Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Absurdity of it All - Slow People

A while back (as in 2008) I wrote about something I like to call the Absurdity of It All.  Essentially it  means that in any given situation in my life something annoying will happen. It happens all the time. My wife and I have grown used to it and  now laugh whenever it happens...let me give you an example.

Slow People.

I'm talking about people who are physically slow.  For some strange reason I am always stuck behind that person.  The person driving 45 on the interstate.  The person paying with exact pennies. The person who is paying for groceries with a check. (do people still use those?)

No matter where I go I get behind slow people. It usually happens when I'm in a hurry.  For example.

I want to grab a bite to eat for lunch but I'm in a hurry so I head to Chick-Fil-A.  At any of the Chick-Fil-A's around my house, lunch time means loooong drive through lines. Seeing the line I think, it'll be faster if I go inside.  Before I pull into the parking space I make a note of the last car in the drive through so I can compare which method is really faster. It's a green Ford Explorer. I got you Ford Explorer, I got you.

Inside there is a sea of people. The people at the registers keep the lines moving quickly so that you don't have to wait too long. It's my kind of place! I'm strategically move to the shortest line. I glance out the window to see where the Ford Explorer is.   Not even to the corner of the building yet. I'm so going to win this. 

Here's a quick tip for you guys. The shortest line is not always the fastest. You have to look at a number of things in order to gauge how long it's going to take you to get your food. What is the make-up of your line? Is it made up of hungry looking people or people who could put off lunch all together to ask the cashier every intimate detail of their lives? 

Is your cashier being trained? You can usually note this if they keep leaning over and asking someone where the Coke Zero button is. Also if the apologize profusely. If you have a trainee cashier, you can add at least 5 minutes to your wait. 

None of those were the case on this day. Ford Explorer didn't have a chance. Until....

Here's the one that got me that day. .Are the people in front of you in line looking at the menu while they wait?  My line was moving great until the person in front of me. She was a sweet little old lady. But she didn't even think of what she wanted before she got to the register. She got to the register and began looking over every single item. And she asked questions.

Does the number one come with fries?  
Are your chickens raised free range?
How many lemons are in each gallon of fresh squeezed lemonade?
What is the ratio of honey to mustard in your honey mustard sauce?

On and on and on.  With each question I lose a bit of my sanity.  I glance out of the window. A red Subaru Forrester...whew, there is still time left. 

Then comes the clincher. The special order. 

I would like a number 1, except I want the bun only buttered on half of it. Can you toast just the bottom portion?  I would like no pickles, but I would like a piece of cheese. I also would like half lemonade and half tea. Of the lemonade part I want half of it diet. Of the tea part, I want half of it sweet. I would like the ice to fill up roughly 67% of the cup.  I would like all of my fries to be in the shape of Abraham Lincolns beard....(what?) I think that will be it. 

Behind her I'm going crazy. Not only has every other line gotten down to one person left, but they have also served twice as many people as my line. I feel like I'm in some sort of Twilight Zone episode. This can't be happening. I came inside. I got in the shortest line. It was moving quickly....but TIME HAS STOPPED!

As the lady is paying with a change purse full of nickels I let my gaze drift to the window. There I see a Green Ford Explorer. It's driver is eating a waffle fry and laughing with glee. I stand in line and start to cry.  Just then the little old lady sees me and says, "I know dear, they are so slow here."

Ok so I might have exaggerated a little but I run into slow people everywhere!  Do you? Drop a story in the comments section below and share the absurdity of being behind slow people!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two For Tuesday: The Serious One

What does it mean to follow Christ?  I've been reading a book called "Radical" by David Platt. It's an interesting read but every so often I have to put it down because of the implications that it has for my life. I was reading it a couple of weeks ago and a thought crossed my mind. A terrifying thought.

Now let me disclaim something before I tell you the thought. I am NOT suggesting this. I don't think this is what God is telling me I should do. I'm a pastor and so this thought scared me personally.

In the book, Platt mentions that often times in church we tend to create God in our image and worship Him that way. I started to think about my life. Do I transform God into something that He is not? How about the programs that the student ministries have? Do they create a box that tries to fit God instead of following Him?

Sometimes, I follow thoughts for a long time. I think that's what happened here. I ended up at the following.

Are we serious about following God in everything that we do? I mean everything. Would we follow God even if it meant giving up something that we lived for? What if God told us that He wanted us to close our church and make disciples elsewhere? Would we do it?

That thought crushed me. No way. Look at all of the things that we are doing FOR GOD! Look at all of the good things that we are doing.

But God doesn't just want good things....God wants US.  He tells a rich man to give up everything he has. He tells someone to forget about burying his dead father.. He tells someone else that following him might mean hating his family. Ouch. Following Christ is not pretty, or easy for that matter.

I once heard Phil Vischer speak at a conference. He is the creator of Veggie Tales. He tells a similar story of how he followed Veggie Tales more than he followed God. Veggie Tales was later sold into bankruptcy after being sued by someone. Vischer talked about having to realize that even though he was doing good, he wasn't putting God first. A tough lesson to say the least.

What does it mean to follow Christ? It means being willing to give up everything. Even if that everything is something that is good. Even if it's a Bible study, a youth ministry, an older adult program, a choir, a Sunday school class, VBS, or the most popular animated series of all time.

Being a pastor, this thought scares me. I mean that's my livelihood. It's how I feed and shelter my family. But that thought also encourages me to seek God in every part of my life. I know and trust that God will take care of me. I also trust that the best place for me to be is right in the center of His will.

Again, I'm not suggesting that you do this. (unless God tells you of course). What I am suggesting is that we need to evaluate how serious we take the title, "Christ Follower". Are you ready to take on all that it means to follow Him?

