Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dream (actively), then do

"I don't dream at night, I dream all day; I dream for a living." -Steven Spielberg (thanks to the tweet from John Maxwell). I think what Mr. Spielberg means is not just that he dreams in the way that most of us do. Based on his enormous success as a movie director over the years, I would say he doesn't merely let life come to him. He engages his mind in the world around him and finds ways to express that on screen. He takes what comes to him, and instead of letting it rule what he does, he uses his skill and experience and makes something new and exciting.

So often, people act based on emotion, or because others tell them it's the popular thing to do. I vow to always be a dreamer, but then, with God's help, use those dreams to create something new and exciting.

A world full of unique people

(Thanks to liveaquote on Twitter for posting the quote, "Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.")

I find it amazing that though every possible subject has been covered in books and magazine articles and journals...and, yes, in blogs, people are still writing. For years I thought, Why bother, I have nothing new to say, and whatever I write will fall short of how well somebody else could say it. But the words I write, at a particular moment, seen by a particular group of readers, will have a unique impact. And that's true of every one of us. Maybe "it" (whatever "it" is in your particular field of ministry) has been done before. But not quite like you're going to do it.

Act, or fail

HT to Terry Whalin for his Twitter posting of Pablo Picasso's quote: "Action is the foundational key to all success." It has only been recently that I have begun to act upon writing about those things that mean a lot to me. I'm not a great writer by any means. I just started my Twitter account & am slowly building up followers. I'm not aware of any followers to this blog (to date!). Maybe only a few people will ever see what I write. Maybe hundreds or thousands, eventually.

I've come to realize that for perfectionists like me, it's not necessarily, "The good is the enemy of the best"; but rather, "The best is the enemy of the better." What does that mean? Growing up, whether I was working on school book reports or personal stories, I'd have endless edits and rewrites. Before the days of the personal computer, I filled garbage cans with half-written pages that just weren't good enough for my high standards. Now please don't get me wrong & just haphazardly take actions. But there is a time when we say (& please forgive me, Dave Ramsey), it is good enough. If what you or I do, imperfect as it may be, can bless even a few people, then we'll have succeeded far more than if we took no action at all.

Be prepared for drastic, last minute shifts

According to this story, retailers lost $1 billion from the recent blizzard. If those business owners had been checking the weather in the days leading up to the storm, many of them wouldn't have even suspected such epic snow totals were knocking at their doors. A couple of locations I had checked just a few days before the storm hit were only forecast to receive a dusting or so. By the time the storm ended, one of those locations was buried with nearly two feet.

Of course, with weather forecasting being an imperfect science, nobody can fault these business owners for being caught by surprise. The Old Testament sufferer Job, for example, might have sympathized with their plight. In Job 1:13-22, for example, Job, a righteous man in God's eyes was nevertheless allowed by that very same God to experience Satan's severe trials. It wasn't like God said to him, "Hey, Job, just to let you know, next week you'll be going through some stuff. It'll last a while, but once it's over I'll give you more blessings than you ever dreamed" (see Job 42:10). He, like those shop owners who endured the blizzard, only knew that much of what he held dear was taken from him.

I imagine over time we'll hear stories of anger from many of these shop owners. But I hope that we'll have some Jobs, people who in spite of it all accept God's sovereignty, don't assume God was wrong in allowing such a trial, and, most important, bless Him in the midst of it all. For those who do these things will in return be blessed far more (maybe in different ways than financially) than they ever had been.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why this blog came to be, and where it's going

I never really had a "life verse" until I was preparing a Bible study lesson back in 2006. Not that I want to base my life on only one Bible verse, but for some reason God put Romans 5:17 on my heart, and it has not let me go (I believe it contains what can be seen as a paradigm for the best possible life--a life with Christ, as well as the worst life that results from being without Christ).

It's difficult to summarize what I'm trying to learn from this passage (and, ultimately, to internalize and pass on to others). Here, we have the ultimate penalty--death through Adam's sin, contrasted with the ultimate gift--life in Christ. We're told we can reign in life. But not "just barely" reign, but "much more" reign. And in this life as well as the one to come.
The spiritual forces of good and evil, our flesh, and the fallen world, all have greater levels of power, weakness, love, hatred, pain, joy, holiness, depravity, reverence, etc., than we tend to realize.

I know (at this point, more in my head than in the depths of my soul) that seeing God face to face should cause me to tremble and fall prostrate. That if I saw sin through His eyes, unfiltered by Christ's blood, I'd be so repulsed I'd have to turn away. That the measure of His love and blessings for me is so great it should cause me to see all the world's pleasures as barely worth mentioning. That the devil's hatred for me and for God is so deep that I should be terrified of his evil, save for Christ in me.

