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.

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.

Approval

 

approved_red_stampWell, it’s been nine months since we attended the foster to adopt classes here in Kentucky. We hit a little snag a couple of months ago, which you can read about here.

Things do seem to be looking up in the Toy household, though. Pixie is recovering nicely from her surgery, and began walking almost immediately (mostly because nothing will stop her from getting to Sarabeth). It’s the next 7 1/2 weeks of recovery (A.K.A. crate confinement) which will be difficult, especially when her little sister Prim is allowed to frolic free around the loft.

And the better news is that we got an email from our case-worker saying that all of our paperwork has been approved and we are finally approved by the state of Kentucky to be foster to adopt parents. Whew!

Nine months.

Like a pregnancy without all the morning sickness and hot flashes (or is that just with menopause?).

So what does that mean, now that we’re approved? Well, it means that we could get a call from the state at any minute, being today or sometime next summer – who knows – and they’ll say, “We’ve got a two-year-old boy here who’s dad is missing and his mom is in rehab…” or “We have a brother and sister here, both under three-years-old who need a home…”

They’ll tell us the situation and any problems that are on record for the kids and ask if we are interested in taking them in.

Before we agree to picking them up, we will ask if they are eligible for possibly being adopted.

By accepting a placement, no matter what the answer to that question may be, we knowingly run the risk of that child being placed back with his or her parents or a relative stepping into the picture to take them in.

But some kids aren’t eligible for adoption for varying reasons. We want to take a child in with the hope that he or she could be ours forever.

So who knows what the future holds for us.

Personally, I’m terrified, as I’ve never had a child before. And it’s not like there’s a due-date. I won’t have six-to-eight hours of labor to let it sink in that I’m having a baby. I won’t get to hand out cigars in the lobby (thankfully this isn’t a 1950s movie, either).

We don’t want to buy toys for Christmas because we don’t know if we’ll have a child with us that morning or not. We don’t know if we need to reserve an extra seat or two at our Thanksgiving table. We don’t even know if we can go see Catching Fire next week because we wouldn’t dare take a two-year-old to such a loud and violent movie.

All we know is that everything is up in the air. And everything is unsure.

But nothing is undecided.

We take comfort in the fact that God knows the exact kid (or kids) that will be placed with us, and when. He knows their temperaments, and He knows ours. He knows whether they’ll be with us for a few months, a couple of years, or forever. He already knows the outcome of the court proceedings that are likely to follow.

We don’t; but He does. And I’m fine with that.

All we can do is have the house ready, warm, and welcoming for whoever we may bring through the door at any hour.

It’s All in a Song

notes

It’s funny. If you take a song, any one song, and play it at different times of the day, it can have a whole different meaning, or evoke different feelings.

Let’s take Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love (Keeps Lifting Me Higher)” for example.

That song works best in the car, at night with the windows down. It’s just got that old-time feeling to it, that can’t help but make you smile and tap your feet.

It’s also a fun song to have on while you’re doing chores around the house, or if you want to get your wife or kids out of a bad mood.

It can also be very lulling as it quietly plays somewhere in your bedroom at night as you fall asleep.

Maybe it reminds you of an old flame, or a loved one who passed.

It can also hold up as a party song, or even as elevator music.

No matter where you play it, or when you listen to it, it’s the same song, sung by the same guy.

The same can be said of God. He works in different ways, and speaks in different volumes, but no matter what He’s saying or how He says it, it’s the same God speaking those words.

The same God who spoke the world into being.

And the same God who spoke the words of Scripture.

So the next time you find yourself asking if it’s God’s leading or your own, match it up with what He has already said in the Bible, and see if it matches up with what you think you hear God saying to you.

And always keep the music playing. (Except when you’re praying, of course.)

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