Missing in Action

I’ve been out of action for a couple of days. Apologies to those who find some comfort, encouragement, and help in my ramblings. The family seems to have been chased down and waylaid by some rouge “crud” that invades respiratory systems. Better now, this keyboard is reluctantly recording thoughts again.

Human frailty gets in the way of being “ALL IN.” Have you noticed? When in pain, whether emotional, physical, financial, etc., our vision seems to narrow focus upon the issues which are causing the pain and distress, to the exclusion of others. It becomes the urgent vs. the important. Since the pain is urgent, it usually wins.

Reminded of that these last few days, the important is now coming into view once again. Recalling conversations with others that were insensitive, ignoring or not even being aware of needs during my distress, failing to openly appreciate gestures of care and concern are symptomatic of the spiritually cancerous self-focus of the “I am important” mentality that lies just beheath the surface of each.

It is a concern easily dismissed because we all struggle with it, but it is not OK. James wrote to refugees about the difficulties they faced and instructed joy as the appropriate response to the difficulties that distract us from our mission to be God’s person all of the time. His rationale was that these temptations to be self-focused provide opportunity for maturity (James 1:2-8).

Grasping the concept is no longer a great challenge. It is the doing of it that trips me up. It is a good things that God loves me anyway. That makes it easier to recommit to being “ALL IN.”

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Of Donkeys and Holy Books

There is an old Zen Proverb that says: “A donkey carrying a pile of holy books is still a donkey.” Initially it doesn’t sound very profound, but it really is. Being loaded down with or surrounded by trappings doesn’t change the nature of who or what a man is. The “who” and the “what” may impact the trappings chosen, but the trappings guarantee nothing about the man.

History is replete with anecdotes of charlatains in religious regalia posing and imposing their personal agendas, all the while proclaiming their messages were sourced in the Creator Himself. David Koresh comes to mind, probably because that tragedy took place a few miles from my childhood home.

Others from the past few decades may wash over you, but this is nothing new that our generations have brought on mankind. It is man being who he is, man focused upon his own agenda.

Simon the Sorcerer, Diotrophes, Herod, Judas Iscariot, shall I go on? Man, unwilling to have the reality of God shape his finite mind and thoughts, discards the notion of God (or at least the idea that God is sovereign to dictate), and attempts to find his own way. Paul was clear that God is not “down” with that approach (Romans 1:20-25).

Even “religious people” can fall into the same trap of a self-defined righteousness, which is really no righteousness at all (Romans 2:1-5; 10:1-4; Galatians 1:6-9). Carrying about the trappings doesn’t alter the beast of burden, however, Jesus can transform us into sons and daughters of God.

Let’s be clear, it is the power of God that transforms. It is my decision to allow it. The decision is not a momentary excursion into God-land; it is a total immersion into God’s will and plans: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23).

This is our choice: Remain a “donkey,” or be ALL IN and transformed by the power of God.

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What does it look like?

There is a great gulf separating “being told” and “being shown.” In the 1970’s a young Texas couple moved to North Alabama trying to accomplish several things, most notably and needed among them: growing up. I’d like a show of hands: How many suspectWayneCindyWade that I am referring to myself and the Red-Headed Irish Princess? Well done, we shall continue…

Many lessons were awaiting discovery in God’s “wisdom cache” for us. The one I reference now is at the convergence of the male ego (of a Texan), an old mare hitched to a single-tree, and a shrivelled up, but wise and patient older man.

Renting an old cinder block house from Raymond and Lena came with several perks. Beauty and elegance were not on  that list. The house was bare essentials, having had a bathroom added a few years before. It was adequate, comfortable, and cheap. The $50/month stretched me a little, but Raymond said he would help me put in a garden so I could “lay by” some vegetables to save more than the rent each month in food savings alone.

In addition to the anticipation of the fresh, self-canned and/or frozen vegetables, Lena took a special interest in me and taught the Princess how to make biscuits from “scratch” using White Lily Self-Risin’ Flour, or perhaps it was Martha White. Not Important here, moving on…

The Princess became so adept at her new skill that even my shadow grew heavier. In the early Spring, Raymond announced it was time to “lay off” and plant the garden. I watched with interest as he “broke” and “disced” the garden spots (both his and mine) with his tractor and implements. Being no novice to this part of the process, I enjoyed the smell of the newly turned soil.

The next stage of the operation was the breaking of “new ground” within me: laying off the garden with a mare and a single-tree. I listened as Raymond explained the process, confident that since this old, small and clearly worn man could do this, a strong Texan  could easily navigate the same. Not new to the hubris of young men and sensing his student was not yet up to the task, Raymond volunteered to “work the mare” while I kept the plow on course.