The Bible also speaks of abounding this, always do that, never do the other thing. We read that unbelievers in hell writhe in agony and gnash their teeth. And we see believers in heaven exulting in Jesus' presence amid streets of gold. There is eternal reward or punishment. God burns in anger against sin. He cuts off those who are unrepentant. He expects us to be blameless (which, thankfully, Jesus' sacrifice makes us so in His sight), to crucify our flesh, to do his work with excellence and with all our might, to love unconditionally, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in all things. God is the Alpha and Omega, He is all-powerful, He is infinite, He is the (only) Way, He is to be worshiped and glorified, not merely appreciated. Believers who truly experience Him bow, fall prostrate, fall back in awe, dance, worship. In him we can do all things, because nothing is impossible.

These are some of the types of "hyperboles" that are part of our spiritual surroundings. We believers should make them a part of who we are, but based on the state of our world it seems we really don't. Of course, despite how dangerous and terrible the devil, we know God is infinitely more wonderful and able to overcome the devil's schemes. We can't defeat Satan on our own, but in Christ we are more than conquerors.

I plan to read through the Bible, and pray to gain a greater awareness of such terms so I can more fully understand what's around us (and in us) so I can act and think more like God intends for His children. But I realize that to reach another level in Him, the level where godly (not fleshly or worldly, of course!) hyperbole is the norm, I will need to seek Him like never before.

As I learn and grow in my understanding of the extremes of good, evil, joy, agony, etc., I hope that through my life, my writing, my teaching, and any other avenue God provides I can, in some small measure, help others better understand as well, and maybe because of it a "much more" life will be more common for Christians in the future. I will be sharing from the Bible and from other real stories past and present. Please feel free to share from your heart as well (but keep it clean and respectful).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in Old Shoes

OK, I wrote this a while ago, & posted it on another blog. I stepped away from writing for a while, so I hope if you've already seen this you'll forgive me. I vow to do my best to write something else for Christmas by next year!

Christmas glitter gilds the town
Far as the eye can see.
Lights aglow from house to house,
Garland on ev’ry tree

Shoppers shop, almost nonstop.
The merchants clap with glee.
Children beg, eyes open wide,
"Oh, please, for me, for me!"

Among them, two young siblings--
Their parents' sad decree:
"Christmas cannot come to us
This year, unless it's free."

"Christmas free? How can it be?!"   
(And shopping ads agree.)
"Oh how indeed!" they wonder,
Those siblings, weepingly.
Just then a man on hard times
Come ambling down the street,
Stops at home of boy and girl
Where Christmas shall not be.

Their parents stare in wonder:
"He's far worse off than we.
His face describes a struggle,
And yet a smile we see."

"I have a gift," he tells them.
The children shout with glee.
While Mom and Dad both whisper,
"What kind of fool is he?"

He speaks to them with honor
Of God's great majesty,
Which he has learned to notice
Since Christmas came for free.

"I've spent my share and then some,
And much has come to me
In packages and parcels
That go beneath the tree.

"Behold my few possessions;
Yet foolish would I be
To trade them for those presents
I loved so jealously.

"For in my heart is Jesus;
Look in my eyes and see
A joy that He has offered
By dying on a tree.

For Jesus says, 'Where's Christmas
Amid this revelry?
Why do you have the season
And yet think not of Me?'"

"Kind sir, would you please tell us
How you expect that we
Could dare to ask for Jesus, 
Yet offer poverty?

"Our rent's past due three months now;
Our bills—just look and see.
Our begging for a handout,
That’s soon what is to be.”

The man says, "My dear people,
Please take a look at me,
For what I have to give Him
Is only what you see.

"I too was shamed to face Him-
'What wretchedness you be,'
I've heard the folks of this town
Spew out so heartlessly.

And yet I'm God's dear child;
While they, though rich may be,
Do worship worthless riches;
That's all the heav'n they see.

"You need to, therefore, offer
Yourselves on bended knee, 
And hearts that are repentant
Toward Him who purchased thee."

"This gift, it is so precious.
What kind of Savior, He,
Who offers richest pardon
By dying on a tree?

"Is that all He requires,
No costly gift or fee,
No presents He can open
From underneath a tree?"

"Please turn from holding onto
That which you now believe: 
That gifts He holds most precious 
Are underneath a tree.

"For we do quite insult Him
When giving as though we
Can gain from Him a present 
Which He has granted free."

They hug the man and ask him
To join them 'round the tree;
And in the midst of little,
They worship joyfully.