Posts made in March, 2010

Cursing

Posted by on Mar 26, 2010 in Faith, Uncategorized | 5 comments

A few days ago Joe Biden whispered the “F” word into Obama’s ear during a press conference and the microphones picked it up. The press has been playing the clip ever since, mostly as a tongue-in-cheek news story. No one seems surprised that Biden would use this kind of language, including me, just a little shocked that he would do so while the whole world was watching. Is it a staggering lack of judgment on Biden’s part, or simply the result of a man who is so accustomed to foul language that he no longer notices he’s using it? I’m going with the latter. I’m not sure many people see Biden as a role model, even though he is the second-most powerful man on the planet. Most see him as just another narcissist personality who was lucky enough to stumble into a career that feeds his ego—not unlike most politicians. But still, it seems sad that so many children had to witness it, along with the jokes and giggles from the press afterward. This kind of language has become so commonplace today that people aren’t even shocked by it anymore—and that’s what really breaks my heart. I subscribe to a number of blogs, and Biden’s gaff has been the topic of conversation on many of them the last few days. Not surprisingly, most people don’t seem to think it’s that big of a deal. A lot of the blogs I frequent are Christian oriented, and Christian teens make most of the comments. Quite honestly, I’m a little stunned by how few of them were offended by Biden’s language. “Times have changed, and most people don’t see much harm in that kind of cursing these days,” seemed to be the general consensus. Many of the Christian teens admitted to using the “F” word themselves, usually in conversations with their friends, though they would never do so around their parents. One teen wrote, “It’s not like I’m taking the Lord’s name in vain or anything…” It made me wonder, Is that really true? How is it not shameful and degrading to the Lord’s name when a follower of Christ uses crude and obscene language? And how exactly is that not taking his name in vain? I’m not a religious prude, advocating a return to the puritan lifestyle. And I’m not so old that I don’t remember what it’s like to be a young person struggling with peer pressure. I know it’s tough being a Christian teen in the middle of an increasingly secular world. Being an adult these days isn’t much easier. But isn’t this one area of our faith where Christians just can’t afford to compromise? Can’t we admit that using foul and obscene language is such an insult to the name of Jesus that it’s simply wrong to try and justify it? Using careless and unwholesome talk is a sin, pure and simple, and not because this old fuddy-dud of a blogger said it was—but because God’s Word tells us it is. Paul said in Ephesians, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity,… because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place… Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (Eph. 5:3-12) I’m pretty certain Biden’s flippant language qualifies as impure, improper, obscene, foolish, and coarse. That’s not a cultural thing—not in the eyes...

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Trust

Posted by on Mar 24, 2010 in Christian Walk, Faith, Jesus | 8 comments

There is a young paraplegic boy who attends our church. He lives his life in a wheelchair. Black and brown straps hold him tightly in place, keeping him from sliding out onto the floor. There are straps around his chest and legs and arms, even around his forehead. I once found myself wondering how uncomfortable that must be, but then remembered that he likely doesn’t feel a thing. Still, he is fully alert—you can tell by the way his eyes dart back and forth as his family wheels him through the hallways. I see them almost every week, this faithful family, the father guiding his wheelchair from behind as his mother walks ahead of them, paving a way through the crowd as they make their way to their regular seat. I often find myself feeling sad for the young boy. What must it be like to be so helpless and unresponsive, completely dependent on others for even your most basic needs? To depend on others to dress you, feed you, carry you, bathe you, even hold the straw as you struggle to take a drink? If I am brutally honest, I can’t imagine a more maddening and frustrating existence. I’ve always treasured my independence, prided myself in the fact that I don’t need help, that I can get by on my own, even bragged about my competence and self-sufficiency. I love setting out to do something and then doing it. I take pride in my accomplishments—in the businesses I’ve run, the comfortable lifestyle I’ve created, the books and articles I’ve written. The great things I’ve done for God. And yet each week I see this young boy who can never dream of doing any of these things. He’ll never hold down a job, never run a business, never start a family, never write a best-selling book. He will never be able to do great things for God. And knowing that fact begs an important question. Perhaps the most life-altering question any of us can possibly ask. Does that make him any less valuable to God? What if I am the boy in the wheelchair? What if there isn’t anything I can possibly do for God that this boy can’t do? What if all the things I’ve accomplished have been little more than distractions from the one thing God most wants of me? Could it be that all God expects from any of us is to lean into his love? To gaze into his face and receive his gentle mercy? To immerse ourselves in the warmth of his unquenchable grace? Maybe all God wants from any of us is to trust him. I’ve never met the young handicapped boy, but I owe him a debt of gratitude. His very presence has given me an eternal glimpse into the heart of God. I hope I get a chance to thank him. Under the Mercy,...

