Archive for February, 2021

25
Feb
21

Knowing You… Loving You

They know me so well.

” No endorsement of this product should be implied from this ad.

They know I drive a 2009 Nissan Altima.

They know I play the guitar. (Fortunately, they aren’t terribly clued in about my fumbling, stumbling skill level).

They know I am a grandfather.

They know I originally hail from Hilliard, Ohio. 

They are intimately familiar with my on-line purchasing habits, regularly offering me similar items at lower prices (and better quality). 

They know my political persuasions, my religious preferences, my sexual orientation, and my favored color palette. 

Heck, the marketing trolls of the internet somehow even know that I have chronic right shoulder pain and occasionally (when I eat too late) experience nighttime bouts of acid reflux … a fact I have only ever discussed with Joan behind our closed bedroom door. 

“How is it possible…” I ask, shaking my fist toward the heavens, “… that such total, uncaring strangers know me so WELL?”

But we all know the answer to that question, don’t we? This kind of deep, granular-level reconnaissance on each one of us is today’s coin of the realm. 

Nothing is hidden from BIG DATA. BIG DATA is in charge of our lives. Your phone listens in on the conversation you had with your next door neighbor and then **SHAZAM!!** up pops an ad for beekeeping equipment on your news feed.*

It is a scary and unsettling reality of Life in the Connected Age.

And yet, in a perverse and twisted way, isn’t this also the answer to a prayer? What I mean is, haven’t each of us, starting at a very young age, yearned for someone to KNOW us? 

No… we didn’t seek to be known for the purpose of being marketed at. But haven’t we each longed for someone to know us completely – head to toe – in order that we might have the experience of being LOVED… totally and unconditionally?

Because let’s face it; it takes no great depth of soul to take a shine to the online dating profile version of a person. But it takes something very close to divinity to love someone when every wart, freckle, and character flaw is exposed.

But THAT is exactly the love God offers us.

It is exactly the love we are wired to crave.

It is also exactly the love we are called to offer one another. 

Abundant blessings;

  • an actual event in my life
23
Feb
21

Making Connections

At the tender age of 12, my mom and dad sent me to summer camp.

Pretty standard stuff for a 12-year-old, right? Except at the time, we lived just outside of Columbus, Ohio and this camp was in the beautiful, faraway state of New Hampshire. 

The fact that there were four other kids at home besides me made transportation a real head-scratcher. Packing all seven of us up for a 13 ½ hour drive in the Family Truckster was probably not going to cut it… nor was air travel a viable option.

So my folks decided that the best way to get me up to beautiful Camp Merrowvista was to ship me off on a Greyhound bus…

… by myself,

… at the age of 12.

  • Have I mentioned that my bus trip from Columbus to Winnipesaukee, NH included a four-hour layover at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City?
  • … And that the layover was from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.?
  • … And that I was 12 years old at the time?

Of course, today, no parent in their right mind would toss their 12-year-old into that shark-infested swimming pool and expect them to swim. 

But my parents were different. They had a PLAN! And the plan was for my dad to write out notes in a pocket-sized spiral notebook that told me in EXTREME detail what was going to happen at every step of the way. In that notebook was listed every stop, how long the stop was going to be, whether I could (or should) try to get off the bus for a snack or bathroom break, when we would have to CHANGE busses (something that really scared me), right down to the names, ages, and kids’ names of each of the bus drivers.

[OK… I made that last part up.]

That little notebook was a lifesaver… probably literally, as I think back on it. And when it came to the part about the four-hour layover in New York City (again, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.), it said, “First, find the Traveler’s Aid desk. Then tell them you are traveling by yourself and ask if you can just stay close at hand until your bus leaves.”

Piece of CAKE!

The feeling I had throughout the trip was that no matter what happened, I was connected to my dad. He was right there with me, riding in my right breast pocket. As long as I was carrying that notebook, I had nothing to fear… not even that wine-and-urine-soaked guy laying on the floor of the Port Authority bus terminal.

And if you think about it, isn’t that a big part of what faith is all about? Isn’t our faith about making those vital CONNECTIONS that help us navigate the difficult passages of life? 

One might even go so far as to say that we humans are WIRED for connection.

Connection with one another…

Connection with the world around us, and…

Connection with our Heavenly Parent.

We fall into living in fear, anger, and isolation when our connections are faulty. Conversely, we tend to thrive more when those connections and solid and intact.

