scene as though they’re the first ones to draw in a biblical connection to it.

Cracks me up every time.

You know the scene.

Indy’s father is dying of a gun wound and he, Indiana Jones, must retrieve the holy grail. But IndyAbyssone of the last tests is for him to make a leap of faith.

He takes that step into a deep chasm, and behold! His foot lands on an invisible stone bridge!

Well, I’m not going to make the obvious (though unintentional) connection to Christian faith (lest we forget that The Last Crusade was directed by a Jew?). But I’m going to make the connection between that scene and writing.

When I was younger and my mind wasn’t carrying the weight of bills, mortgages, and 2 A.M. feedings, I was able to shower, drive, or just fall asleep dreaming up my stories. I would watch them play out in my head like a movie, and the next day I’d get to work and write what I had played in my head.

I worry a lot now, so I’ve lost the luxury to be able to let my mind play out in that way.

The bigger problem is that it’s another excuse to not write. Well, I didn’t come up with anything for a new scene, so I guess there’s nothing to write today.

Well, if that’s you, you need to stop thinking that way. So do I.

Instead, we need to approach that blank Word document like a cliff that we must hurdle. The words are already there; we just can’t see them yet. We just need to take a step, and write.

The words will come whether we think they will or not.

Three Things Everyone Needs Every Day

treasure-mapWhat is it everyone is in search of?tumblr_m7ovkbFKQD1ro8ysbo1_500

Wealth?

Chocolate?

Justice?

Bobby Fischer?

Maybe. But there are thee essential things that every single person on the planet, from their first breath to their last, is in constant search of whether they know it or not.

The mind is searching for something. The heart is searching for something. And the soul is searching for something. The way a stomach craves food, or a tank requires fuel.

Boy, girl and dog sleeping covered with a blanket.The mind is in constant search for comfort. This could be loosely translated into money since money buys comfort. After all, we work harder so we can be comfier. From birth you want soft blankets, warm arms, comfy clothes. As we grow older we want the comfort of an unbreakable parental unit, a stable home, an alarm system for our house, safe schools, etc. We also are in search of the comfort of leisure once those basic things are procured. For instance, I love the comfort of my books, others want to know they’re coming home to their DVD collections or their trendy clothes to put on for their weekend outing. Comfort comes in all shapes and sizes, and no matter who we are, we can’t rest until we have it.

The heart is in constant search for love, or acceptance. (Do I hear a “Duhhh”?) But from birth Love2we need love, eye contact, physical touch, smiles, and laughs. You can rent the first romantic comedy that comes to mind and it’s instantly clear that everyone is in search of love. Even the cold business tycoons need some form of love, even though many may not admit it or know it.

And lastly, the soul is in search of probably the most important and lasting element of all. Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a second, or third, or fourth chance. Forgiveness is life. Forgiveness is vital.

Forgiveness is cradled between the desire of the heart and the desire of the mind. Forgiveness is spawned by love and gives birth to a specific, lasting comfort.

When my baby cries at night, my wife and I get out of bed for her because of love, we provide comfort for her because we know she needs it, and it’s an unspoken forgiveness of her disrupting our sleep that allows us to continue to love and comfort.

We all have done things we wish we could forget. Every single one of us would gladly pay big money to hop in a time machine and erase certain events in our lives. We all have a cluttered closet that we keep padlocked and dead-bolted, lest anyone breaks in.

But the thing is, you don’t need a time machine or a padlock to hide the past. We need what the souls desires: Forgiveness. And while our friends and family may offer it to us, and they can forget our transgressions to a degree, true and binding forgiveness can come from one person alone.

And He can also forget our past sins from one end of the infinite universe to the other. If we are confident in our place as God’s adopted child, and we’ve asked forgiveness for our sins, and we gave him the key to our locked storerooms of mistakes and bad choices, He would look in and not find bones or files with red marks.

He wouldn’t find empty alcohol bottles or dirty bed sheets or empty bank accounts.

No. He would find an empty closet. An empty closet that is filled with second chances, a fresh start, a new beginning.

