500 Miles In Indianapolis Is Nothing

2015-indianapolis-500-5This weekend is the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. They’ve sold the place out and homes are going for rent for in some cases more than $1000 a night! Hmm. . . “Jackie, is there any place you want to get away to this weekend?”

Of course, things have changed a lot in one hundred years. Go visit the Indy 500 museum sometime and you’ll see. The cars are more colorful, faster and even safer though years ago they weren’t traveling 200mph.

But  one of the most amazing things to me is how quickly they can cover five hundred miles. In fact, along with the NASCAR counterparts, these professionals must think five hundred miles is nothing. Some of them take on that kind of mileage every week or at least regularly and rarely complain about it.

I wonder if our culture could learn a little more about persistence, perseverance and dedication from the commitment these drivers have to the long haul. We continue to live in an I want it now culture where young people in particular are often unwilling to do the hard work to reach a goal or objective.

Many don’t want to put in the time to earn the money to have a nice car, attractive home and stylish clothes. They want those things now. They believe they’re entitled to them. Some of those same young adults expected their mom and dad to pay for their college while they partied a lot and made it through.

I think it might be a good thing if more parents challenged their kids to think of long distances, significant time and investment of personal resources as a good thing.  What if parents expected their children to pitch in, work for at least some of their education and even pay back some of what was invested in them?

I tend to think more and more young adults would begin to act like the thirty-some drivers this weekend, go fast, stay safe but not worry one bit how long the race is. Maybe more of them would commit to the big picture and wait for better. And somehow our society would be better off, too.

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Five Things To Expect In A Church

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For the first time in twenty-seven years my wife and I have to look for a church. For nearly three decades we sought them out but for different reasons, mainly to see if I’d be a fit on the staff as a pastor.

But now it’s different. Nobody really knows who we are and we’re not seeking employment. We are looking at groups of believers and their gathering times through a very different lens, one that many of you reading this post also understand.

Yes, we may differ in our choices of church style, size, preacher, organization, denomination and fine points of doctrine. However,  I think there are at least five deal breaker characteristics that every church needs to make sure they embrace if people are going to stay and that church is going to be a place to grow. At least these are ones we’re going to try to find.

One, the teachers need to teach the Bible practically. I really don’t care if the pastor’s seminar professor will still be impressed by their exegesis, length of sermon, dramatic pauses or whatever. Being contemporary or not, in jeans or a robe or speaking out of one book or topically are simply preferences which we are all free to have. But they don’t make or break this concept.

But the listeners need to leave with something practical to do with what they’ve heard and learned that day. Just more content, even if presented with impeccable detail, is just more content.

Two, attenders must sense that God actually showed up in their gathering. In other words He was the focus, there was time to hear from Him and the rituals, habits and style of their meetings didn’t needlessly get in the way. The service wasn’t about always including the same components, announcing all of the monthly events or bragging about their accomplishments. The glory was ultimately given to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Three, leaders don’t try to make something happen. Instead they just facilitate, teach reasons for and leave space for people to change. Musicians and singers aren’t requiring that everyone have the same response, pastors aren’t manipulating people to make decisions and those who pray aren’t making demands of God that He never committed to fulfilling. Some will respond outwardly and others inwardly, but both are okay.

Four, opportunities to serve others in their gatherings and at other times are abundant.  Roles in the church aren’t merely for the special, insider people other than where it’s essential that a position requires a Christian. However, training of new people and welcoming others who have gifts are the norm, not an exception.

Five, there is a commitment to do things well.  Not perfectly, but well, with excellence as much as their resources allow. Small or big doesn’t matter. It’s possible to still do a good job and prepare even in little churches. Technology today offers every church an opportunity to avoid just getting by and do things well.

There are other things that may be essential in your choice of church. Just be sure they are truly essentials and not merely wish list items. But don’t settle in the church you seek or the one you are. Some things really do matter. Maybe if more churches made them a priority we wouldn’t see so many people either leaving or simply not showing up.

Sometimes “Balance” Is The Way To Go

stone-balanceIf you’re trying to get to a new level of maturity, business, accomplishment or even spirituality balance probably shouldn’t be your word of the day for a while. Balance might just lull you into settling for average, not trying anything new and attempting to please everyone.

On the other hand, if you’re walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope (which was recently done) or riding your motorcycle at seventy miles per hour, balance is essential. You see we have to decide during extreme situations what is best: balance or picking a side.

But it seems to me that of late a significant number of Christians, people of faith, gravitate toward the extreme side, the fatalistic or at least pessimistic view of life, when it comes to current events, the state of the church, politics and where culture seems to be headed.

Now let me be clear. I’ve read Revelation and know that in the End Times things are going to get bad and severely out of balance from what we would dare call normal. And I’m not suggesting we put our heads in the sand when we consider the potential for more terrorism, immorality and deception in our country and world.

But I do want to throw some caution out there, at least for discussion, regarding those who tend to see the worst in everything. For example, they bemoan every leader who doesn’t agree with them and every cultural direction or choice that goes again their way of thinking or acting.

My point is that sometimes there are major positives and acts of God going on in the middle of all that other stuff and we’re unwise if we don’t celebrate that, too.

There are still lives being changed, people turning to God, children becoming healthy adults and leaders who lead with integrity, godly values and character. And that means that all of us can still enjoy our family, friends, coworkers and neighbors. We can still find happiness in people and events still caught in a broken world. In fact, didn’t Jesus challenge us to be salt and light in the darkness?

If anything, Christians ought to be people of hope, even if we live in a messed up world.

Let’s not miss God-given opportunities merely because we’re so focused on evil laden circumstances. Sometimes balance really is best.

