Friday, December 31, 2010

What's on Your List?

We are society that is obsessed with lists: bucket lists, shopping lists, and to do lists. There was even a book written a few years ago called the Book of Lists. And it seems that this time of year we’re more obsessed than ever.

It starts in late November or early December with the lists that the little ones make in the form of a letter to Santa, followed by the list of naughty and nice that the jolly old guy makes and checks twice, and now we’re into lists of New Year’s resolutions, top 10 lists of news stories, blogs, favorite movies, books, songs, and even the top 10 technological advances of the year.

There’s lists being tweeted, posted on Facebook, broadcast on television and on the radio and printed in the local newspaper. And that doesn’t start to cover the major news magazine countdowns.

There are even lists of negative things, like the worst dressed, the dumbest things said by politicians and most inappropriate things said by public figures.
Seems like all the major things have been covered so maybe somebody should come up with lists of least favorite vegetables, most annoying friends and family members, or ugliest dresses seen in church.

So instead of lists of New Year’s resolutions you’re not going to keep, books you’re not going to read, movies you’re not going to watch, and things said by people you don’t care about, what would be a list that would interest you?

My list would probably be the top ten ‘entitlement oriented people’, but it would be hard to keep it to 10. Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Did You Oil Your Eyeglasses?

So yesterday afternoon some friends came over and we played games. You've been to those gatherings where people play games. In a lot of situations games are bad, but in this case they were good. They weren’t the social encounter type of games where you try to avoid saying what you’re really thinking, but what you’re really thinking is so obvious that you really don’t need to say it. It wasn’t one of those games where you keep checking to see where your spouse is as you’re flirting with all the other guests.

Nope we were playing board games. 'Tabu', where you give clues, but certain words are Taboo as clues and your teammates try to guess the word. And another one that has something to do with sentences. Everyone picks 10 cards and makes up sentences with the random words on the cards. The more points the better.

Sometimes as the evening goes on, adult board games, or kids board games played by adults, get pretty ridiculous as the players get a little oiled, but the only thing that got oiled yesterday was a pair of eyeglasses. Say What?
We stuck to finger foods, water, soda, and coffee, and about the most exotic consumable was some flavored creamer for the coffee.

And we had fun.

We laughed, we watched the snow fall, and just enjoyed each other’s company.
As far as the oiled eyeglasses? The winning sentence went something like this: George Washington dripped sloppy oil on coldly twisted eyeglasses. Grammatically correct, almost makes sense, and was worth a lot of points!

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to entertain you when you’re in good company. And I thank God for putting that good company into my life.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


As part of my job as Pastor, I periodically get to meet with other Pastors in the local (local being a relative term since we usually drive 2 hours to Pocatello) area. There are several things on the agenda, one of them being book discussion. The Region’s Executive Minister carefully selects books for us to read each year, and hopefully each of those books has valuable lessons for those of us ‘in the trenches’. I get more excited about reading some of the books than I do others. To be expected.

One of the things I remember from reading some of these books over the past year or so, is the need to celebrate successes in the life of the church. Seems rather obvious, but then I’m reminded of one of the lessons from when I worked in a hospital 35 years ago: if it’s not documented – it didn’t happen. (Obviously in the context of write down what happened, and what you did, so the next shift and the doctor will know what’s going on with each patient.) People probably know that something is happening, but its up to the leadership team to make sure that they know, and also that they know that it’s important. And somehow, in the church, celebrations of success tend to create a momentum that leads to even more successes.

Successes still happen without the ‘celebration’, but they might be smaller, fewer, and not even recognized as successes. Don’t get me wrong, the Holy Spirit still moves and does wonderful things in our lives even if we don’t recognize it, or others don't recognize it, but it’s hard to build on something when people don't realize that the foundation has been laid.

Likewise we need to celebrate the successes in our personal lives. Alcoholics and addicts celebrate milestones of sobriety, ex-smokers celebrate days without a cigarette, dieters love to announce how many pounds they’ve shed, people in the work force rejoice over bonuses and promotions, students count completed semesters toward the degree. Couples celebrate anniversaries and numbers of grand-children.