“Go and sin no more.” – Jesus Christ, John 8:11

ttr-grave-cloths

A Call to Resurgence

1037I find many contemporary Christian books lacking in either sound theology or cunning intrigue. When it comes to Christian books I tend to stick with the classics like R.C. Sproul and C.S. Lewis.

A friend of mine suggested I read Mark Driscoll’s new book, A Call to Resurgence, and he asks the question: “Will Christianity have a funeral or a future?”

I’m not going to lie. I like Driscoll. I agree with about 97% of his teachings about the Chruch, the Bible, God, and the people of God. And I believe he’s got a good handle on what’s in store for Christianity in the very near future.

As citizens of the 21st century are drowning in the rapid currents of the new “tolerance” movement, Driscoll makes the point that we Christians need to know where we stand on issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and basic theological truths that many of us may have forgotten.

I loved this book. Not only because I agree with most of his statements and predictions, but because he explains this “brave new world” we’re living in crystal clear, and reminds Christians that we can no longer sit on our butts and watch the world spiral out of control.

We’ve got to join in the chaos, because, really, it’s not chaos at all. The world is heading in the direction God has planned – bad as it may seem now.

We just have to know how to live in it and stand strong.

How Salvation Works

kids-in-classroomOn the first day of school, Mrs. Shermann passed out the kid-friendly syllabi  to her students and asked, “How many classroom rules do you notice on the whiteboard?”

“Ten!” they all shouted in unison.

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Shermann.

What she was about to teach them was her favorite lesson to teach. And she wondered who, if any, would learn it.

Rules 2-10 were the standard RAISE YOUR HAND BEFORE SPEAKING; BE COURTEOUS TO YOUR CLASSMATES; WRITE YOUR NAME ON ALL ASSIGNMENTS, etc.

But Rule No. 1 was the heart of it all.

It said, “ALWAYS SAY YOU’RE WELCOME.”

She spent probably eight minutes stressing the importance of this rule. A simple rule at best, a curious one for the 21st century at worst.

But the No. 1 rule, nonetheless.

But as the year progressed, it proved to be so much more complicated than it ever needed to be. And many kids had their feelings hurt by it, and others cried, and many were grounded by their parents for bad grades. All because of that dreaded Rule No. 1.

Mindy’s parents went over her assignment with her at least twice before declaring that it was indeed a perfect 100% (a 99 at worst if Mrs. Shermann was counting the missed comma in one of Mindy’s answers). But the 0/100 blotched in red ink at the top was a curious and disdainful score.

Dylan came home crying to his mom for the second time that week because, “Missus Shermunn calls on me and I give her the right answer, but she says I’m wrong. I raise my hand and say the answer is Benjimin Franklin and she says no. Then she called on Lindsy and she says Benjimin Franklin, and Missus Shermunn says she’s right.”

Every year Mrs. Shermann meets with a lot of parents the first couple of weeks of school. But the parents walk out appeased and relieved almost every time.

“It’s come to my attention that most of you think I’m unfair with my grading,” said Mrs. Shermann one Thursday morning before diving into the day’s agenda.

Some of the kids skeptically nod their heads. Others sit stiff upright, as though not wanting to show disloyalty or doubt to the fuhrer.

“A lot of you feel that your answers are correct in your assignments, but you get 0′s. And some of you give the right answer in class, and I say you’re wrong.”

A few more heads nod.

“You can do all the right things, and have all the right answers, but none of that matters if you don’t follow the rules. Especially the most important rule.”

Her gaze directed the others’ toward the whiteboard. Rule No. 1 seemed to be written in a much brighter color that day.

ALWAYS SAY “YOU’RE WELCOME.”

“If you turn in your assignment and I say ‘Thank you,’ and you don’t respond with ‘You’re welcome,’ then what good is it if you have all the answers right? You broke Rule No. 1, so nothing else matters.”

She continued. “If you give the right answer in class and I say ‘Thank you,’ and you ignore me or just nod your head, then I’m going to call on someone else until they obey Rule No. 1, then I’ll tell them they have the right answer.”

