Tag Archives: life

When Love Comes To Town…

katuba hands

Love comes to town, I’m gonna jump that train
When love comes to town, I’m gonna catch that flame

This is one of my favorite pictures I took while in Uganda.  It’s an expression of love.  In Uganda it is not uncommon for men to hold hands with other men or for women to hold hands with other women.  It says something loudly, boldly.  There’s nothing sexual about it, but it is a proclamation.

Without any words at all, while walking along at the care point, a little hand reached in and entertwined fingers with mine. I looked down.  He looked up.  We didn’t say a word but just kept walking. Together.  Hand in hand.  When Noah took my hand he was saying something.  He was telling me he wanted to be WITH me, that BEING together was important.  We didn’t have to do anything.  We walked and held hands.

In Uganda I learned that touch and presence are important.  That just being with is more than doing for.

Jesus commands us to love one another.  He prayed that we would be one.  In fact, Jesus sums up ALL of the law and the prophets with these words in Matthew 22:

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.

It’s pretty easy to love Noah.  Look at him. Right. That’s a face that just screams “squeeze me!”  Katuba noahThose are eyes that let him get away with all kinds of mischief.  He has a heart that is tender and precious.  It’s easy to love Noah.

It isn’t always easy to love our neighbor.  Our neighbor isn’t always cute.  Our neighbor isn’t always who we choose to be friends with. Our neighbor isn’t always gentle and kind. But then, neither are we.

And yet, there is the clarion call of the Gospel.  Love your neighbor.  Who will you love with your presence?  Who will you go out of your way to just be with?  Who will you love – just because?

Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners.  And in his process of discipleship, Jesus taught the twelve, and us, that we are to be friends – with people like us and people not like us.

Will you catch that train with me?


A Snowy Encounter

blizzard

The call came early.  Really early.  5 something.  The robocall was telling us there would be no school today.  Weather.  Weather in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  As I rolled over to try and go back to sleep the thought in my mind was, “don’t plan any June vacations!”  We get a lot of snow in Southwest Michigan and I love it!  I like the snow.

At 6:00am I determine sleep isn’t returning so I get up, blow one side of the driveway and then head off to the gym for an early workout.  With close to 8″ of snow on the road I am enjoying how my Subaru Legacy handles in the snow!  It’s dark and so I am pretty close to them when I spot two people walking in the middle of the road.

Why don’t they walk on the sidewalk!?  As I look over to the side I realize the sidewalk is hidden beneath the snow that is falling and being blown around.  Looking ahead again I slow down to drive around the people walking in the road.  It is a man and a woman.  They aren’t wearing hats or gloves and are carrying plastic bags with what looks like groceries. The man has a binder in his left hand.

He is slightly in front of her as I drive up alongside them.  I put the passenger side window down.  “Would you like a ride?” I ask.  He looks at her, she looks at him, he looks at me.  Looking in the car he asks with a bit of skepticism, “are you sure?”

“Yeah, get in,” I respond.  He gets in front and she climbs into the back.  My legacy isn’t a big car and he is a big guy and they both have bags of food with them.  It didn’t matter if we were clogging up North Westnedge Avenue, the only people driving around in this weather are goofy folks like me.  We start heading south again.

“Where are you headed?”

“Downtown,” he says.

“Where downtown?”

“The McDonalds.” He says it like a question, wondering if I am willing to take them that far.

“No problem,” I say and we are creating tracks through the snow.

We chat a bit about the snow.  We remark about how early it feels for this kind of weather to be upon us already.  He shares that they have a car but it isn’t working  yet.  He’s confident he will get it running – in the next couple of weeks – maybe.  They’re both rubbing their hands together to warm them up.

There’s no traffic so it doesn’t take us long to arrive at McDonalds.  I pull into the parking lot and stop.  He looks at me and is sincerely grateful as he thanks me for the ride.  Then he stops for a moment and says, “Well this was really unusual!”

“What is?” I ask.

“This.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, there aren’t a lot of white people giving rides to black people,” he states. “Especially at 6:30 in the morning!”

“You’re black!?” I exclaim with mock surprise. He laughs. She laughs. We say goodbye.

Today we anticipate the grand jury in Ferguson will announce their ruling on whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Brown, an unarmed black man and the city is poised for violence.

I can’t help but believe that we can live differently.

Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? ~ Mt 25:37-39


Heaven Is For Real, that’s why i won’t see the movie

Abrasive Alert!  Let me say this right away up front, some of you will read this and won’t like it.  I’m ok with that; but I don’t know you are. Most of us want others to think the same way we do about things and then get a little perturbed when they don’t…  But don’t let that stop you – read on!

When the book Heaven is for Real came out several years ago, I had a discerning movement in the pit of my stomach.  I believe that is God’s gift to me when His Spirit is telling my spirit that something isn’t quite right.  It happens often enough that I have learned to pay attention to two things: what is happening in the world around me and what does Scripture have to say?

Around me in the world, especially in the world of evangelicalism, this book is receiving a lot of attention.  A young boy and his family are receiving a lot of attention! That thing that happens in my stomach was happening.  So I looked to Scripture.  

Interestingly, in the Bible, nobody goes to heaven, comes back, and tells about it.  What about Jesus, you ask?  Well, technically, Jesus came from the Father’s side in heaven and has now returned back to the Father’s side.  We are still waiting for his return, when the Kingdom will be fully manifested. Even Lazarus, after several days in the tomb, doesn’t have anything to say.  I have always wondered about that…

Jesus does tell a parable about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus in Luke 16.  The rich man dies and goes to hell and the beggar, Lazarus, goes to heaven near Abraham.  In the parable the rich man, in his hellish misery, begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his family.  The funny thing is this – in the parable Abraham is abundantly clear that even if Lazarus was to come back from the dead his family wouldn’t believe.