If you have ever done this yourself, you know how that first row turned out. Go ahead and laugh. Forty years hence this Texas male ego has been moderated by God’s design at every opportunity. Besides that, it was pretty funny. I think the mare was even laughing at me. Raymond’s only audible observation was that crooked rows grow more than straight ones.

He then showed me how to do it. While not an award-winning performance, the next attempt was respectable. He had taken the time to walk with me, coach me, and show me (not just tell me) how it was done. That is what leadership looks like, especially spiritual leadership. That’s what Jesus did by wrapping himself in humanity and “being tempted in all points, like as we.” 

I can do that for others, not perfectly like Jesus… but I can do that for others. The only way it works though, is if I am ALL IN. It’s not a job that can be done by “temps.”

Join me?

photo credit: In March, the farmer … – Im Märzen der Bauer… via photopin (license)

“Suffer the little children…”

Too quickly forgotten is the value every man is to place upon others ahead of self. Too easily we slip into preoccupations with our own circumstances and see others as a help or hindrance in achieving those goals, long term or short, that we have set for ourselves.

“Suffer the little children” unintentionally becomes Let the little children suffer.” Do not misunderstand, while some purposely target the little ones, most don’t. I have that confidence in humanity.

Those who intentionally target children are certanly worthy of attention, but they are outside the purview of this brief.

Several years ago, while counseling teens in juvenile court charged with truancy, the go-to excuse was, “I didn’t miss the bus on purpose.” While that sounds reasonable to the novice counselor, the question to be addressed was, “Did you get on the bus on purpose?” An ocean separates those positions. One is a reaction to responsibility, the other to whimsey.

Responsibility toward children, assigned by the creator, has no basis in convenience, personal comfort, or whimsy. It is not a response to some “good-feeling” moment or circumstance. It is not dismissed because of conflict or illness. It is a responsibility that calls into play “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The key to this is the main thing with which mankind struggles: self-denial. God slipped off the throne in heaven because we needed Him to wrap Himself in humanity for our sakes. He only asks us to do what He did, hop off our little thrones and serve the most vulnerable among us: children.

Who among us will?

Kudos for use of the picture: momentarylapseofsanity.com

No Fanfare Required

“The sunrise, of course, doesn’t care if we watch it or not. It will keep on being beautiful, even if no one bothers to look at it.” – Gene Amole

“Essence” is just that, essence. PR campaigns employ sophistry and repackage reality into fantasy, enticing others to buy in to the charade. “Essence” just is.

“What a man is” comes out, if not immediately, over time. Public opinion, reshaping reality, revisionist history doesn’t change who I am.

It usually required professional help to misunderstand the master: The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Being “All IN” as God’s man begins on the inside. He will keep on being God’s man, even if no one bothers to notice.


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Yawn: Bored or Self-Absorbed?

Did you ever zone out at a lecture or in a class? How about drifting into some other place during church, or worse, go to sleep? I have. I am usually the speaker, so it is more difficult to grab a few winks than when I was younger. Sleep deprivation and progressively shortened attention spans may be a factor, but I suspect a deeper issue.

Several years ago while running a string of horses, I had a couple of Border Collies. Those dogs were amazing. There are other working breeds equally notable, but myBorder experiences were with the Borders. They could be across the pasture nosing around in a fence row and hear a faint conversation I was having with someone else at the barn. They immediately stopped their search for… well, whatever it was, turned and looked my direction, ears straight up.

Many dogs when looking straight into your eyes challenge for dominance. These Borders  scanned for instruction. If they were asleep they sprang to attention at my whisper as if my voice was an old Big Ben alarm clock. It was, as if, their only reason to exist was to do my bidding. How I loved those girls. No working dogs had a better life.

I suspect my inclination to drift is rooted in an ongoing self-absorption, unlike what I experienced with my two girls. If I am His, I’ll be ever listening and responding to His voice:

” The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (John 10:3-4 ESV) 

Being “ALL IN” is not a part-time job, even though I occasionally treat it that way. It’s a good thing that God loves me anyway.

Any thoughts? If you have found this helpful or thought provoking, please share it with others.

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Passive Aggression

“Gittin’ even” is a passion better left unfulfilled, but we do it anyway. The expectations of revenge never measure up, but the justifications always revolve around a twisted sense of justice.

Not willing to be seen as a childish whiner, some resort to “passive aggression” (hereafter referred to as “PA”) just because “we can.” Admittedly not knowing Gene Roddenberry’s mind, suspicion sniffs out faint traces of PA in his 1973 film, “Genesis II.”  Segrwb-genesisiieing or understanding this Sci-Fi flick is not a prerequisite to understanding the connection.

According to my anonymous sources (journalism speak for “I ain’t gonna tell ya”) in a 1986 production of Gene’s, censors required Mr. Roddenberry to cover an actress’s navel. Five years later when he was making the pilot for Genesis II he cast the same actress as an alien and gave her two bellybuttons! Whaddaya think about that? I suspect he was snickering about that with his buddies for some time, but I doubt it had any positive impacts.