Surely that is one of the biggest reasons this pandemic has been so hard on our souls, as well as our minds and bodies; it has damaged or threatened the critical connections of our lives.

Today I am going to pause and think about one human connection I need to repair and then go out and think about how I will work to repair it. 

How are your connections?

Abundant blessings;

21
Feb
21

Fitting In

Joan looked me up and down, the slightest traces of disdain visible in the corners of her eyes.

“That’s dorky,” she finally said.

“What?” I asked, genuinely unsure what in the world she might be referring to.

“What you’re wearing,” she replied.

Still uncertain my spouse and I were speaking the same language, I stopped and looked down to examine my attire. Black sweatpants that didn’t quite reach my ankles. Check. Red socks. Check. A worn, blue and red checked flannel shirt untucked at the waist. Check and check.

“You mean, THIS?” I asked, gesturing down toward my admittedly hastily chosen ensemble.

“Yes,” she said. “Go back and change those pants. What about a nice pair of jeans?”

After a combined 44 years of marriage experience, I have learned one absolutely essential lesson: some hills are just not worth dying on. And so, without further protest, I returned to our bedroom and changed my pants. I mean, who knows who I might run into on my quick trip to Home Depot? There might be a casting director for a locally produced documentary on fashionable 60+ Fort Collinsites (???) lurking there in the plumbing aisle.

To be completely up front with you, I am not utterly clueless when it comes to dressing myself. More often than not, I try to make sure that my socks and shirt are at least in the same color family.

That studied nonchalance is a marked contrast from my earlier years. For longer than I care to admit, I was a guy who expended a lot of mental energy worrying about how I measured up in the eyes of people around me.

My “conforming concerns” extended far beyond the realm of wardrobe. Yes, I worried not only about WEARING the right things, but also about SAYING the right things, THINKING the right things, and FEELING the right things. 

Back then, my chief concern was figuring out how to fit in well with the world around me… a concern that led to a great deal of heartache and anxiety. Sadly, I look around and see that that same heartache and anxiety plagues a large swath of the population today.

Growing older did a lot to help ease those worries. Getting married and not having to worry about my visual “curb appeal” helped, too. But do you know what helped calm my conformity cares more than anything else? 

A living, breathing relationship with The One Who Made Me. The One who said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden [especially with the imagined judgments of others] and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). The One who pointed out that, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (Matthew 10:29). It is the same One who commanded me, for the sake of my own mental and spiritual health that I should “… not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). 

Today I see the extraordinary pressure that children and young adults feel as they try to measure up to standards that are forever shifting, changing, moving, and growing and my heart breaks for them. 

I pray that each of us – but especially the young and most vulnerable among us – might be able to look into the kind, brown eyes of Jesus and hear him whisper, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NRSV). 

Abundant blessings;

16
Feb
21

Something from Nothing

For some time now I have had a soft spot in my heart for entrepreneurs.

Take Frederick W. Smith, for example. While a student in the business school at Yale University, Smith wrote a paper that outlined a wacky idea for an overnight package delivery service. 

Smith got a “C” on the paper, along with his professor’s gentle reminder that the assignment was to write about a business idea that actually had a chance of being implemented.

Undaunted, young Mr. Smith decided he really believed in what he had written and decided to go out and make it happen. The business Smith described in that “C” paper turned out to be the blueprint for the company that is known today as Federal Express… the company Smith still serves as chairman and CEO.

Through my undergraduate years, I remember hearing the stories of the steam engine stoker turned insurance salesman turned filling station operator named Harlan Sanders who – in his spare time – tinkered around with different combinations of herbs and spices and a method of pressure-frying chicken that eventually took America by storm under the brand name Kentucky Fried Chicken

I was fascinated by the tale of the milkshake mixer salesman named Ray Kroc who helped a couple of brothers named McDonald franchise their simple-menu hamburger stand concept that ultimately created an entirely new category of restaurant.

As I began to study them, I noticed that most entrepreneur stories seemed to follow a similar arc. They each seemed to begin with a restless spirit and a curious mind trapped inside a dull, one-dimensional job. That mind asks – and keeps asking – “What if…?” somehow impervious to all of the voices of reason that counsel the safe path. 

Bold leaps are taken… usually with disastrously disappointing initial results. Nevertheless, the Restless Spiritsoldiers on. He or she makes major and minor adjustments to the vision before hazarding the climb back up the ladder to the high dive platform. Friends, family members, distant relatives, all offer The Restless Spirittheir sincerely considered advice, saying that it is probably time to discard the pipe dream and get back to work on something proven and practical.