Who has gone up to heaven and come down? The is the question of the author of Proverbs 30:4. This question doesn’t get answered until John 3:13: No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.  In Scripture there are only 4 accounts of visions of heaven.  Over the course of thousands of years – only four accounts recorded in the Bible.  Isaiah, Ezekial, Paul in 2 Corinthians, and John’s vision in Revelation.

In all four accounts recorded in Scripture, there is also only one common denominator – a complete preoccupation with the magnificent glory of God.  

The book, Heaven is for Real, was sitting around our house.  So I picked it up.  This was years after it had come out.  It is well written.  But, the book, it is focused on the boy’s experience.  He even describes not liking the wings he was given (didn’t know we were getting wings in resurrection – that would’ve freaked out the disciples when Jesus walked through the wall!).  The book is not biblical.  But we like it, and others, anyway.  Why?

In our North American evangelical sub-culture, we have an unhealthy pre-occupation with end-times, heaven and hell.  It’s become popular.  Actually, our whole North American culture has become very distracted by apocalyptic themes.  This is why zombies are now showing up everywhere in media. I believe we, as a culture, are profoundly dissatisfied with our lives.  So we cling to those things that talk about something, somewhere else, being better or worse than our own experiences.  This way we have something euphoric to look forward to, or we can say at least lives aren’t as bad as that!  We have forgotten that Jesus came from heaven to give us a life, a full life – a life of abundant purpose.  Jesus wants us to live exciting lives.  Here.  Now. You can read about that in John 10.

But, what isn’t popular, is actually reading the Bible, believing God (different than believing in God, btw), and working hard in partnership with the Spirit for the transformation of ourselves and our world.

Getting pumped as the Newsboys sing God’s Not Dead at the end of the movie with the same title or after seeing Heaven is for Real, doesn’t make for lasting change. In many ways we have become like those who kept asking Jesus, after his many miracles, for a sign.  Jesus had some interesting things to say about that in Matthew 12:38ff.  

I love going to movies, you could even call it a habit – err… I mean a hobby! But movies don’t transform. Deep change comes in our lives when we partner deeply with God’s Spirit in working out our salvation “with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12)  We have to do the hard work of discipleship.  As we slowly begin to grow up and mature in Christ, we slowly begin to live lives that reflect the image of Christ in us.  We begin to slowly make a significant impact where we live, work and play.


The Problem of Christmas Isn’t Lowes

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For the last several years I have had the same recurring conversations with similar people during this post-halloween-pre-christmas season.  The conversation usually revolves around how secular and consumeristic and politically correct our Christmas has become because of any one of the following reasons: how early the stores start beating the sales drum, the shift from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays,” or the rampant spending that takes place.

The conversation always is about how Christmas is no longer about the birth of Jesus (who wouldn’t have been born during December, btw) and how it is THEIR fault.  THEY (stores, government, political correctness) have STOLEN the Christ out of Christmas, right?

Wrong. They, whoever they are, are not responsible for Christmas.  Can I say that again?  The stores, the government, the post office, the media – they are not responsible for Christmas.

I am.  We are.  You and me.

A friend of mine, Jim Herrington (he blogs here ), reminds me regularly that we are witnessing the death of cultural christendom.  As such, I believe we, the church, are also living in the midst of our greatest opportunity!  However, because we are indeed watching the slow decline and eventual death of “church” as the nation new it in the 1940’s & 1950’s, it should not be a surprise that in our culture the systems and structures are doing exactly what they are.

Stores, big box stores like Lowes, and little mom & pop shops, exist to sell goods to people who will buy them and in the selling of the goods, make money for the owners as well as the manufacturers & suppliers of those goods.  What does that mean?  It means this – Best Buy does not exist for the purpose of protecting Christmas or any other Christian tradition.  That isn’t their job.  Their job is to sell me what I need (actually, Best Buy sells a lot of what I want and very little of what I need); their job is to make money for their owners; their job is to provide jobs for workers.  See where this is going?

Years ago the USPS told their mail carriers they couldn’t say, “Merry Christmas.”  The right side of evangelicalism went ballistic.  The Post Office isn’t the church.  It exists for the purpose of delivering the mail.  But we, the church, got angry.

Why?

Because we want someone else to be responsible for our faith, our discipleship, our connection with God.  We feel better about spending exorbitant amounts of money at Toys-r-Us when the cashier says, “Merry Christmas.”

But here’s the truth, it is my responsibility to remember Jesus’ birth (which, btw, Jesus doesn’t even ask us to do…).  It is my privilege to remember not only Christ’s birth but EVERYTHING about it – from Genesis to Revelation – and be transformed by it.  My capacity to celebrate Jesus does not depend upon the box store’s decision to begin Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Thursday (which, btw, might actually be an answer to prayer for some of the employees who worked that day and needed money for rent!).

I am glad the stores, the government, the schools and the media are not responsible for “keeping Christ in Christmas.”  During this time when the church is experience such dramatic decline and the North American version of Christmas has become about consumerism & economics, we have opportunity like never before!

Today, when people no longer have to hide the fact that they aren’t Christian, gives those of us who earnestly are being transformed by the Gospel an amazing opportunity to really be different.  Different from cultural; and, different from culture’s understanding of church.

Jesus calls us a light on a hill which in darkness cannot be hidden.  That’s cool.  I like that.  I want to live that kind of life.  Will you live it with me?