This is My Crowd

This is My Crowd
Picture by: Photography by Vicky Campos

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Some Cliche's are Not Cliche.

As a Christian and Human, I can acknowledge that we Christian types jump on bandwagons as much as any other "group" of people who find they have something in common.  We have our clothing lines, bumper stickers, bracelets and tattoos.  I saw a poorly crafted florescent green yard sale sign this weekend that begged the age old question WWJD, the answer being, apparently, that He would head over to check out their wares.  I suspect that the use of those four infamous letters was a bit tongue in cheek, or perhaps, a bratty tongue simply stuck out.  Tough call.

In more recent years there's been a lot of NOTW merch.  Not Of This World, in case you weren't aware.  Yet another scriptural reference cleverly marketed into clothing, stickers, bags and jewelry.  I have a shirt.  I'm not apologizing for that.  They make some pretty cool stuff.  But the fact is, you'd be hard pressed to throw a rock at a Casting Crowns concert and not nick the windshield of car with a NOTW sticker.  I'm not hating, but the first time you see a drunk driver screaming at his wife from his NOTW bestickered SUV, the shine definitely rubs off a little, shortly after you dial 9-1-1, of course.

I won't even touch John 3:16 posters at sporting events.  But, I will question whether or not we may have flashed it so many times that it doesn't even register to people, like background noise when you live near an airport. 

That being said, there is one phrase that, despite it's use in a Christian music chart topper, manages to blow my mind every time I think of it.

As Far as the East is from the West

Doesn't impress you?  That's ok.  Let me explain.  First, it's best to review the actual Bible scripture, so here's a section from Psalm 103 in New King Jame Version (NKJV for you NOTW people out there).

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:11-12

So, in summary, BEFORE Jesus was born or was Crucified and BEFORE people understood the shape of the earth, God revealed through King David (who desperately needed some of that mercy himself, but that's a different story for a different day) that when He forgives people He separates that sin from us as far as the East is from the West.  You may be asking yourself why I care or what the big deal is or why I keep repeating as far as the East is from the West, but have you considered how far the East is from the West?  If not, take a moment now.

Photo by DigitalArt

When I considered the fact that King David did not choose as far as the North is from the South, it hit me.  The way our planet is formed, if you head North far enough, you will have no choice but to head South without ever having changed direction.  However, if you were to head out on an excursion in an Easterly direction, you could head East for all of eternity.

Does that not trip you out? 

It totally trips me out.  How purposeful our God is!  Even though King David may not have had a clue as to why it's better that God separate us from our sins as far as the East is from the West, versus North from South, God knew that one day people would know the significance. 

Are there scriptures that freak you out because there's no way the writer's could have known whatever they were charged to communicate without God instructing them?  If so, please share one! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Intermittent Ramblings

All things seem to move and progress in waves.  Light, sound, water, landscapes, even life, both for civilizations and individuals.  People throw around sayings like "History repeats itself" and "What goes around, comes around" without considering the implications.  There's a resonance in life we witness every day and it is only the lack of vision that keeps us from identifying it.

Photo by Victor Habbick

Generations of men and women alike, making choices against which they have been forewarned, only to arrive at the same end result as their parents and grandparents before them.  There is no moral cellular memory of which to speak or rely upon.  Neither wisdom nor hope is genetic.  Intelligence, sure, but intelligence lacking in wisdom and hope is really a death sentence for the soul.  The mind will always convince itself it knows best.  Wisdom says otherwise and seeks out truth. 

As children we are shown a path, hopefully a good one, but it's not the only path.  There are always choices to be made.  To follow the yellow brick road or not to follow the yellow brick road, that is the question.  Often times we look at the red road or the blue road or the overgrown footpath and believe everyone must. be. wrong.  We have taken the words "Question Authority" and interpreted them as "Disregard Authority" and "Ignore Wisdom".  So we take the dark path assuming, like Eve of the Garden Eden, that what we have been warned against is just one of those "best kept secrets", only to discover it really was the path to destruction after all. 

Each of us figures it out at some point.  Some of us decide to back track and find the Self-Illuminating Path, others wander up and down, lost, thinking that withstanding the dark is a badge of courage instead of a waste of energy.  Still others, knowing where the dark path leads, continue out of pride, clinging to the right to exercise their choice or out of fear that the lighted path is an illusion, like a mirage in the desert, ending in disappointment. 

Life waxes and wanes.  Reality surges and recedes.  At times we are drowning in a kaleidoscope of emotions or we find our selves parched flopping on the arid desert sand.  Some swim up to catch their breath, others drown.  Of those that find themselves shriveling, some dig down to where there is moisture, while the rest lay cracking from dehydration, resigned.  It just depends where on the undulating wave of existence you find yourself.  So what'll it be:  Sink or Swim?  Dehydrate or Dig?

We all start out surrounded by the brilliance of innocence only to pass through the gray pallor of adolescence to finally arrive in the great black void of the adult rat race and even that moves in waves and cycles; a path, whose pattern repeats in an overtly predictable rhythm, however boring or draining. 

Life is a song, a sound moving through time and space, unique and persistent, awaiting an adjustment, however slight or great, in order that it may discover its intended beauty.     

Search out the Lighted Path.  The path has been designed and constructed, it merely waits for a traveler. 

Burst through the surface of whatever is drowning you.  Cool, crisp air is resting just above you.