Whether it’s being able to read “Green Eggs and Ham” or meeting the deadline and finally sending your own book to the publisher, there’s something to be celebrated. If you’re putting together your first twenty-five piece LEGO kit or building a house, there are successes waiting to be recognized.

It doesn’t have to be a big party, but when we recognize the positive accomplishments in our lives, we have less time to focus on the negative things. Positive or negative, what gets fed –grows. What’s your current success story?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Who Can God Use

We read from the gospel of Matthew (1:1-16) yesterday morning. There’s a similar story in Luke (3:23-38) and we could have just as well read that, but for some reason I chose to go with Matthew. And probably for the same reason (the one that starts with ‘I don’t have a clue’) I chose to read from the New International Version. Could have read the “begats’ from the King James, or read how Abraham had Isaac who had Jacob in the Message, but I went with the NIV.

Matthew starts with Abraham and works his way down to “Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ”. Luke starts with Jesus, “the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,” and works his way backward to “Adam, the Son of God’. Basically the same thing in each account: Jesus is assumed to be the son of Joseph; and these long lists comprise Joseph’s family tree. Two long lists, one longer than the other, but they both tell the same basic story: the lineage of Jesus, which along the way shows the connection to David required by the Messianic Prophecies.

Now included in each of these lists are some pretty strange people; strange in the sense of how in the world did they get to be included in Jesus’ family tree. There are liars, cheats, thieves and all sorts of unsavory people in that lineage, and we spent some time talking about how God can use the most unlikely people for His purposes. And I admit that when it comes to strange and unlikely, I have to raise my hand. Actually I should raise both of them, but God still uses me…

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve come across this idea in several places: a magazine article, a blog or two, a couple of tweets, and tonight in a book I was skimming through to see if I want to buy it. (Still haven’t decided but probably yes). And one of the main sub-points is that Satan tells us that because of our past, God could never use us. God on the other hand, says that He uses us despite our past.

So if God can use us regardless of the past that we have managed to create for ourselves, why are we so insistent on letting that past define us? What we did is not who we are; and who we are and what we are doing as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) is much more important in the eternal scheme of things.

If God insisted on using only perfect people to do his work, then He would be doing everything Himself.

My challenge for the upcoming year is to really let go of my past and quit using it as an excuse for staying away from God, for not doing what He asks me to do, and for not following where the Resurrected Jesus leads me.
Should be an interesting ride!

(BTW, the correct answer is: He can use anybody He wants to use – me and you included)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What’s the Weather?

This morning when I looked at the forecast for today I was pleased to see 42ยบ and partly cloudy. Don’t get me wrong, I love snow, as long as I don’t have to shovel it, or drive in it. A lot of people at our church don’t like to drive in the snow either. So I was glad that there was no snow in the forecast.

Then all of a sudden, almost at the end of the service, I looked out the window and saw that it was snowing. And snowing. We stayed around at church for a while and then figured since we had a couple of errands to run, that we better get moving. This was pretty to look at snow, but we quickly realized that it was ugly to drive in, at least with my little car. Slip-sliding around on hills and through red lights or around corners is not my idea of a pleasant Sunday afternoon. (I like the fact that my insurance company thinks I have a good driving record, and want to keep it that way.

Drove the 11 miles home, much more slowly than usual, and all the while wondering where the snow came from. It was snowing in Nashville, several places in Kentucky, New York City and Washington DC got pummeled, but it was supposed to be nice here. Let it snow where it usually doesn’t. People there get excited at the novelty and besides a snowless Christmas Eve was a couple of days ago – winter can be over now.

Got home, thought about shoveling the driveway but took a nap instead, woke up and thought about getting the snow-blower out, but got the shovel instead. Should have got the snow-blower - it would have done a better job

Hopefully the snow will be gone in a day or two, but in the meantime I have to deal with it. And it’s probably better to get rid of it before it starts to melt and then freezes, and melts and freezes, and you get the idea. Snow is easier to shovel than ice. Easier to walk on too.

So tomorrow, I guess instead of the newspaper, the computer and a radio station, I’ll use the old fashioned way of telling what the weather is - I’ll look out the window.

Maybe I'll get it right!