Saturday, November 29, 2008

Communication Changes Thanksgiving

So from writing in the dirt to carving on stone, to skin and parchment to paper to ether.

We cooked for 20 family on Thanksgiving this year. We always forget someone and always forget to call another dozen friends to invite. We always have enough food for another 10 and one Sr. adult always has to say "we won't go hungry".

Well as we stand over these tables of food in these humble homes we always feel a bit guilty for the other 7/8ths of the world who are in poverty. As I did the dishes and scraped the plates between courses I was thinking that most of the food left on the plate would be a miracle to most the world. I can't help myself from feeling this year after year. The food, the wine, the fireplaces, the comforts, the conversations and yes now the electronics.

When I grew up, there was an age system. The old men and uncles would sit with some form of beverage and smoke and talk about the country. ALL the adult women would be clearing the tables, properly cleaning the dishes, china, crystal and silver and neatly putting it away as they began prepping for the last dessert course and percolator coffee. Packed in the kitchen they would all have aprons on and would be a-buzz with "family" talk.

That moved to a time of dishwashers. Yes silver and crystal still had to be done by hand but the kitchen time was cut down quite a bit and the women would now move to the living room to talk while the men moved to a family room to watch "football" and drink and smoke less.

Kid's used to be sent outside to play football, basketball, duck duck. Or they were sent to kids rooms to play board games or dolls or army or pool or ping pong or twister or whatever the game de'jour of the year was.

That moved to the age of electronics. "Pong" then the abundance of low rez electronic games played on your black and white or colored TV were the rage. Oh to be able to put spin on the "pong" ball. Oooh, Ahhhh.

Well this thanksgiving I realized things have changed.
I wanted to save on time so I bought a box of Duraflame logs for both my wood burning fireplaces. In six hours I only put in 4 logs total. Two each. Well I'm a wood burning guy. I love that smell and the embers "never" look the same twice, but time was the issue. Boy I saved a lot of time and effort not having to have had to run up and down the stairs every hour to re-stoke the fire and then out to the woodshed to get more wood for the inside wood box. Well at the end of the day I was not happy with myself. Easier yes!, but like using coolwhip instead of fresh whipped cream. No comparison. :(

Then there was the revelation of cooking and cleaning. I found myself in the kitchen doing dishes alone. Not a problem, I kind a like it cause I really don't like a kitchen full of dishes when desserts come due. For some reason in my family after a main meal all the women have decided to stay at the table or go to the living room and chat with a table full of plates and a kitchen full.

I figure it must be some kind of female revolt on holidays. It all will get done, but usually by the host family around 9 or 10pm. I can't do this in my home, and I wouldn't ask my girls to get up and do it, so I'll just dig in and git-r-done with whomever wanders into the kitchen to help and ask if the coffee's done.

It was after the dishes were done and before dessert that I realized Thanksgiving had changed.
I peeked into the living room and there it was. Yup, i grabbed a camera and took the shot above. Not in a kids room, or outside, or in a family room. Not a word being spoken amongst them. There were two of my kids and my niece and nephew sitting tightly together in a room full of talking adults. They were silent. Four kids, Four laptops, Four cellphones.
Surfing, texting and talking on their phones.

What in God's name will Thanksgiving, or any other major holiday look like in 20 years?
Will we call it in? Will our kids invite us online for a holographic holiday conference where we'll eat whatever we "want" from our homes and discuss it online?

Will we all sit in our homes and have online game battles from family to family while we look and talk to each other from the ether?
Will the next generation even know what a #2 pencil was?
Will all china, crystal and silver be replaced with some new beautiful biodegradable eco-ware we just use and throw away with the food where it helps break it down for future fuel?

Well here I am, writing a blog, on a wireless laptop on my bed, cell phone and regular phone next to me, remote control, w/less headphones so I can listen to Hell's Kitchen re-runs while typing and my NIV bible next to my pot of high octane coffee.

I guess I can talk about the problem of the future but really, I guess I am the problem.
Forgive me mom, for trying to teach you how to use a computer at 80. I love your letters with stamps and your special handwriting. I need to shut all this off and go write some letters to my kids now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"The Bark And The Vine"

When does it begin? That small inauspicious vine that attaches to our tree of life. Silently and slowly it creeps it's way up the trunk with such stunning leaves. It's beautiful and it appears harmless, but it's a covering of the natural.

The natural. "life". It happens.

Somehow we've swallowed the bait that it's not supposed to age. That we are to be untouched. That the measure of a person is how they "appear" not how they "are".