“Let’s say you live in a small town and the most important rule is that you must wear a blue shirt all the time. If you don’t wear a blue shirt all the time, but you do a lot of amazing things like save kittens from trees, give money to the poor, be nice to your enemies, none of that matters, because you’re not wearing the color blue. You’re breaking the most important rule. It might not make sense to you, but the rule in this classroom is to say ‘You’re welcome’ when thanked.”

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

“All have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

You’re welcome.

Imitations

StarbucksI’m here at Starbucks working on a book, and as I look around, I’m realizing something.

Starbucks is the Christian alternative to a bar.

I mean really, as I sit here I’m watching a chubby guy trying to make eyes at a young lady at the opposite table. He’s bald and wearing a small Western Kentucky Hilltoppers sweatshirt. He has a copy of The Insanity of Obedience next to his computer. I don’t think he has much of a chance.

One couple is snogging each other on the barstools where people are trying to pick up their lattes.

People go to Starbucks to get their drinks – their buzz – and hope to meet someone of the opposite sex. The only difference between Starbucks and a bar is that you don’t have to tip the servers!

(And instead of being asked, “What’s your poison,” you might be asked, “Whole milk or skim?”)

I may not come to Starbucks to meet singles, as I’m happily married, and I’m definitely not saying it’s a bad thing that people go to Starbucks for any reason. But I’ve got other imitations in my life.

I’m listening to the Frozen soundtrack as I work and I’m mistaking it as uplifting Christian music (need I say more than the opening track, “Vuelie”?).

I mistake the Bible as a self-help book.

I treat God as a deistic Being who is just out there somewhere. Then, when the devil locks me in the great Cave of “Wonders”, I expect God to appear as a funny big blue genie, complete with gold cufflinks, symbolizing His inferiority to me.

And church? That’s a place I go to for credit on my Eternal Records.

We tend to get a lot of things mixed up, don’t we? I know I do.

Something I’m trying to learn right now is to be still and know that He is God.  He doesn’t sound like Robin Williams and He certainly isn’t bound by any cufflinks or golden lamp.

That’s easy to say, and easier to write. But it’s something I’m trying to learn to believe. And be okay with it.

Meantime, I’m going to finish my latte and see if I can play Hitch to the Hilltoppers sweatshirt guy; his glasses are fogging up staring at this girl, and I think he’s going to damage his computer if he drips anymore sweat on it.

“Please Don’t Kill the Child”

Abortion ChairForty-one years ago today, on January 22, 1973, two historical events took place during the drafting of the Paris Peace Accords and negotiations of the release of Vietnam POW’s.

The country would mourn one event, while it would be torn apart because of the other, more crucial event.

The first was that the thirty-sixth president of the United States died of a heart attack in Texas. This may have overshadowed the even more dreadful event of January 22 – the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Regardless of your beliefs, this was a dark day in American history. The ruling struck down any abortion law that had been in place. It allowed abortion for any reason for the first three months of pregnancy.

Cold-blooded murder was permitted on U.S. soil 41 years ago.

And the blood of the unborn continues to flow freely today, for the most part, without resistance.

Why are people so base as to actively terrorize the lives of unborn babies? I’ve mentioned it in a previous post that those who murder or support the murder of unborn babies are no better than the despicable acts of  people like Andrew Lanza.

And now I ask a question to those who oppose abortion: Why? Why aren’t we fighting to defend the fatherless, the motherless, the unborn orphans? Why have we let America fall so short of this basic God-given right to life?

A lot of times we might just ask ourselves, what can we do?

I love the words of Mother Teresa, who puts it so plainly:

We are fighting abortion by adoption – by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: “Please don’t destroy the child; we will take the child.” Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me that child. I am willing to accepet any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. From our children’s home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy. 

So I ask, what’s stopping us, any of us, to do the same?

If you know of anyone who is planning on having an abortion, offer to take that child. Find a family who will take that child. Save that child. If you are considering an abortion, there are plenty of families who are desperate to have your baby, and will take great care of him or her and you would not be condemned by giving him up.

Let us not forget the tragedy of this day, 41 years ago – America’s return to depravity that is as dark, and even worse, than slavery itself.

Mourn for the deceased unborn, and seek out and fight for those who may yet still have a chance.

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