Monthly Archives: June 2012

Led by the Spirit

When being led by the Holy Spirit…

I am able to choose to not bring work home with me, even though I work from home.

I find more humor in life.

I smile more. I laugh more. I play more.

I remember it is not about me.

I hear God speak to me through Scripture. Passages I have read before suddenly come alive with new meaning and power.

I treat my wife like the treasure she is.

I work hard, but without a frantic edge to my efforts. Because I know only the effort is up to me. The results are up to God. If God wills it, I cannot stop it. I may hinder God’s progress, if He allows me to. But I cannot ultimately thwart his desire. The converse is also true.

I share more. I tip better at restaurants. I give more freely of my time and energy. I invite other people into the work of God with me.

I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.

I seek joy-filled music.

I sit on the floor and play with my kids. Without thinking that I am wasting time.

I live creatively.

I write.

I pray without watching the clock. I give without counting the cost. I serve without expectation.

I lead. And I follow.

I work less. And get more done.

I live into the paradox.

God gives me eyes to see and ears to hear.

I live out of abundance instead of scarcity. Trust instead of fear. Hope instead of despair.

I seek first the Kingdom of God. And I find that all those other things are given to me, as well.

Not Led by the Spirit

When not being led by the Holy Spirit…

I work too much and too hard for too long,

because I believe the results are up to me.

I allow people to define me.

I work out of my own ability instead of allowing God to work through my ability. I can do this for some time. Then I crash and burn.

I become task driven instead of creativity motivated. This makes me tired and grumpy. Which makes me snap at people I love.

I become task driven instead of relationally oriented. Which leads me to treat people as objects to be used in my own personal game.

I become task driven instead of Christ centric. As though Jesus simply handed out a enormous cosmic to-do list.

I do not sleep enough.

I watch too much TV.

I read without listening.

I eat poorly.

I stop exercising.

I spend more money.

If I stay in this spiritual desert for too long, I start wandering after false images of oasis. My besetting sin haunts me in such places. My enemy, the devil, prowls around my camp like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

I ignore my children. Or rather, I allow the effort of parenting to eclipse the joy. They become projects to manage instead of gifts to open.

I listen less.

I talk more.

I do not accept my place in the scheme of things. So I steal other people’s opportunities to serve God by trying to do everything myself.

I go through the motions.

I accept the world’s version of success instead of holding out for God’s.

I fear my sins are bigger than the cross, grace is an illusion and forgiveness only goes to those who deserve it. Of whom I am not one.

You Can Buy Happiness

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” — Desiderius Erasmus

What if you can buy happiness?

I know, I know. Those sage philosophers Lennon and McCartney tell us otherwise.

“For I don’t care too much for money
  For money can’t buy me love
Can’t buy me love
Everybody tells me so
Can’t buy me love
No, no, no, no” *

You can’t buy love. You can’t buy friends. You can’t buy happiness. We hear this time and again.

But here’s the simple reality. When I go to a bookstore and buy a new book I am happy. I am happy. I love books.     Books are my favorite things. I would rather spend money on books than food. Buying a new book makes me happy.

For a while.

You see, the half-life on store-bought happiness lasts only as long as the thing is new.

The half-life of store-bought happiness is short. Because once I’ve finished the book, I’m not happy anymore. In fact, if it’s not a very good book I can even lose my happiness while I’m still reading it. Because then I feel like I’ve wasted money on this book when I could have bought something else.

So the reality is that money can buy happiness. It simply can’t buy happiness for long.

You see, happiness is not a thing in and of itself.

Happiness is a by-product of something else.

Happiness is always a by-product and only a by-product.

If you go searching for happiness, you will never, ever find it.

It doesn’t exist in the wild.

Way back in the 90’s, I asked my friend and mentor Clark “Big Daddy” Niles this question, “What is the biggest difference in youth ministry from when you started to today?” He paused and thought and scratched his head, then replied, “The biggest difference I see is that twenty years ago parents wanted their children to be good. Today parents only want their kids to be happy.”

Of course, the damned part is that trying to make your kids happy only insures that you won’t. At least, not for long.

If you make your kids good, if you teach them to be good people, to discover who God made them to be and to revel in that then they will find happiness. Probably not right away. And certainly not always. But eventually. And often.

Our Declaration of Independence tells us that we have the freedom to pursue happiness. Not that we have the right to always be happy.

Happiness is a by-product of being who God made us to be. That is where our deepest joy comes from. Because that is where we most strongly connect with our Creator. That is the place where we live out our redemption, where the cross comes alive in us. That is where we find happiness.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – The Declaration of Independence



* Can’t Buy Me Love Lyrics by The Beatles are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels, Can’t Buy Me Love Lyrics by The Beatles are provided for educational purposes only. If you like the song, please buy relative CD.