Look at the bark in this picture. It's an old Oak tree in my back yard. It was here when the Native Americans rode horseback by it. If it could talk, I'd be humbled. It is old. It has been weathered by thousands of storms. To the outsider it has character , color, unique cracks and chips. It's Gnarly branches make it one of a kind. But to the tree, I am sure it feels old and tired. It's roots are as deep as it's height and yet it finds it harder and harder to draw water to survive. The day the vine attached itself, I'm sure the old tree had questions, but it was only a little sprig. As years grew on it began to cover the tree with a comfort of shade. People saw the majesty of the tree with the beauty of the covering.
Then without warning, like a lobster in a pot of cold water, the heat was turned up and the water supply to the tree was taken away. Slow death. That's what it brings.

You see that's the lie. We are imperfect, we are fallen, we need forgiveness, we need a savior.

The creeping vine I'll call "the hiding". You might even see the parallel to the fig leaves that covered Adam and Eve.
This vine does not produce fruit. It's purpose is to look beautiful and cover up reality, imperfections, "the natural"
What is it's end game? It covers the light and uses up all the nutrients, slowly killing the tree it wraps itself around.
In the 'nano' speed of life we live today, a slow moving vine seems like nothing to worry about.
But it is.

Covering the natural is sin. Truth is transparent, sin is the covering. I'm guilty as charged.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves....
Until we cut the vine at it's roots and slowly pull it off of every area of our lives, we will live in bondage and never be able to experience the light and living waters that we are meant to enjoy. But it does mean exposing the bark. That's the rub.

Am I willing to let you see me as I am? Wretched, fallen, weak, addicted, prideful, angry, lustful? Am I these things all the time? It's the bark.
It's the natural, and only by the grace of God, the renewing of my mind by the washing of the Word. Only by the daily confession of my sin and God's promise of the Holy Spirit in my life am I able to be anything else.

Oh sure, I tell myself I'm a good person by judging others "worse than I", and I remind myself I'm beautiful or thinner than others by judging others weight and appearance.
My temper is better than ... My house is cleaner than... I've had more education than.... More life experience than... , and I would "humbly" tell you my ---- doesn't stink. And ---- = poop, if you were wondering. And if you thought it meant another word, then that's one more reason I'm better than you.....

Oswald Chambers the other day said that we all take ourselves to seriously. We all try to look like we're really "deep". Well he reminded me that we should humbly live in the shallows. The ocean has shallows. Our daily eating and drinking, walking and talking are in the shallows.

I say Life and the "natural" are in the shallows.

Chambers said "Determinedly take no one seriously but God, and the first person you find you have to leave severely alone as being the greatest fraud you have ever known, is yourself.
11/22 "my utmost".

Ouch. That comment was the comment that started me ruminating to begin this blog a few days ago. If I didn't respect Chambers so much, I might have just laughed at the comment. But when someone speaks, who you listen to, you at least listen and pray about it. That's where the Holy Spirit begins to have His gentle way.

His way begins when we cut down the vine. When we are willing to expose ourselves and say "Here i am" "bark and all".

So, where are we in all of this. Are we willing to expose ourselves to each other?
We all look to our leaders for this as our examples. They need to be strong, but are they human. Do they show their bark, or are they so covered in vine that you just ooh and ahhhh every time you see them or listen to them sing or speak or dance or play?

It begins with our leaders. So who are yours?
Are you a parent?........... Then you are IT.

I should stop here but I must say my natural reaction is to bypass my leadership responsibilities and look at and judge "MY" leaders. Oh I feel better now already. Sick isn't it, how quickly we cover our bark.

In churches where I travel and lead worship, I encounter the "vine".
I can see it covering the congregations as they struggle to worship. Struggle to worship because they are so caught up in keeping themselves and their families "bark" covered from all sides, that they are unable to be free to worship.

You see that's my passion. To see people worship. While I'm in this place of leadership, it's my desire, my passion, my precious. Anything that keeps people from experiencing this connection to God kills me. I can't cut the vine for anyone by myself, and really maybe that's what I need to do each week. Begin by exposing MY "bark" before asking anyone else to do the same. God can not heal you or deliver you or fill you with rivers of living water until you humble yourself before Him and man, and then be willing to ask for help from God and each other.

When the word says "David cried out to God", he really cried out to God. No metaphors here! When is the last time we cried out to God as a church as a nation. Not in anger but in humility and brokenness. It begins in our heart, and then in our families, and then together as a family in our churches, and then our neighborhoods and cities. And in this process maybe just maybe we will find that exposing the bark is the best thing we could ever have done. Cymbala's book "secrets of the vine" was a brilliant short book on vines that bear fruit.
I'd say in reverse that "secrets behind the vine" need to be exposed and healed in the light of lights.

