Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Are You Guilty of a Prayer Violation?

Over the past three months I have had countless people tell me that they would be praying for me and my family. I'm sure it's always meant with good intentions, but it's become a "pet peeve" of mine. Are you guilty of a "prayer violation?"

Here's a scenario:

A friend of yours resigns from their job. Well, not really resigns, more like let go, but that's another story. Anyway, you hear about it and stop by to see how they are doing. After listening, small talk and such, you get ready to leave. What do you say next?

A. "It was good to see you. Let me know if there is anything else I can do."

B. "Sorry for what's happened. God always has a plan."

C. "I'm sure there is a reason for this. I'll be praying for you."

You probably fall into one of the categories above. It's kind of like a visitation; you feel compelled to see the family, but you're not sure what to say. But what really gets me is when someone chooses response C. BAM! They've just committed a "prayer violation." Why a violation? Let me explain.

So many of us throw out numerous religious terms, including the "I'll be praying for you" line. What they really mean is that they need to sound like they are connected to God (aka "I'm religious"), and besides, isn't that what Jesus would say? In reality, they probably won't give it another thought unless they happen to see you at WalMart. Even then, there is a 50/50 chance they won't know what to say next and they will turn and avoid you by going down the sugar and baking goods aisle.

My point in all this? Instead of talking the talk, change your tune and "walk the walk." Instead of saying that you'll be praying for them, DO IT! Stop what you are doing, put your arm around them and PRAY! That one moment in time will make a bigger impact than you "thinking" about doing it a million times. Turn your M.I.A. into F.I.A - Faith In Action. I guarantee you that no one will be upset when you take time to pray.

While it's important to keep others in your prayer thoughts, it's more important that they experience it first hand. Besides, God already knows they need the prayer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

National Wave Day

Disclaimer: A few days ago, I posted a quick comment on Twitter which automatically updates my Facebook status. Within minutes, several folks posted a comment and the discussion was on. This post is a humorous attempt to discuss a serious topic.

National Wave Day. Yes, this fictional day took the "heartland" by storm. This past Wednesday, several volunteers took to the streets to find out exactly who or better yet, who "would not" wave. While I will encourage others to post their thoughts as well, you'll find below my discoveries on this historic day.

The morning started at 6:45am as I took my son to early morning band rehearsal. Even though it was dark outside, I stood firm by my decision to wave at anyone I met while I was driving. As the few early morning travelers approached, my hand immediately shot into the air for a friendly "wave." Not surprisingly, there was no response. Obviously it was too dark to see.

My next test would be the drive through town. This time it was light outside, and the cloud cover made for a perfect hand-waving day. I made my way to the elementary school to drop of my youngest daughter. First car. WAVE! No response. Second car. WAVE! No response. Dang! What's going on people!?! There's a bus! WAVE! It's a friend, Kelly Korokis. She spies me in the car and with a smile...WAVE! YES! Score one wave! Two no-waves to one wave. At least it's close.

On my return home I pass at least ten more cars, all of which I incessantly wave at. The response? Zero. I had been brushed off. Surely my next trip out would be more enlightening?

About an hour later, I make my way out of the house, this time driving through town and then out towards the highway. WAVE! WAVE! WAVE! Each time I wave, but this time I try some different techniques. First I try the "one finger wave" (not that finger!). Not much luck. Then two fingers. Still no response. Then I hold the steering wheel with my palm/thumb and shove all four fingers in the air...AHA! Success. The first car sees me and responds politely with a wave back! Maybe the key is in the technique?

As I pass several more cars, I give it the four finger salute...WAVE! Very little response even with my new found technique. In desperation I throw my entire hand in the air, nearly running off the road as I do so. Out of the next five cars, only one waves back.

After a day spent teaching, I head back home trying to figure out this apparent tragedy. I pass many cars on the way back through town...dissed...again. I finally arrive home, head hung low, reeling from a lack of self-confidence. I smell my armpits. They smell delicious. It wasn't body odor then. What could it be? Would National Wave Day be destined to failure? I'd have to examine the results.

Here are my official results from National Wave Day:

As you can see, National Wave Day was a dismal failure. 6 out of 52 cars? Are you kidding me? What would cause people to be so rude and uncaring? Who do these people think they are not waving at me!?!

When it comes down to it, most of us lead a very busy life. When you're in the car, a lot of us tune out the world, our minds become focused on our current problems or situation, and our "auto-pilot" takes over (either that or an alternate form of ourselves takes over, kind of like that new TV show, "My Own Worst Enemy"). What happens to you when you enter the car?

Now, I must admit, most of the time I don't wave to people while I'm driving. I just don't. But then again, neither does the person in the other car. But...have I been guilty of a "no-wave infraction?" Not that I recall. I don't ever remember actually seeing someone wave at me, only to glare and turn my head and continue driving without so much as lifting a finger. I would much prefer someone give me "the finger" then totally do nothing...on purpose. Has society digressed so much that we can't offer our fellow citizens a courtesy wave?