Jesus with Dirty Knees

Vaccinating a dog in the front yard

The thing that bothers me most about poverty is not the poverty itself. It’s not the unsanitary living conditions. It’s not the appalling lack of privacy. It’s not even the greed and corruption of those in power which so often creates and always contributes to poverty. It’s not the schools with no books, or desks, or indoor plumbing. It’s not the dirt roads and lack of electricity. It’s not even the kids, God bless ’em (No. Seriously. God, please bless them. Oh, wait, maybe you already have…). No, the thing about poverty that bugs me, that drives me crazy, that absolutely kills me is the simple fact that I’m getting used to it.

I’ve been to Honduras four times now. While it’s not the worst poverty in the world, it is the most poverty I’ve seen personally. And I’ve seen plenty of poverty — from the South side of San Antonio, to the Appalachian mountains in Tennessee, to the inner city of Washington, D.C. to a Yaqui Indian Reservation in Arizona. Moscow and Juarez and Agua Dulcita. White people and brown people and black people. No roads. No electricity. No plumbing. No medical care. No shoes. No food. No hope.

I’ve seen enough that my heart has begun to harden, if only to protect itself, like a callous on the hands of a worker. The first time I encountered such poverty, I gave away all the money in my wallet. But eventually I stopped carrying cash. It used to make me sick. Then it made me sad. Then it left me angry. Now it just leaves me. And that’s what scares me. At what point do we see so much that we stop seeing anything?

Have you ever noticed how dirty poor kids are? Seems like they’re always filthy. Grubby hands. Muddy clothes. Snotty noses and dirty faces. Like a Flannery O’Conner character might have said, “Just because you’re poor don’t mean you have to be trash.” Everywhere I looked in the little mountain villages of central Honduras I saw dirty children. Even the clean kids seemed on the verge of getting dirty, as though the washing could only last so long. I have three kids of my own. They get pretty dirty. But they are basically clean. Clean kids who often get dirty. These are dirty kids who sometimes get clean.

I used to wonder about that. Then I simply accepted it. These people have dirty kids. You see, I stopped seeing kids and started seeing statistics. Poverty equals dirty children. But in Honduras, like Saul on the road to Aqua Dulcita, the Lord opened my eyes.

I watched a mom ripping laundry off the line before a swift moving thunderstorm could break. She was yanking clothes off as fast as her hands would move. And it hit me. She just worked her ass off to get those clothes clean. She hung them up to dry so her family would have clean clothes to wear tomorrow. If this storm caught them still on the line, all that work would we wasted.

I saw a little girl, maybe six years old, barefoot, carrying two gallon bottles of water up a mountain road. While leading her two-year-old little sister by the hand. They were both coated with road dust. They looked like rugs you wanted to beat with a broom. Trekking up the roadside. Big sister carrying the water with over her shoulders so she could hold little sisters hand. Their feet were filthy, of course. But even their knees were dirty.

You see, one of the truths about poverty is the presence of dirt. Not dirty. Just good old dirt. The people in the Honduran mountains live in an antiquated, agrarian society. They farm. They raise livestock. They walk. Not for exercise but for transportation. They farm in the dirt, often tilling and digging and planting by hand. Their animals live in this same dirt. Most of their homes have dirt floors. The floors are dirt, the yards are dirt, the roads are dirt. Have you ever stood on the side of a dirt road when a truck passes? Have you ever been in the third car in line driving down a dirt road?

Add in the fact that almost none of them have running water. Maybe some rich land owners. But that’s about it. So just getting fresh water (never mind how dirty it is) takes hours of work. Hike to the source. Fill the bottles, jugs, jars. Hike back. Don’t rinse. Just repeat. And when you live in the mountains, half the trip is always uphill. You know how heavy water is? Then if you want hot water you have to start a fire to heat it. Or set it outside in the sun for a few hours, praying no trucks drive by, and the dogs don’t drink it, and the kids don’t spill it.

So let me ask you. How clean would your kids be?

Yeah, I know. Mine, too.

The thing about poverty is that we frame it in terms of money. Which only shows how little we understand the problem. When you don’t have any money, you’re not poor. You’re broke. Broke is about money. Broke is about cash flow, money in the bank, change in your pocket. You can have a million dollars in land and be broke. We’ve all been broke at some point. But few of us have been poor. Poor is not about money. Poor is about options.

If you have no money, but can get some from friends, or family, or church or even the government, then you’re not poor. You’re broke.

If you don’t have the job you want, but you can get a job, some job, any job, then you’re not poor. You’re broke.

If you have an education, can get a roof over your head if you want one, have others who can help you out. You’re not poor. You’re broke.

But if your knees are dirty, and you have no hope of keeping them clean, well, then…

“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’ — Matthew 25:44-45 (Message)

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