Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kid President Gives a Pep Talk

Not all truth is found in a book with HOLY BIBLE printed on the cover.

Not all wisdom is proclaimed through the lips of the old.

And not all good advice is encased in solemn tones and piercing eye contact.

I've told you about the excellent videos produced by Soul Pancake before, but it's time for another example.

Kid President is a character created by Brad Montague and his young brother-in-law, Robbie. He is full of energetic encouragement that applies to us all. As his website declares, "Don't be in a party. Be a party."

Truth is...this video applies to us all because we are all teachers and we are all students, whether or not we spend our days in a building with SCHOOL engraved on the front.

And just for the fun of it, here's the outtake reel:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Live On, Dad

Saturday morning, July 26, 2014: My 89-year-old dad drives my 85-year-old mom to her weekly hair appointment. This is unusual. Mom usually drives herself. It's her one chance a week to get out on her own. But this day, Dad has a couple things he wants to do, so he takes her to the salon and drops her off.

Dad goes to a farm where, in his earlier retirement years (say, from age 70 to 85), he drove tractor for the young buck in charge. He picks up some sweet corn and delivers some of it to an older couple of the church, then drives back to the hair salon to wait for Mom to be done.

"Clarence just pulled into the lot," says the stylist.

Ten minutes later, Mom walks to the van saying, "Oh brother, look at him, pretending to be asleep." Only he isn't pretending. And he isn't asleep.

He isn't even there.

It's in moments like that when it really hits home...what C. S. Lewis said about us not being bodies that have souls, but souls that temporarily have bodies.

The next few days are a flurry of visits and people bringing food and service arrangements and getting names pronounced correctly...but mostly, looking into the misty-eyed faces of people who are hurting because you are hurting.

Nobody knows what to say, but everybody says something. There are a lot of "I'm so sorry"s and "He went doing what he loved to do"s and "He's in a better place"s.

Truth is...I don't know the whole timing of leaving this life and experiencing a face-to-face with Jesus. The Apostle Paul said that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), but I don't really know if that's instantaneous or if there's a holding area until the end of time...or whether when we die we step outside the constrictions of Time and are part of the always present. I'm guessing God does it the way that's best for everybody involved. What I do know is that I'm grateful for the way I was raised by "a plain man and his wife who somehow knew the value of hard work, good love, and real life."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Let me just say this and get it out there in the open: God is not a Cosmic Vending Machine. We ought not to enter the throne room of the creator of the universe, hand him a list of grievances and requests, slap on a verbal "in Jesus' name," and expect everything we want, just the way we want it, to come tumbling into our outstretched hands. Prayer didn't work that way for Paul, and there's no reason why we should expect it to work that way for us.

And yet . . .

There is a reason why, for centuries, believers have taken their grievances and requests to God.

For one thing, Jesus told us to: "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (John 16:24-NIV)

There's that phrase again..."in my name." That's got to mean more than an open-sesame-like password. It must imply that the person is abiding in Christ (John 15:4); in complete union with the purposes and desires of Jesus; in a practical sense, acting - and asking - on behalf of the son of God.

And none of us is perfect at doing that. Case in point, what I alluded to earlier about the Apostle Paul: "I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'." (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

And yet . . .

There have been, and continue to be, times when God chooses to withhold his blessings or put his plans on the back burner and waits for his people to ask. It's like he knows you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. He waits until we're thirsty enough, and dependent on him enough and humble enough...he waits for his children to recognize the source of all hope and help, to give up on trying to do things on their own, and to ask.

And then he acts.

Like Max Lucado has written:

Truth is...prayer generally "works" best when it's less about getting God to do what we want and more about getting us in line with what God wants.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dying as a Way of Life

From the moment of one's birth, life is one, brief, downward slide toward death. [There's a lead-in sentence that will suck in the masses.] We carry around within us, even in our happiest moments and most-thrilling adventures, the shadow of mortality.

But surprise-surprise...that's a good thing. "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" (Romans 6:3-NIV)

It's not just death-in-general that's "a good thing," but the really, really good thing is being identified with...having a connection to...the death of that Galilean carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. His sacrifice on my behalf pays the debt he did not owe...the debt I could not pay. I reflect that in my life by laying aside my "me first" attitude.

But wait! That's not all!

Just as with Jesus, death is not final, but leads to a whole new way of living. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20-NASB)

Truth is...Galatians 2:20 is not only a wonderful truth, but an inspiring challenge that echoes what Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (NIV)