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Humility

Posted by on Mar 11, 2010 in Faith, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Writing is a strange profession. And it’s not always as noble as we writers like to think. On the one hand, the process of writing is hard and grueling and cumbersome. It can be frustrating to the point of insanity—especially for those of us who agonize over words the way a Swiss watchmaker might agonize over a fine timepiece, or an archeologist might agonize to extract a rare bone from a piece of rock. Getting words to fit on the page just right is a painstaking and humbling process. One that often leaves you feeling more defeated than finished. And no matter how hard you work, no matter how well you think you wrote, no matter how many rewrites you suffer through, at the end of the day, you never quite know how others will respond. It’s no wonder most writers are so maddeningly insecure. On the other hand, having written, is anything but humbling. In fact it’s a pretty heady experience. Seeing your name on a book cover is more than a little rewarding; it borders on ecstasy! It makes all the hard work, all the sleepless nights, all the insecurity, all the rewrites, all the painstaking piecing together of words worth the effort. More than that, it brings a level of pride and praise that few careers can offer. Tell someone you’re a doctor or a lawyer and they assume that you’re successful, but tell them you’re an author and suddenly they want your autograph. Instant rock star—and you didn’t have to play a note! And therein lies the rub. It’s far too easy to start believing your own press. To get puffed up and prideful and full of your own self-importance. The word “humble” and “author” are seldom found in the same sentence. And when they are, you have to wonder how much of it is false humility. I once had a friend who finally got his first book published. He was a minister who already smacked of conceit, long before he ever saw his name in print, but afterward became an unbearable ball of arrogance. Every conversation in his presence turned to a discussion of his “revolutionary” new book, and the anointing he felt as he slaved over the manuscript—never mind that he didn’t write a word of it, but instead had it written for him. The label “Author” is a dangerous title to pin on a humble person, but pin it on a bonafide megalomaniac and you’ve created an ego with its own solar system! This isn’t a tirade of cynicism on my part, just a career hazard that anyone who writes for a living has to deal with. The reality is, writing is a vanity business, and because of it, the publishing field attracts some of the vainest people on the planet. It’s the thing I least like about the industry. More than that, it’s the thing I have to most guard against in my own life. If a haughty heart leads to destruction and brings opposition from God, then the last thing I want in my heart is a hint of haughtiness. And I fight daily to see that it doesn’t seep in. Do I struggle with pride? Absolutely. Like a caged stallion struggles to be free from its bridle. Do I always win? Absolutely not. But I never stop struggling. I never give up the fight to remain humble. I never stop reminding myself that any success I’ve had—in publishing, or any other human endeavor—is solely by the grace of God and can be stripped away in an instant if I...