So for now, National Wave Day is complete and in the books. A dismal failure? Perhaps. Or just maybe this day has opened the "hands" of would-be-offenders as they take their next drive around the neighborhood. May your hand (and the others you see) be with you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hickory Dickory...Canyon!

I'm not sure where the weekend has gone. Blink once. Blink twice. Boom. It's now after midnight and we're already into Monday. Does the world actually move faster the older you get?

Melissa, Emilee and I spent the afternoon at Hickory Canyon park near Farmington, MO on Saturday. A nice place, although it's really just a wide spot in the road and one might miss it if not careful. The "canyons" are on both sides - one trail of 1/2 mile and the other of 1 mile. Both trails are incredibly beautiful with horizontal bluffs and craggy creeks made for walking.

The Fall season typically finds dry creek beds, but you can imagine the rush of water during a thawing Spring day. There seemed to be multiple spots where waterfalls once roamed and one in particular on a gorgeous drop of nearly 30 feet. We can't wait to visit again next Spring. A word of caution however...bring shoes you don't mind getting wet. While the creek beds were mostly dry, there were definitely spots of oozing mud and small pools of water.

A beautiful park spent with some beautiful people on a beautiful Fall day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Ben" There

Uh...thanks Ben. You've said it well.

Warren Sapp, The Bears and A Marathon

I was listening to the radio this morning on the way back from taking Emilee to school. I flipped over to a sports station (I'm a HUGE sports fan) and the hosts were talking with Warren Sapp. I didn't realize Warren was such a funny guy! But the thing that struck me most was a simple truth that most of us have heard quite often..."It's a marathon."

Warren was referring to the Bears, who suffered a humiliating last second defeat on Sunday. He was asked what the Bears should do to recover. He simply told them, "It's a marathon." It's not one game, or even two games...it's a season; a marathon.

How true that is for all of us. It's a marathon. We may face challenges or setbacks today or even through periods in our life, but it's a marathon. The race will continue. Paul tells us to finish the race strong; not giving up. That's not always easy to do in light of circumstances. But we must continue to push forward, dreaming the dreams and putting our faith into action. Eventually we'll cross the finish line and look back at all that was accomplished.

Run the race...you won't regret it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Discovering the End

Today is a day like any other day. Except today God taught me another lesson. And today I listened.

I'm continuing my reading of the bible - this time in the Message Paraphrase. I had just finished up Job and turned the page to discover the next chapter...that of Psalms. Now I have to admit that my first reaction wasn't one of joy and excitement. Unlike most people I talk with, Psalms is not one of my favorite books of the bible. I don't quite know what it is, but for some reason I found reading Psalms the first time to be excruciatingly painful. "How can the bible be like that?" I often thought to myself. I'm sure it didn't help that I was reading the NKJV version and trying as a new Christian to decipher the "code."

So this morning, as I turned to the first page of Psalms, I read the opening discussion by Eugene Peterson and here's part of the lesson God taught me: read Psalms not as a description of what happened, but from a place of emotional discussion between a human soul and it's maker. Psalms doesn't simply describe...it's a vibrant, open, honest and sometimes gut-wrenching conversation with God. And when you put yourself in the shoes of the writer, the words suddenly take on an entirely new meaning.

So I started where every good reader starts...Psalm One. This first Psalm opens with an unexpected entry:

"How well God must like you—"

Not what someone would expect to find in an opening sentence! Psalm One goes on to explain that we could be less than nothing - totally lost in darkness and unfit company for others. But yet, God has chosen us anyway. We are loved.

The last few verses set the stage for everything to come:
"You're not at all like the wicked,
who are mere windblown dust—
Without defense in court,
unfit company for innocent people.

God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row."

There is a thought that I have long held as a possible scenario for our lives...we are all on a path in life; from beginning to end. God prescribes the best path for us, but for some reason we like to take little detours along the way. In our detours, our "path" becomes more like a winding road. But God, in his goodness and faithful, redirects the course towards His destination.

I love how Psalm One confirms this: God charts the road you take. We may THINK we chart our own course, but God has already chosen the path. And while we may question the direction we are headed, He knew in advance the path we would take. Robert Frost may have taken the road less traveled, but it was God who uncovered the path.

The last few months have definitely been a detour on my path, but God is slowly directing a new course. Sometimes we find a new beginning by discovering the end. I love how Nancy Ortberg describes this in her book "Looking for God:"

"Endings teach us how to begin, what we should center our lives upon, and what is really important...Endings have a purifying effect. When the dust settles after a crisis hits, we can find what is real - what is core - by what is left behind and who rose to to the occasion."

My soul has been bottled up for the past few months and part of me is ready to explode. There is much to share and much more to learn. While the "bucket" has been full and then emptied, Bucketology is back and ready to trod forward on the next path that only God himself knows.

Even though one chapter in my book of life has ended, it has also signaled the beginning of the next. That chapter has many blank pages to fill. And fill them I will. It's a challenge I am ready and willing to face. And besides, how well must God like me?

I'm still here. The journey will continue. And more importantly, the path still awaits...