But then, in a scene reminiscent of the movie Castaway (starring Tom Hanks), the tinder of that ridiculous idea suddenly begins to smoke… we see a tiny flame somewhere down there at the bottom. That tiny flame grows and grows until it finally becomes an epic bonfire of business success. 

Or maybe it doesn’t. Ever.

But as is the case with most entrepreneurs I have ever met, the lack of a tangible result does not stop or even slow them down. They just keep plugging away.

In that sense, the instinct to entrepreneurism seems to have a lot in common with the instinct toward art. Somewhere, somehow in the deep recesses of the mind of the artist (and/or the entrepreneur), a seed is dropped. There our little seed finds fertile soil, moisture, warmth, and an energizing spark. The seed coat is broken and the radicle, the plumule, and the cotyledons (yes… I Googled all of those words) begin to unfold, gasping hungrily toward the rays of the morning sun. 

The artist/entrepreneur nurtures the tender shoot, strategically clearing its path of obstacles and threats until it begins to demonstrate a more robust grip on its surroundings. 

And in the process, each of these experiences the sheer joy of creating SOMETHING out of NOTHING. 

But you know what else? It is also the joy that motivated God to create YOU and ME and our amazing WORLD in the first place. It is also the joy that God planted within the breast of every one of us. It is the joy that we are each invited to experience… whether we see ourselves as artists or entrepreneurs or not. 

When the Bible tells us we are made, “… in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), it means that we are endowed with the same core traits as the One who made us. It means that if God is love, WE are love. It means if God is about relationships, WE are about relationships. It means if God creates, WE create.

What will you create today?

Abundant blessings;

14
Feb
21

Wintering

Good morning and happy V-Day from frigid Fort Collins, Colorado.

Joan and I woke up to a nippy minus seven degrees Fahrenheit this morning… headed for a daytime high of zero and a nighttime low later of -17.

Yes, you read that correctly. Negative seventeen degrees.

How cold is it, you ask? And right on cue, Johnny Carson answers:

  • “It is so cold my teeth froze together.”
  • “It is so cold my heartburn is cured.”
  • “It is so cold even the squirrels had thermal underwear.”
  • “It was so cold hitchhikers were holding up pictures of thumbs.”
  • “It was so cold the eye doctor was giving away free ice scrapers with every purchase of a new pair of eyeglasses.”
  • “It was so cold squirrels in the park were throwing themselves at electric fences.”
  • “It was so cold Starbucks was selling coffee on a stick.”

[Kids… go ask your parents who Johnny Carson was. And while you’re at it, tune in some re-runs of the pre-Jimmy Fallon, pre-Jay Leno Tonight Show.]

The bunny footprints you see in this picture of our front sidewalk are probably the only set of footprints this sidewalk will see today. We are huddled up and hunkering down until we see AT LEAST double digits (positive) on the thermometer.

We are engaged in that ancient practice known as WINTERING.

And whether you are a fan of the season or not, WINTERING turns out to be an essential human activity. It is a time to slow down one’s heart rate and activity level… a time to withdraw… a time to become enfolded in warmth… a time to just BE.

Bears have another name for this time; they call it “hibernation.”

I tell people I am not a fan of winter because I hate cold weather. And while there is a dash of truth in that statement, it fails to tell the whole story. 

The more complete answer is that I also don’t like winter because I don’t like to slow down. I find that I am too susceptible to the myth that tells me that the good life is the busy life… that I must regularly PRODUCE something in order to justify my place on the earth.

Does that ring any familiar bells with YOU?

Botanists will tell you that valuable things happen to plants in the winter. Even though all of the grass and shrubs in your yard look deader than Gary Hart’s political career [again, kids… ask your parents about Gary Hart. And see if they can also shed any light on why a guy would exclusively use 80’s cultural references in his blog] there are still important processes going on. Damaged cells are repairing themselves. We also know that when the plant above the ground stops growing, the root system below the ground has a chance to grow and extend. 

When the cold and snow of winter descends, the plant takes a necessary break in order to gain strength for the next season…

… just like you and I do at night when we sleep.

So, I wonder… do you think it’s possible that this entire global pandemic we’ve been dealing with might be a kind of “wintering” experience for the world? I mean, is COVID conceivably giving all of creation the opportunity to slow down… take shelter… withdraw… and renew?

