It seems as though it has been forever since I have written in this “weekly” blog. After looking at the date of my last entry, it really has been a long time. I guess that I have gotten caught up in the so-called “tyranny of the now.” I just returned from being out of the office for a week and my to-do list has already exceeded one page and is well on the way to finishing page two – and that does not include anyone else’s list that they have for me! It seems as though we do and do and do, yet the impact seems to be less and less. I must confess that thought was on my mind as I was driving to Colorado for our family vacation. I have the same questions and concerns that we all face. I wonder if I am doing this well or that well. I wonder if I am really making a difference. I wonder if all the things that I am doing that seem so important to me are really all that important to God.
While I was away, an amazing thing happened. I slowed down and allowed God to truly speak to me. I don’t know about you but I often find myself asking God to speak to me about a specific issue, then running off to do something else if I haven’t heard definitively from Him in a whopping 10 seconds or so. Now before you gasp at the impatience of a pastor, ask yourself if you do the same thing. We vacation in a small cabin with no television and virtually no cell signal. In essence, we are completely isolated from the outside world. And I absolutely love it! I took more naps during that week than I have in the past six months combined. I had a chance to sit in a quiet and beautiful place and listen to a rushing river, birds, and that still, small voice with which God so often speaks to us. During those moments, God reminded me of several things. The most of those things was the importance of simply being. So often, I believe we try to do so many things thinking that God will be impressed by the sheer quantity of our work. Yet, it is not the quantity of our work with which God is most concerned. Honestly, He is more concerned that we are being Christ-like than He is with the quantity of things we do. We must first focus on being who God desires for us to be, then the doing will largely take care of itself. I know your schedule is crazy because mine is too. But let me encourage you with something that God has shown me over the past week. No matter how busy your schedule, the most important thing in your schedule is stopping everything to quietly and intently listen to the still, small voice of God. Can God shut down your world and scream so that you cannot fail to hear Him? Absolutely! But true love and obedience comes when we set aside our stuff just to be with Him. Be wiser than me and make the time to stop and listen intently. God is speaking, but are you listening?
Have you ever gone through a time where you have been so busy that you didn’t even know which way was up? If so, then you can identify with the past month or so in my life. Life has been so insanely busy that I must confess that this shallow mind had no real time to come up with any deep thoughts. I truly apologize for my failings but I think that we are on the other side of that time now. The other day as I was preparing to teach on a Wednesday night, I stumbled upon a quote that has meant the world to me during this time of insanity. The quote is from the great theologian Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbs comic strips. The quote reads, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind I’ll never die.” Have you ever had those times? I don’t mean times when you are just busy because of work, or your kid’s school schedule, or even the holidays. I mean those times when you are so busy that you cannot even do those things that you know God has created and called you to do. If you have never experienced that then I need you to come and work with my time management skills.
Honestly, though most of us struggle with how to balance and invest our time. We are like that person who balances plates in the air on sticks and keeps those plates spinning. Everything is okay as long as we can keep those plates spinning, but if anything goes wrong or if anything takes longer than expected, then our world of spinning plates comes crashing down and makes a tremendous mess. I must confess I had been so busy that my kids were in desperate need of “Daddy time.” We are getting caught up now and life is getting back to normal – whatever that is exactly. I tell you all of this to simply remind you of what is really important. You see, while the Calvin and Hobbs quote above is, honestly, hilarious, we all only have a certain number of days on this earth. You cannot increase the number of your days and neither can you decrease them. But you can control how you utilize those days. I don’t know about you but as I evaluated the things that made my life so insanely busy the simple reality is that most of those things won’t really matter in five years. If something won’t matter in five years, is it honestly that important? Is it honestly worth getting all that stressed about? Be smarter than I am and redeem the time. Invest your time in your family and friends. Invest your time in growing the Kingdom of God. If something has to slide let’s sacrifice the things that don’t matter so that we can really impact those things that do matter. God has only provided you with a certain number of days and a certain amount of time to accomplish only so many things. Use them wisely!