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Contentment

Posted by on Mar 6, 2010 in Faith, Uncategorized | 2 comments

One never expects to find a theological mentor behind the glass at a Pennsylvania turnpike, but then God seldom works the way we expect. I was there on business, on a trip I didn’t want to make, during a time when I really couldn’t afford the time away to make it. On my way to another meeting that I didn’t want to attend, in a rental car that felt far too small and unfamiliar. The coming nor’ easter came early, making travel even more cumbersome and tedious. Visibility dwindled with each passing mile as buckets of rain waged war on the Buick’s over-worn wiper blades. And I was angry. Angry that I had to be across the country in a blinding rainstorm when I’d rather be home with my family, chipping away at some overdue writing deadlines on my desk, spending time with my kids, sleeping in my own bed at night. I was angry and tired and dreadfully imposed upon. And that’s when I pulled into the toll booth. The one that was about to confiscate another buck and a quarter from me, even though I was certain the road had long since been paid for. I considered complaining about the pits and potholes, until I caught a glimpse of the kind eyes and warming smile waiting for me behind the tollbooth window. “How are you this fine evening?” she sparkled. “Okay,” I answered, digging for my wallet, dogging bullets of water through the open window. “How are you?” I only asked because it seemed expected. “I’m very blessed! Thanks so much for asking!” I mustered a grin and passed her a five. “Isn’t this rain wonderful?” she asked, making small talk and change at the same time. “I just love it when it rains like this. It makes the air smell so clean. And the good Lord knows we need it.” “It is nice,” I lied, reaching for my change, trying to sound more pleasant than I felt. “It certainly is,” she chimed. “I can’t wait for Spring this year. With all this rain we’ve been having, why it’s going to be beautiful!” I nodded politely, gathering my change and sliding it into the cup holder. “You have a blessed time in Pennsylvania,” she continued. “And be careful on these slick roads.” “Thanks, I will,” I said, coasting forward as I spoke. Then just as the window inched shut one parting phrase pierced the air. A comment I would have missed had I been a few seconds faster on the button. “God bless you!” Like one last heaping coal of kindness singeing the hairs of my already convicted spirit. I waved to acknowledge her words, but I’m sure she didn’t see. So I drove on, the brief exchange resonating in my mind. It’s amazing how God can use a simple, unexpected encounter to shake your attitude back to center. Here I was, a man more blessed than most, with far more going for me than against me, with a rewarding career, a beautiful wife, two wonderful kids and a dog named D.C., all who love me dearly, a great home, even greater friends… a life more blessed than any man deserves. Yet I couldn’t see far enough past the inconvenience of the moment to appreciate it. And in the other corner, a woman who makes her living making change in a six-by-six box on the freeway, pelted by wind and rain and gravel each day, suffering the smog and smoke from passing motorist for a paycheck that’s clearly far smaller than she’s worth, yet she exuded joy...

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Tenderness

Posted by on Mar 5, 2010 in Faith | 1 comment

God’s voice is not like other voices. When God speaks, he speaks loudest through the quiet things that happen to us. Often he catches us at moments of pain or confusion or vulnerability then whispers into the depths of our spirits, saying, “you’re going the wrong way,” or “let me show you a better way to do that.” Sometimes his voice is a still, small one; other times it is no voice at all, but an event, or a sleepless night, or a chasm of guilt and remorse that seems to come out of nowhere. And it almost always comes when we least expect it. Just this morning God roused me from a good sleep at 5:00 a.m. and kept my mind pried open. I tried to clear it and get back to sleep, but he wouldn’t let it happen. He wanted me to know that some things I did yesterday were unacceptable, that some things I said needed to be unsaid, that a relationship was strained and now needed to be mended. His voice was clear, so now that task is at the top of my to-do list, just as soon as the rest of the world awakens. I don’t enjoy the guilt I feel at the moment, but I love that God deals with me this way. I love that he loves me enough to care. Some years ago I was in my car on one of the busiest streets of the city. It was the height of rush hour, and cars were screaming past me on either side. The radio was tuned to a Christian music station, and soft melodies played in the background, but my mind was a thousand miles away—thinking of nothing, everything, and all that lies in between. My life at the time was defined by periods of rebellion, followed by repentance, followed by weeks of penitence and shame. I was serving a god of anger and judgment–a god who loved me when I was good, hated me when I was bad, and couldn’t wait to share the tally with me at judgment. This was the pattern and lot of my life—the burden I bore for being a Christian. But God had been working on me, pulling at me, trying to bring me into a fuller life. I can look back now and see his hand at work in so many ways, through books and tapes that friends were giving me, through experiences, through people he brought into my life. Little by little I began to see him, though I steadily resisted. As I was driving a song came over the radio. A song from Margaret Becker, my favorite singer. I turned up the volume and began singing along with her, words I knew by heart. Words that had been in my heart yet had never quite pierced it. The song was titled Just Come In, and for the very first time the profound message of the lyrics began to penetrate and settle into the depths of my soul. You think you’ve crossed some sacred line, and now I will ignore you. If you look up, you will find, my heart is still toward you. Look at the sky, the east to the west. That’s where I threw this, when you first confessed. Let it go now…Just come in; just leave that right there. Love does not care. Just come in; lay your heart right here. You should never fear. Without notice a well of emotion began to spring up within me. I started to cry, slowly at first and then uncontrollably. I...

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