I certainly don’t like the idea of quarantining, but I get it. Social intercourse spreads disease. But maybe instead of focusing only on what Joan and I have LOST during this prolonged lockdown, I could stop… step back… and let this interlude have its full, desired, renewing effect. 

To everything there is a season,” according to The Teacher. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NRSV)

I guess that even applies to winter.

Abundant blessings;

13
Feb
21

A Flickering Beacon

The lines are drawn. The boundaries are set.

Deep trenches have been dug. 

Walls, moats, and impenetrable barriers have been set up.

Razor wire traces curlicues across the top of our parapets.

Each side glares across no man’s land at the other, ascribing the most craven and baseless motives to their actions. 

“You want to know what the devil himself looks like?” they ask. “Just take a look at THEM!”

Red and blue no longer make purple. Today they just seem to make mud.

And rising up in the middle of this tense terrain we hear voices wailing, “We have NEVER been so divided as a nation!”

To which I reply, “Stuff and nonsense.” After all…

  • It was only 57 years ago that this country passed the Civil Rights Act, national legislation that made it illegal to discriminate against people because of their race.
  • It was only 59 years ago that relationships between two people of the same gender were federally legalized.
  • It was only 64 years ago – well within my lifetime – that the governor of the state of Arkansas, Gov. Orval Faubus, ordered the National Guard to block the entrance to Little Rock’s Central high school in order to prevent nine African American students from attending the previously segregated high school.
  • It was only 100 years ago that women in this country were granted the right to vote.

Oh, no. We are indeed divided, but please don’t tell me we have never been more divided. 

From the very first day of our founding as a nation, these United States have been dramatically divided between haves and have-nots, blacks and whites, gays and straights, Norths and Souths, natives and immigrants, Christians and non-Christians, males and females, white collars and blue collars, and countless other sub-groupings.

We have defended our divisions, too. Blood has been shed and lives have been lost in the attempt to maintain those walls of separation and inequality.

The difference between then and now is that the light has finally been switched on. In the old days, we could close our eyes to those cultural/racial/economic/gender/social divisions and pretend they didn’t exist…

… [a practice, by the way, reserved for those of us born into the privileged classes.]

Today, thanks to social media and a 24/7 sleepless news cycle, we have to look. And when we do look, we can’t avoid seeing the reality of a nation that continues to fall short on delivering its “liberty and justice for all” credo.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NRSV). 

The truth is, deep divisions still remain in this country.

The truth is, this country still experiences serious injustice based on race, gender, sexuality, class, and ethnicity.

The truth is, lots and lots of people still value the maintenance of tribal loyalties more highly than the pursuit of the common good.

The truth is, this country can still stand as a beacon of civility, diversity, and honor in the world. 

The truth is, each of us is still invited to echo the words of King David, inviting God to; “Search me, God, and know my heart… See if there is any offensive way in me…” (Psalm 139:23 and 24, NRSV). 

The truth is, divisions are only dangerous if we see them as given, insurmountable obstacles instead of as the planks with which bridges might be built.

The truth is, God offers forgiveness to each of us who have helped foster greater division and animosity… and urges us to extend that same forgiveness to one another. 

The truth is, “… with God, ALL things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, NRSV).

… INCLUDING reconciliation, justice, and healing.

Abundant blessings;

11
Feb
21

Successful Musings

It’s funny, the way it happens; I hear a random word on the radio and ZIP! ZAP! ZOOM! the wheels start their wild spinning, leading me off into strange and interesting (and hopefully productive) places. 

The word I heard yesterday was SUCCESS. I don’t even remember the context I heard it in. But then, off I went, wondering…

… “Am I a success?”

… “Have I succeeded?”

And finally, “Just what IS success anyway?”

Clearly the first two questions are two VERY different questions indeed, requiring two VERY different analyses.

I can tell very quickly and clearly that – though the day is yet young – I have personally succeeded at many things already; I succeeded at getting out of bed… at making coffee… at taking my car in to the shop… at working out… at cleaning up and getting dressed.

Answering the first question, however, – “Am I a success?” – is a much slipperier proposition. The question seems to be asking me to stand back and dispassionately evaluate my entire life in the light of some objective, universally understood yardstick… a yardstick I may or may not subscribe to.

I mean, are you asking if I am a financial success? Or a spiritual success? Or an emotional success? Do you mean, am I a success in maintaining the health of my family relationships? Or maybe you’re wondering if I am a success in the measure of beneficial impact I have had on the world around me?

What do you mean by SUCCESS, exactly?