 

Why We Need To Vote Every Election

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I would rather not accept how many elections I’ve been alive for or the good number that I both remember and have voted in each time. And without overstating the case, I think this election has had as much turmoil, confusion and misdirection as any of them.

However, the point of my post is not to speak of the pluses and minuses of the candidates who may win or even seem likely to be at least nominated.

Instead I want to encourage everyone reading this to please vote!!  And let me tell you why.

First, there are some who want to not vote as a kind of protest against a candidate, party or position. But let me share something with you . . . no one but you cares what you think, do or don’t do!!  Your not voting won’t make one difference in the perspective of anyone else. Perhaps you will feel better or in control or something but that’s about it. Which reminds us that . . . .

Second, there are no perfect candidates and there never will be. In our lifetimes no one will ever find a leader who thinks exactly the way they do, so forget waiting until next time for a better, even perfect choice. The words of the modern day prophets, the Rolling Stones, are appropriate here:  You can’t always get what you want.

Third, not voting has potential major implications. By choosing to stay home in November our country could elect the greater of two evils, because the lesser had too much baggage and yes, our sense of moral responsibility and wisdom won the day but backfired.  Voting is still a privilege and can make a positive difference even if we don’t have the perfect candidates – and we clearly do not. Do you want to assuage your conscience or help the country change more? You can decide who you think will best do that but please then vote for them!

I’ve always found it interesting in Scripture that leaders are still described as under God’s direction and ultimate control. One example is from Romans 13:1:  Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

So as we move toward November, pray like crazy. Remember that God is still in charge. And be sure you’re registered to vote and have put election day on your calendar. See you at the polls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some “Other” Thoughts For Mothers Day

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A week from Sunday is the big day, right?  The day when many of us say and celebrate a host of the things we probably should have said to our mom on a regular basis all year long. It’s a day some will forget, others will wish never came and a few will just ignore.

Others will turn it into a second Christmas – with gifts, dinner, flowers and all sorts of other fun surprises. One can only hope that such merriment each year hasn’t become an expected tradition.

There’s of course no one way to celebrate or feel about a day concocted by marketers more than by family members. It’s genesis, however, doesn’t make it necessarily a good or bad thing. We should thank our moms, appreciate that they literally helped give life to us and in most cases sacrificed a great deal so that we could have and be what we have and are today.

But let me add a couple of other perspectives worth remembering tomorrow during yet another Mothers Day, no matter your view of it and its significance.

There are no perfect mothers. And there don’t need to be. No mom batted 100%, went through parenting mistake-free or was the Mother Teresa of moms. In fact, often if a mom dies early, they become even more of an icon and saint with many of their faults, even minor ones, forgotten. It’s okay if your mom wasn’t ideal all the time. And it’s okay if you are a mom and know there are some weaknesses in your mothering. You’ve got company.

In a related way, you don’t have to worship your mom to appreciate her. Some moms had all sorts of things going against them and so simply did the best they could. Others were abusive, neglectful and distant. Most loved their kids and made their decisions, even the poor ones, with love for their kids at the core. We can and should love our moms, respect both our parents as much as possible, but we don’t need to and shouldn’t turn mom this Mothers Day into a goddess. She’s human.

Third, our moms are our moms and unique to us. They don’t need to be like or equal to anyone else’s mom. In fact, one of the ways we can celebrate our mom this year is to simply be thankful for and remind her of some of the special things she did, whether any other mom ever did them or not. My mom has a great sense of humor. She has almost always put other people’s needs, wants and requirements before hers.

She’s my mom and has been a part of making my sister and me who we are today. She’s 91 years old, too, so she’s a survivor, strong and has saved well. She loved my dad and modeled a lot of things that I caught and still embrace today. Even those with highly tainted childhoods can probably think of things about mom that were special and valuable. So tomorrow enjoy your mom or memory of her , celebrate her for who she was and hopefully still is. Come to think of it, if it weren’t for our moms we wouldn’t be here. Happy Mothers Day!

5 Things To Remember About Prayer Today

ndp-slider-nationalprayerToday is the National Day of Prayer. Millions will be praying in churches, at courthouses, near schools, in their workplaces and wherever. Using some alliteration to summarize, they’ll be praying for their community, city, church, country and culture. I’ll be part of that effort today at a company where I chaplain near Indianapolis.

However, it seems important that we be reminded of some general principles about prayer, ones that often get ignored or distorted by well-meaning people fervent about change and grieved about the way things are.

Let me suggest a few:

  1.  Prayer is always to be accompanied by our wise actions of protection, seeking counsel and the like. Nehemiah 4:9 includes Nehemiah’s words when he was being threatened while rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem: So we prayed and set up a guard. They did both – asked God for His divine involvement but also took cover. We should pray with the same willingness and perspective.
  2. Prayer will not get us more of what we want or demand by using “magic” words, yelling louder or being in just the right place or position. In fact, prayer isn’t ultimately about what we want though we are free to ask and sometimes God responds affirmatively. Yes, we ought to speak respectfully, come humbly and be passionate but there’s no one thing that will assure the outcome we desire.
  3. Prayer is first and foremost a conversation with God.  That means it should involve both speaking and listening. Prayer invites a discussion with God. It is more than just our sharing a list of requests but rather time for glorification, thanksgiving and confession.
  4. Prayer is a form of commitment. It’s giving our circumstances, concerns and challenges over to God to do with them as He pleases. We will never know why He answers some prayers the way we want while others seem neglected. Nonetheless, we live by faith and must trust Him for the ultimate response.
  5. Prayer matters. We do need to remember that somehow, some way God does hear us, respond and still do amazing things. So he asks us to pray – for healing, for provision, for strength, for wisdom. How we get those things and how often we receive them are up to Him.

So pray today. Pray often. Pray in faith and with passion. It does make a difference and not just on the National Day of Prayer.