Dig down, deep if you must, to uncover refreshment.  The experience of drinking deep will be worth the effort.

Tune your song, it's already playing.  Ask yourself, when the final curtain falls and the last bow is taken, will the song resonating in my minds-ear be sweet or bitter? 

We're all in a moment... a moment that will step aside for another; each harmonizing with the last, continuing through all of eternity; a momentum that can only be redirected or halted with the purposeful interruption of a Word spoken before time itself. 

There is a better way.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Why Little Things Should Matter

On Sunday morning, as I open my eyes and consider rolling over, pulling my comforter over my head and going back to sleep, two things will come to mind:  1) I should have written the KIC (Kids in Celebration) teachers apology letters in advance for children I fully intend to drop off jacked up on at LEAST 3 different forms of sugar, and 2) how the Easter baskets left out on the floor of our living room are pretty laughable in light of the holiday they are intended to celebrate.

Photo by: Grant Cochrane
In an effort to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, my children will stumble, eyes half closed to my living room only to find a basket with some marshmallow chicks, a chocolate bunny filled with peanut butter, jelly beans in bags made to look like a carrot and a DVD I picked up off of the sales rack at Target.  In light of what the Mary's discovered at the tomb on the very first Easter morning, an angel just kickin' it, waiting to tell them the greatest news of ALL time, perhaps an empty basket would be more apropos?  On second thought, no, because that empty tomb held so much!  It held promises simultaneously made and fulfilled; victory complete and only just begun; that seemingly empty tomb held the salvation of all, whether accepted or refused.

I guess marshmallow chicks pale in comparison.  Though delicious, a chocolate bunny wrapped in gold colored foil, doesn't quite get it done, even if it is wearing an ascot and smoking jacket.  At least at Christmas we can explain the presents by declaring it's Christ's birthday.

Look, I don't really mind providing my kids with the socially expected Easter baskets, I don't.  But does it end with the bunny?  Does it end with dressing them up in their Easter best and packing them off to church so enthusiastic teachers can explain the miracle of Easter and give them color sheets?  Does it end with a nice ham dinner at the folks?  Does it end? 

I've recently considered this idea of dreaming BIG because my God is BIG.  What Jesus accomplished on the cross was BIG.  Victory over death is BIG, the purification of sin is BIG, putting hell in it's place is BIG, but where do my dreams fit in?  Does the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ end at 11:59pm Sunday night?  To me it's all connected.

I'd like to think that one day, one of my primary skills used by God would be writing.  I like it.  It's part of my BIG dream.  Would it be cool if I wrote a book and it was published?  Yep.  Would it be cool if that somehow became my primary source of income?  Yep.  Would it be cool if all of that happened on a grand scale?  I don't know.  COULD God include my dream in His plans?  Yes.  But does any of that have anything to do with my purpose in this life?

I don't think so. 

John 13:12-17
12 When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

Aside from establishing taking communion, doing a final rundown on important teachings that the disciples (us too!) would need for their ministry work and praying... lots of praying, He established an example of service to others, and His example was HUGE, but is actions were small.  It was Jesus, He had the authority to have them immediately cleansed from head to toe and clothed in sparkling white robes, He could have pulled a full-on Oprah's favorite things on them.  But He didn't.  He stripped down, got on His knees and washed their feet.  He washed their filthy, mud encrusted feet.  It was small, but it was so BIG. 

Then He said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."  Jesus always let by example.  So, it brings me back to my thoughts on dreaming BIG.  How do I define BIG?  Jesus defined big differently than our society.  Granted His entourage was BIG, but that's where the similarities end.  He performed singular, small, sacrificial acts that spoke volumes, that impacted all of eternity.  Sure, people's sins were forgiven, the dead were raised up, blind eyes and deaf ears were opened, feeble legs strengthened, demons driven out, but all done with a heart of service and in peace.  He didn't strive to do any of it.  He walked the path set in front of Him, He spoke the words given to Him, He performed the seemingly silly acts that He was given, He spent every moment saying "Yes." to the Father.   

His sacrifice on the cross was HUGE, but it was one step in front of the other on the road to Golgotha.  It was remaining silent in the face of His critics and condemners.  It was choosing to submit to God's perfect plan despite the cost to Him.  Even in the moment where the physical pain was excruciating as He hung on the cross, His earthly ministry spoke volumes and He considered the thieves surrounding Him.

Hebrews 12:1-3
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.    

Even to the very end as He saw in faith the gates of hell thrown open, the veil torn, graves being tossed open, the Holy Spirit descending in the upper room, thousands being saved in a singled day, Stephen being stoned, Paul getting knocked on his hindquarters, every person that has been saved since that day and until the very end of time. 

His joy was not found in the end of His pain, but rather the salvation of people He loves so dearly.  I am convinced that if remaining on that cross, in that horrible pain would have saved even one more, He would have done so.

So, as we enter this most Holy and fun of weekends, please take a moment to make sure that your BIG dreams are not overshadowing the small tasks of service God has given you.  After you've colored your eggs and filled your baskets, be generous.  Be gracious.  Be forgiving.  Be loving.  Then let your BIG God come in and do what you cannot, heal the hurting, mend the broken, and save the lost.

Dream BIG with God's heart and let your small actions speak loud! 

Happy Easter!  Don't wait until Sunday to thank Him for all that He has done!