Dictionary.com defines the word success as, “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals…” a definition which I find extremely interesting! It seems to be saying that success can only be measured at the END… once you have stopped trying. 

So, yes, I have stopped trying to succeed in the NBA. HOWEVER… since it was not a FAVORABLE termination of my endeavors, I can’t really say I succeeded as a professional basketball player, can I?

Maybe a better question to ask is: WHY do we devote so much time and energy to the subject of success? What causes some of us (certainly not ALL of us) to worry so much about how our lives stack up… either against the lives of other people, or against some kind of external, artificial, culturally imposed standard?

How much misery has been caused by our striving after success? How much suffering has one person inflicted on another in the pursuit of success?

Please don’t misunderstand me: I believe goals are good… STANDARDS are laudable… Life is richer, deeper, more textured when it is ABOUT something and has PURPOSE and DIRECTION. 

Maybe the issue has more to do with WHOSE standards of success we are trying to attain? 

How about instead of allowing People magazine, HGTV, or the latest internet influencer to set our standards, we turn and ask God what GOD’S standards of success are?

Jesus helps us “get our minds right” on this question right there in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NRSV). And I don’t know about you, but for me it is refreshing to be reminded that aiming for success on God’s terms doesn’t depend on my level of athletic ability, my intelligence, my innate problem-solving skills, or my boyish good looks. 

WHEW!

It only depends on my willingness to SEEK God’s kingdom… and to receive God’s forgiveness when I fall short. (Which, incidentally, I do EVERY SINGLE DAY). 

So… am I a success – in God’s eyes? 

Are you?

07
Feb
21

RED SUNDAY

Greetings, friends. As some of you are aware, it is SUPER BOWL SUNDAY here in the U.S. 

For others, the above phrase might as well have been spoken in a completely foreign language. 

In case you are wondering, the SUPER BOWL is the culmination of the professional American football season… an annual ritual involving food, fun, friends, and frivolity. 

[According to prevailing copyright rules, the only people allowed to use the words SUPER BOWL together like that are the owners of the phrase. I am not one of those owners, so by using it so flagrantly, I am in danger of having the pants sued off of me. Nevertheless, I soldier on…]

For a lot of folks (WAAAY too many, honestly) this day is an excuse to crowd together and overindulge while being entertained by slickly produced TV commercials sandwiched between bouts of a football game they have little to no interest in.

Not true for me last year. And not true this year for me, either. 

Because now, for the second year in a row, you see, MY TEAM – the Kansas City Chiefs – is actually playing in the Super Bowl! 

And as much as I keep reminding myself that it is just a game and that games are a minor, inconsequential part of life, my excitement and adrenaline continue to grow. 

Of course it is ridiculous and borderline blasphemous to draw any parallels between my 40+ years waiting for the Chiefs to make it to the Super Bowl and the 40 years the Israelites spent meandering toward the promised land. The suggestion that a life without an NFL championship bears even a REMOTE resemblance to a life without fundamental freedoms is morally indefensible and outlandish. 

So please understand… that is NOT what I am saying.

What I am saying is: DANG it is fun when your favorite team makes it to the BIG GAME

Yes… it is good to remind myself that God loves Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans just as much as God loves Chiefs fans. I am also clear that God unconditionally loves people who don’t give a flying flip about what happens later today in the Super Bowl. 

But for right now I am going to close with a totally partisan, non-inclusive “GO CHIEFS! BEAT THOSE BUCS! RUN IT BACK!”

Now… can somebody please pass the nachos?

Abundant blessings

04
Feb
21

Between the Now and the Not Yet

“You’ve got POTENTIAL!”

It’s a phrase that sounds positive, encouraging, and bright. But anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of this will recognize it for the curse it truly is: a phrase fiendishly designed to suck the wind right out of your sails. 

The only thing worse is when they add the word “real,” as in, “You’ve got real potential!”

In my life I have heard the word “potential” from coaches, from teachers, from guidance counselors, from youth pastors, from bosses, and – sadly – from my parents now and then, too. 

I know each of the people who drove that lovely spike into my heart meant well. They meant me to hear something like, “I see great things ahead for you.” 

They wanted to inspire me to knuckle down and turn that vast potential into reality. Their hope was to affirm positive qualities TODAY that could be molded into glowing accomplishments TOMORROW.

What they didn’t understand was what I heard. What I heard when they said this was, “You’re not there yet. You’ve got a long way to go. As you are here today, you don’t quite measure up. There is a chance you could be something someday, but not today.” 