Okay, I confess. I am not a morning person. Honestly, at times I struggle to believe that God gets up before 8:00 am. And I also confess that I don’t understand morning people. It seems as though every morning person I know likes to rub in the fact that he or she is a morning person and I am not. Now if you are a morning person, I am grateful for you, but please don’t try to convert me. I am simply not wired that way. So you may be wondering what exactly brought on this rant about not being a morning person. The answer is simple – daylight savings time. While I understand the concept, I really don’t get this idea. I understand that it was originally proposed by Benjamin Franklin and that it is supposed to save us electricity by “making it get dark later.” I even confess that I like the transition in the fall when I gain an extra hour of sleep. However, the whole idea seems a bit wacky to me. No matter how much we mess with the time on our clocks, the reality is that it gets dark at the same time. Lest you misunderstand me. I have no problem with daylight savings time, but why do we switch back and forth? If daylight savings time is such a great deal, then why don’t we simply stay there? Why do we switch back in the fall? This whole thing sounds like math done by the federal government – sounds good on paper but doesn’t really pass the sniff test. I know that this is a pointless rant and I know that none of your lives will be dramatically altered by knowing that I don’t really understand daylight savings time. But I am hoping that some of you can comment and help me understand the logic of the back and forth from daylight savings time to standard time.
What exactly is Goofy? I am not talking about the adjective that I use to describe the behavior of my children. I am talking about Mickey Mouse’s friend. What exactly is he? I know it says a lot about why this blog is called Deep Thoughts from a Shallow Mind that I would wonder about such things, but nonetheless… I have had many people tell me that he is supposed to be a dog, but that really doesn’t make sense to me. If Goofy were a dog, then Pluto really got the short end of the stick. Don’t misunderstand me, Pluto has a pretty good life. But how much would it stink to be a dog with a good dog’s life only to look over and see another dog with a house, a car, and the ability to talk?! No, I am convinced that Goofy must be something other than a dog.
In case you are wondering why I think that you care about my obsession with cartoons, there really is a point to this. This past Saturday, I had the privilege of leading the halftime devotions during Upward Basketball at one of our partner churches. As I prayed through what God would have me say, God continually led me back to simplicity. So I kept it simple. I simply shared with them that God loves each and every one of us and that He has an amazing plan for each of our lives. Yet, God’s love is not like the lip-service that many of us have experienced. Instead, God loved us so much that He demonstrated His love by sending His Son Jesus to die in our place. I wish that I had the ability to read minds. You see, many of the people that hung out and talked with me during the second half of the games or after the game was over somehow looked different after hearing that God loves them then they did before. Some of the people who talked with me are Christ-followers that had simply gotten distracted by the insanity of modern life and the reminder of God’s love brought a peace and perspective back even if only for a few moments. Others who spoke to me are not believers; they had heard a lot about church but as much about God’s relentless love for them.
There are people all around you this week who desperately need to hear that God loves them. They know about all the junk in their lives. They know that they are far from perfect. They don’t need you to point out all their flaws. What they need to know is that God’s love for them is so great that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” They need to know that God’s love is so great that He loves them in spite of their sin. They live their entire life wondering who they are, why they are here, and if there is any purpose in the life they are living. They need us to help them encounter Jesus so that they can experience the incredible love that God has for them. Then, after they have experienced God’s love, they need us to do whatever it takes to help make God’s amazing plan for their lives become a reality in their lives. Take a moment and love the people God has placed around you by taking the time to remind them that God loves them. Keep it simple and keep it real. You don’t have to be creative. You simply have to be genuine.
As I was watching the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Friday night, I felt incredibly inspired. That is until the very end. As you probably know, there were some mechanical failures during the lighting of the indoor version of the Olympic caldron. There were supposed to be four “pillars” leaning toward the main caldron. These four “pillars” were to be lit simultaneously and the flame would then race toward the top and together light the main caldron. The plan was incredibly symbolic and beautiful. The execution…well not quite so much. You see, while the four torchbearers stood looking at one another, a mechanical failure prevented one of the “pillars” from rising. It was an unfortunate end to an incredible and moving ceremony. As I was watching the improvised lighting of the caldron, I could not help but feel horrible for the person who was left standing there with nothing to light. This individual was chosen for all the right reasons. She had done all the right things. She just happened to be the one standing there with nothing to do while the whole world looked on. To say the least, I would imagine that she felt a bit unnecessary. It certainly would be understandable to feel a bit embarrassed and even upset.