Promoting himself and taking whatever credit or fallout comes was certainly Mr. Roddenberry’s prerogative. A disciple of Jesus, on the other hand, no longer lives for self. Nor is the fallout from self-will, self-promotion, and self-revenge borne exclusively. It reflects on the Master.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 (ESV)

Being “ALL IN” is consuming. How many of us face this challenge? What does PA look like when you do it?

Feature Artwork Source: http://not-your-average-mom.com/why-be-honest-when-you-can-be-passive-aggressive-or-how-to-completely-destroy-a-friendship/

Pursuit of the Trivial

Through the years a great distraction has been the preoccupation with the insignificant while the important goes unattended. For those not afflicted with this uncCliff Clavenompromising skill set, I need only refer to Cliff Claven of “Cheers” fame (if you have a few years on you) in an attempt to provide a point of reference.

Cliff seemed to have a wealth of inconsequential trivia on the speed dial of his instant recall. Not only were his forays into the unnecessary void of any real value, they seemed unlimited in scope as well as length.

There are other practitioners of assault by the mundane. If you suspect you have earned similar recognition by those who know you, ask. I have probably been guilty myself, although I would rather wonder about the whole thing than be certain.

9588206547_87c60bb10a_mWhile reading casually I stumbled across an interesting tidbit to add to my cranial card file: “The USDA once paid $46,000 for a study to find out how long it took Americans to cook breakfast.”

photo credit: Truffle Scrambled Eggs via photopin (license)

That is a pretty insignificant amount of money when the entire national budget is considered, and could easily be dismissed like one of Cliff Claven’s offerings. But on the other hand, on the surface it seems to be an unnecessary use of funds while the national debt soars (or any other time for that matter). Is this, possibly, a “great distraction” while the important goes unattended?

It looks pretty bad when the government does it. It doesn’t look any better when you and I are guilty of the same. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the temporary and lose sight of the eternal.

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” – Colossians 3:1-2 (The Message)

Do you ever get distracted by the eternally unimportant? Tell us about it…

“All In” Really Gets Personal

C.S.Lewis was a difficult read for me as a younger man. It wasn’t that Lewis was too deep, which he was… deep that is. The problem was that I was too shallow, like a toddler in the 3 foot end of the swimming pool. The shallow end of the pool isn’t extreme, but a non-swimming toddler is too short to successfully navigate that depth.

In one of his addresses Lewis noted that one’s neighbor is “the holiest object presented to your senses” other than, of course, communion with God Himself. He mentioned one additional “more holy” object: a Christian neighbor.

It’s true you know. Since God created each of us, every individual is valuable just because He made us. Within those who are His, God the Spirit actually dwells. No surprise that Jesus didn’t mention the Greatest Commandment without including the Second.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) [Emphasis mine]

This is where the business of being “ALL IN” gets personal. I can either ignore this reality and respond to people as the inconsequential interruptions to my life that they can sometimes seem to be – OR – I can respond toward all people with deference based solely upon the value that God places on them. (Easier said than done, wouldn’t you agree?)

I’m All In, at least most of the time. Are you?

As always, I look forward to your thoughts.


Picture: By Ed Yourdon from New York City, USA (Helping the homeless Uploaded by Gary Dee) [CC BY-SA 2.0(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

C.S.Lewis quote: The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses. Copyright © 1949, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1976, revised 1980 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Quoted in: Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd.


My Reason To Believe

I was asked about my reason to believe, like Bruce Springsteen’s song,  “Reason to Believe”- “At the end of every hard-earned day / people find some reason to believe.” 

If you are like most, why you believe can be a tough question to answer when you actually get down to putting it on paper. Many just muddle along, drawn by habit and circumstances, not really thinking about motivation or purpose.

IMG_0945.JPGIt is easy to have an intellectual answer, but far more difficult to engage soul searching to find a personal gut-level answer. You’d think it easy for me since my message is that God expects us to be “All In” as disciples, but it’s not as easy as I thought it would be when I actually sat at the keyboard, beginning to type.

There seems to be a place within me that is empty without God. As a younger man, I would have scoffed at such a simplistic notion, but now it is perfectly reasonable and a remarkably profound answer. I have found fulfillment living in God… and God actually living in me. As promised, I have found a peace that just can not be adequately described by words nor understood by those who are not experiencing it.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

“What I believe” about God is rooted in His communication to mankind, the Bible. “That I believe” is evidently rooted in my creation. I can run from God, deny God, and argue with God. What I can not do is make God evaporate, so I must decide what I’m going to do about the reality of God.

I’m “All In.” Are You?

Reason to Believe