Two For Tuesday: The Funny One

This came on XM Radio. Possibly the best comedic duo of all time

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Taco Bell and Sinning.

A couple of weeks ago I had a craving for Taco Bell. For the life of me I can't figure out why. But it happens every once in a while. I'll get an urge to partake in a soft taco. Let me describe my Taco Bell experience for you.

I drive to the Taco Bell that is closest to my office. I walk in and see a good number of people sitting there eating lunch. There are also a good number of people working. The problem is that no one was happy. It was like some weird fast food purgatory.

I get in line and order my food which is 3 soft tacos. I get chicken instead of beef. Everyone tells me that the beef is grade D. I'm not sure if it is. I just know I prefer to eat chicken instead. The problem is that it cost $3 extra for chicken. I dig into my food. Remember this is the food that I was craving, that I was longing for...and it was just ok.

You ever crave something and when you eat it's the most blissful thing you've ever done? As you put it in your mouth the heavens open up and you hear an Angelic choir. It is the best thing ever!! Have you ever had that feeling?

Well this was not it. It was standard. It was boring. It was not exciting.  So i did what anyone would do. I put taco sauce on it. That should make it better. And it did for a little bit. It satisfied my for the time being.

Fast forward two hours in my office. My stomach is starting to murmur its protest against me. All of a sudden a sharp pain starts stabbing me in my stomach. It was bad. I spent a good chunk of the evening in the bathroom trying to recover. I paid extra for this??

I find that sinning is a lot like eating at Taco Bell. I mean it seems like such a good idea before you do it. Perhaps you get a craving or desire that comes up. Then you ease into sin.  You think, it can't be that bad. You think this will satisfy you. And sometimes it does. but a lot of times it doesn't. And there we are. Stuck with our sin that no longer satisfies us. The problem is that just like chicken tacos, sin costs us more than we bargained for. It costs us our closeness from God. Sin pulls us away from God. It keeps us away from God and it keeps us from living the abundant life that God promised us through Jesus. Sometimes we have to sit in the bathroom of life trying to recover from our sinful choices.

In the end we are much worse off than we were before. What seemed to be a good idea has ultimately let us down. What seemed to satisfy has actually caused a void that leaves us more hungry. Here's to hope that I learn my lesson about Taco Bell and sin?

Are there any restaurants that make you feel this way?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jeeps and Daisies - What a real man is.

I was leaving work the other day driving in my 1997 Honda Accord.  It sits low to the ground and often smells like oil being burnt off. That's most likely because under the hood oil leaks are being burnt off. My wife got this car when she turned 16. That's right. I drive my wife's first car.

I pulled up to a stop light and waited for the light to turn green. That's when a Jeep pulled up next to me. It was an old school jeep wrangler. The doors were off and in the driver seat sat a guy who looked like he should be climbing a mountain without gear. He was the definition of manly. He was rugged and muscular. He even had one leg hanging out of the door. (which apparently adds 50 points on the man scale)

I sat with in my 97 Honda Accord. My doors were attached and all of my extremities were inside the vehicle. I sat and thought. "What happened to my manhood?' Then I remembered that my wife's car was named Daisy. Yes, Daisy. I was driving Miss Daisy. Wow. I can't even tell you how cool I felt. Was Jeep Guy who I was supposed to be and somehow I turned out to drive a 13 year old car named after a bright flower?

Being a pastor I know about image. I know that I was created in God's image. I've taught on it. I've led whole retreats on it. I know this stuff. After a few seconds, I remembered that I am not defined by my car (or my car's name for that matter) but it's God who defines me. It's still hard for a lot of guys though. When the world says that you should be like the Old Spice guy, you definitely feel like you fall short of manhood sometimes. And it's not just some guys. It's a lot of guys.

It's not hard. Check out my favorite Old Spice commercial. I find it funny, but it highlights my point exactly. Check it out...

See what I  mean? Everything in that clip spoke about how a man should look, speak, act, swan dive, and smell.  I mean log rolling? Really? I have trouble not tripping on the edge of the side walk. These are the things that tell men how we should be. And to be honest, most of us can't measure up to that.

The truth is that we talk about image issues with women a lot. I'm not saying that we shouldn't because there are a million things bombarding women about image. I'm saying that because we tend to focus on women and image, we forget that men struggle with this too.

When men struggle with image and identity they tend to do stupid things to try and figure it out. Mid-life crisis anyone? I think (because I haven't experienced it) that  mid-life crises happen most often because a man gets to a point and wonders, "Who am I? I work all day and for what?"  Then they look for things that make them feel alive again. It might be a new car to try and experience power. It might be a motorcycle to experience danger. It might be a mistress in order to experience the power of new love. In all cases it is filling a void with something.

I feel lucky to be a man and know God. There are a few of us who do. A lot of guys don't. They might come to church every once and a while but it's for other reasons.  Maybe they are searching. Usually it's because their wife nagged them. It makes me sad though, because I know that God made them who they are. God made them unique, amazing, and powerful and He did it without the help of Old Spice Body Wash.

Men need to know that they are created in the image of God. This is the God that is creative, powerful, loving, protective, and sacrificial. Perhaps if most men understood this, they wouldn't struggle with who they are. Maybe if men understood the Sacrifice that God gave to save His children, men would see the honor and glory of sacrificing in order to provide for their families.

Perhaps if men knew these things, they would proudly drive a 1997 Honda Accord named Daisy, and they would look to "Jeep Guys" everywhere and say, "Dude, Let me tell you what makes me a man..."

If you are reading this and you are a man, take heart, you are created by God and that's is stinkin' awesome. Find some reading about being a man of God. I would start with anything by Tony Dungy. (lots of football stories)

If you are a woman who has a man in her life, I want you to figure out a way to affirm that man.

Maybe, just maybe ,we'll change the world one man at a time.