Perhaps you have had experienced times of feeling unnecessary and unimportant. I know that I have experienced those times. In fact, I still do at times. The thing that helps me through those times is to remember that my opinion and the opinion of those around me really doesn’t matter all that much. While there are times that I may feel worthless and unnecessary, the Bible teaches me that I am of incalculable value. It teaches me that I am created for a relationship with God. It also teaches me that God loved and valued me enough to send Jesus Christ to die in my place so that I might be forgiven for my sin. The Bible teaches me that each of those statements is true of you as well. Wherever you are at today and whatever you encounter, always remember that God loves you and that simple reality means that you are absolutely necessary and incredibly important to Him.
As you certainly know, last week the island nation of Haiti was devastated by the strongest earthquake to hit that region in over two hundred years. This is the latest edition in the tragedy that is the recent history of the Haitian people. Haiti consistently ranks among the poorest nations in the world and is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere by a great margin. Only a few years ago the nation was ravanged by three powerful hurricanes. Just as the rebuilding from those hurricanes was nearing completion they experienced the devastation of this earthquake. Fortunately, this disaster has brought about some of the best in people as people from all spectrums and even opposing viewpoints have come together to reach out to a hurting people. Yet, at the same time this disaster has also brought out some of the worst in people as well-intentioned men and women have sought to explain this tragedy. For example, last week evangelical television personality Pat Robertson proclaimed the earthquake to be God’s judgment on Haiti for a pact they made with Satan some 200 years ago. The ripples from Robertson’s comments continue to flood throughout American culture. Before moving on, let’s set the record straight. The alleged pact with Satan is believed by most historians to be little more than a cultural myth or an “urban legend.” Perhaps the myth is true. Perhaps not. Regardless, anyone basing an opinion on the alleged pact is on shaky ground to begin with. Secondly, it is nothing short of arrogance to believe that any one of us has the ability to completely understand the ways of God. While I have the utmost respect for all that God has done through Pat Robertson’s ministry, in this instance, Robertson has taken a swan dive off the deep end of the pool without a life jacket.
I understand that any time a tragedy like this occurs we are absolutely determined to understand why it would happen. It is human nature to want to know why something happens. However, there are some things that we simply cannot fully wrap our minds around. God’s reasoning in allowing such a devastating tragedy is one of those things that we simply cannot understand. We all make mistakes, and we all reap the consequences of our mistakes. Some of those mistakes have consequences that span generations; others only last for a few moments. The simple reality is that for His own reasons, God allowed this incredible tragedy to occur. I don’t know why, and – respectfully – neither do you. We must simply trust that God knows what He is doing and that He will use even this devastating event to bring glory to Himself.
Who exactly are the Jones and why am I trying to keep up with people who I don’t even know? Over the past several days, we have begun to start looking for a new home in Oklahoma City. Now before those of you with pickup trucks run away in fear, we are no where close to moving and probably will not purchase a home until sometime this summer. Adrienne and I have talked and we know what our priority is and, consequently, what we are willing to spend on a house. So one afternoon between my numerous errands, I took the scenic route home and drove through some of the neighborhoods we are considering. I found one house that we absolutely love. It is in the right school district. It has four bedrooms. It has a large backyard. It has a large kitchen. It is even just around the corner from a community pool. The only problem is that the price does not fit our priority. Don’t misunderstand me. The price is within what we could pay, but not within what we are willing to spend. I took the flier and showed it to my wife. I even called the real estate agent to get more information. I also got online and started playing with the math to see if we could make it work. Finally, we became very convicted. We certainly loved the house, but we are certain of the priority that God has placed on our lives. The question was which did we love more. We had a choice between a house we loved and a God who we love and to whom we have surrendered our lives. The answer was obvious – we are still looking for a house. You see, we are certain of the priority God has placed on our lives and every other decision is viewed through that priority. Anything that conflicts with that reality is automatically viewed as in conflict with God’s plan for our lives.
The funny thing is that we face decisions like this one every day. Some of those decisions are “big ones,” like whether or not to pursue buying a specific house. Most of them, though, are the seemingly insignificant decisions of every day life – like what website to visit, how to invest a few spare minutes, with whom to have lunch, or what radio station is on in our car. How do you evaluate those decisions? Are they determined by how you feel at that moment? The only way that you can realize everything that God has for your life is to surrender each and every part of your life to Him. I realize that may seem silly or old-fashioned, maybe even impossible. However, the same God who is concerned with your big decisions desires to be involved in the seemingly insignificant ones as well. What priority has God placed on your life? Are your daily decisions walking toward that priority or away from it?