In this nation America where I write this blog, we are in a crisis. For those with much, it's a wake up call. For those with little, there is the desire to say "finally they get to hurt a little.
Gimme some of theirs. And those retired union members? Take away their benefits. And those executives? take away their millions." Not because they do or don't deserve it, but because it might make me feel a bit better about my losses.

Who said "who is my mother and father?"
Who said "come as little children?"
Who said " forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me?"

Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

So this thanksgiving, when we go to our families and our churches, let's begin again. Let's cut the vine. Let's be honest, transparent, natural. Let's drop the fig leaves. Let's take a step towards
our friends and family saying. Here I am "bark" and all. Will you still love me? I know my Father does! And in that moment you may feel light and living water pour over your soul in unimaginable ways. Won't solve your life problems, but it will be a monumental step towards revealing the beauty of who you really are.

Remember, no matter what you think or have done, God is very fond of you :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

My President

My president I voted for twice is leaving and I am sad and thankful for his service and leadership, and my president is now coming and I'm happy and hopeful for he and his family.

What? no partisanship Craig?

Hey I'm an American before I'm a conservative. Look at this photo from this afternoon. Two men in front of a desk that only 43 men have ever sat in, in our nations history.

I get a little choked up even looking at this. For all the bad that Pres. Bush had to deal with trying to enter the white house 8 years ago. (remember the taking off the letter "w" from white house keyboards). Imagine taking all the "B"'s off the keyboards (for "black") before our new President enters? How terrible.
Is there no respect for the office and the man entering it? I guess when you look at how Bush was treated for 8 years in the media (regardless of your personal feelings) you would think that President elect Obama will be getting the verbal shaft even now. Let's not!!

I didn't vote for him, I never could, unless he changed his stance on just about everything, but that doesn't change the fact that he was elected, and at that very moment they called him the winner, he became My President. I will pray for he and his family, I will pray that God will give him supernatural wisdom, and that he will actually seek God's face for knowledge, wisdom and grace every day. I will vote against everything I disagree with, and stand up against any issue that I feel he is supporting that is wrong, but I will not call him names. I will not call him names because he is my president. We may not like each others "sin' but we are instructed to love the sinner above all.

I'm sure within the next four years, there will be a garage full of things I'm unhappy about that President Elect Obama will have pushed into legislation and the courts. I'm sure he will have damaged the military as I see it, and the courts will be more liberal, replacing judges willing to take a look at the constitution and "tweak" it not "trust" it. Hopefully our currency will not have tanked, and we will not have changed our border security, homeland security and attitude towards terrorism to the point that we begin to have events again on our soil. Hopefully we will not have pushed more and more of our businesses over seas from taxation. I could go on and on, but it ends with the same statement. "I pray for and want my president to keep our country strong from invaders at home and abroad, be a good steward of our money before congress, who spend like drunken sailors (ON OUR BEHALF TO GET OUR VOTES).
I pray for unity of our people, that we can stop listening to the voices of descent that want to divide us by race, religion and socio-economic status and begin listening to the voices that speak the truth in love. That tell us the truth, not whatever is necessary to get votes and appease lobbyists.

We will not get a politician to vote for whats "right" until we are able to stop the flow of money and power that makes them vote for whats "right for them to get the voter in their pocket".
Yea, Senator McCain took public financing and has fought lobbyists for decades, but what did that get him? Any respect? Naaaa, just people from both sides saying, hey if he could have made another 40mm using lobbyist and non-profits as Sen. Obama did, he should have!
Well, the best we can do is to pray, do as Jesus instructed us to do "love above all", and humbly be involved in our democracy, standing up for what the Word instructs us to stand up for.
Render to Caesar.....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Holy God

This morning I was thinking about a church I'm leading worship at this Sunday. It has the largest mix of nations I've ever seen in an actual church. I was thinking about how great it is that people of various nations and languages come and meet in one place each week with different languages and cultures.

As I thought about addressing this group, a worship thought dropped into my heart. We'll I skipped breakfast, wrote it and recorded it this morning and afternoon here at home and here it is for you to get a first draft on. You all know I play and sing everything at home by myself, so the arrangements and vocals are limited to my abilities and range. Hope it blesses you. Link is here and in the index

All of us, in this place

We have come here as one voice to seek Your face

And every tongue and every race
Every heart You have created to embrace

Holy God, here we stand
We lay our lives before Your risen Lamb

Jesus Christ, son of God
With humble hearts we come just as we are

Broken here, Make us new, Just like You.

Take these eyes, let them see
That You love all of creation, even me
For in my sin, and in my shame

You died and rose to give me life again

Holy God Here I stand

I lay my life before the risen lamb
Jesus Christ, Son of God

With humble heart I come just as I am
Broken here, Make me new, Just like you

Wonderful, marvelous, morning star, yes you are

Holiness, righteousness, Yeshua, everything.