And of course, at the age of eight or nine, they were absolutely right! At fifteen or sixteen, even. Or thirty-six. Frankly, each of us is a perpetual work in progress until the day the life force departs our body. 

But I firmly believe that it does a person no earthly good to tell them their entire worth is to be found down the road somewhere… in a distant, immaterial future. 

For one thing, that approach goes dramatically against God’s word. 

For proof, we can listen to the words of the Psalmist, marveling at the utter miracle of God’s creation of human beings. Listen; “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5, NRSV).

Or we can read Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus when he reminded them (and us), “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NRSV). 

In other words, it is not what we DO that matters to God; it is who we ARE in Christ Jesus.

To be clear, I have never been a fan of “participation trophies” … the lavishing of praise and accolades on folks for doing nothing more than showing up and breathing in rhythm. Therein lies the seeds of the entitled mindset, IMHO.

My prayer today is for each of us to find a way to relate to other people the same way God relates to us; loving and affirming them (us) in the fullness of who they (we) are RIGHT NOW, and yet reminding them (us) of our calling to grow, blossom, and become something higher and better…

… something like a “new creation,” maybe. 

Hmmm… seems like I’ve heard that phrase somewhere before.

Abundant blessings;

02
Feb
21

Should we be nice?

Today, while taking the dogs for a walk in the park, I saw a hand-painted sign leaning against a fence. It was big… probably four feet high and six feet wide. Every letter on the sign was painted a different color, and it said:

“BE KIND.”

As the dogs and I finished our walk, I looked at the minivan across the parking lot and saw a message there in white letters across the back window. It said:

“I HOPE SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS TO YOU TODAY.”

“Wow!” I thought to myself. “How cool is THAT! I go out and find myself surrounded by positive, uplifting messages. With everything going on in the world today, those people have decided they are going to be positivity evangelists!”

“Well done, y’all!” (In case you are not aware, “y’all” is the plural of “you” in many parts of the country.)

There was nothing complicated about either message. They weren’t inviting me to join a club. They weren’t trying to sell me on a complex doctrine. They didn’t want me to give them a percentage of my income every month. They didn’t have a sneaky pyramid scheme that required me to enlist friends and family members. 

They were just putting the good juju out there in the atmosphere, hoping it connected with someone.

And then I had to stop and wonder, “Why can’t the Christian faith be simple and straightforward like that? Why do we have to muddy it up with all those convoluted theological dogmas and ‘rules of engagement’? Don’t we want to entice people and not repel them?”

“I mean, couldn’t Christians just say we are part of the ‘BE KIND CLUB’ and let it go at that?” 

For a lot of folks, it seems like a pretty big leap to say they believe in a deity who became a human being, died, and then came back from the dead three days later. But it is not hard at all to encourage them to say, “I believe in being kind to other people.”

So, what’s the problem? Why are we (Christians) so hung up on whether someone speaks the exact “phrase that pays” instead of just worrying about what they DO?

In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that I am trolling you here a bit. I actually DO believe that confessing Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of one’s life DOES make a qualitative difference in that life. I also believe that a person’s actions and words are much more important than their professed systems of belief… even though those actions and words flow directly FROM those systems of belief. And I ABSOLUTELY believe that there is much more to the Christian faith than just being kind to other people.

In fact, would it surprise you to hear me say that I don’t believe that the Christian faith has much at all to do with being nice to people?

Loving them? Yes. Absolutely. Unconditionally, even. But as Jesus demonstrated over and over again, LOVING another person doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with BEING NICE to them.

Jesus gave a very succinct summary of his mission on earth in John’s gospel when he said, “… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NRSV). 

In other words, he came to revive relationships, break cycles of addiction, lift up the downtrodden, snap chains of injustice, bring hope, infuse possibility. In short, he came break down every barrier that separates people from the abundant life God always intended for them (us). 

If being kind, gentle, and sweet to a person helped connect them with that “abundant life,” so be it! Jesus would be like, “Bring on the kind, gentle, and sweet.” If, on the other hand, bringing about abundant life meant employing the proverbial “swift kick in the pants” approach, he would not hesitate to administer that.

So yes, let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s offer a smile to a total stranger on the sidewalk. Let’s make eye contact and give a kind word to the cashier at the convenience store. Let’s pay for the person behind us in the McDonald’s drive-through. Let’s call someone on the phone, “just because…”

But let’s also join Team Jesus and help bring the abundant life he was after. 

Abundant blessings;




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