Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The Faith Community"

Hello people,
     I received a letter a few days ago from EMO, the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.  I still haven't figured out how I ended up on their mailing list unless they just send their stuff to every church in the phone book.  They write to me periodically, trying to get me to attend a meeting or march in some parade or give money to some cause.  And don't get me wrong, most of them are probably nice, polite, well-intentioned people and I'm sure they do some good things.  However, I'm not about to get involved with a group that brings together every possible stripe of liberal protestants, Roman Catholics, and openly homosexual churches into one big ecumenical stew pot.  Then to give more flavor they spice up the mix by adding in what they call "Interfaith Partners" including Jews, Muslims, Unitarian-Universalists, New-Agers, Zen Buddhists and a bunch of others.
     However, what I'm reacting to today is their constant reference to ministers as "those of us in the faith community."  I hate that phrase!  It means absolutely nothing.  What is the "faith community" for crying out loud?
     Think about it.  Isn't everyone in the "faith community"?  We all exercise faith, every day, many times a day.  We are all big into faith!  When I get in my car and turn the key I have faith that it will start and get me where I need to go.  When I sit down in my desk chair I have faith that it will hold me up without crashing to the floor.  When I eat my wife's cooking I have faith that she hasn't spiked my food with antifreeze.  The truth is we all have lots of faith--in something or other.
     Moreover, being part of the "faith community" isn't a question of the quality of our faith.  Some people are more religiously devout than others.  They will cheerfully walk over broken glass to win the favor of their "god" and sincerely believe that it will make a difference.  Some have the faith to believe that their "higher power"  will hear them if they fast, meditate, self-mutilate, and do penance.  They've got sincere faith to spare!
     However, if you place your faith in something that is unworthy, it matters not how much faith you have, or how sincere your faith might be, you will still lose.  For example, if I go to the horse races and put my whole August paycheck on EggSalad to win I am exercising faith.  That puts me in the "faith community."  I may believe with all my heart that EggSalad is the best horse out there--my faith is strong and sincere.  However, I don't have all the facts.  Maybe EggSalad ate some bad oats yesterday and was up all night.  Maybe he's just having an off day.  Now when he comes in 7th instead of 1st who am I going to blame?  Was there a problem with the quantity of my faith?  NO!  I had gobs of faith.  Was there a problem with the quality of my faith?  Again, NO!  I truly believed that EggSalad would win it.  The problem was with the OBJECT of my faith.  I just bet on the wrong horse.
     To get back to EMO and the "faith community" thing... There are nice people running around all over the place calling themselves "Christians" who by their teaching and practices deny the very One they claim to know, love, and serve.  Think about it-- I can claim to be a mallard duck.  However, if I don't have a big orange beak, shiny colorful feathers, webbed-feet and a girlfriend who lays eggs then I'm probably not a real mallard.  Likewise, if I claim to know Jesus, to be a Jesus-follower, and yet I have none of the personal character traits of Jesus, I don't do Jesus things, I don't like to hang out with Jesus people, and I don't produce any Jesus type fruit and good works, then I'm probably fooling myself.

Betting on Jesus,
Mike

Friday, August 12, 2011

Little Trees With Big Plans

Hello my crazy friends,

On Monday of this week I stayed home and worked in the yard--mowing, weeding, edging, that whole bit.  In the front yard, right in front of our main picture window looking out onto Thiessen Ave. is a small weeping-willow tree of some sort.  The trunk is about 7-8 inches in diameter and it stands about 6 feet tall.  It's a cute little tree and the little sparrows love to sit in its branches and torment our two cats.  However, every year I have to prune the darn thing back because it has visions of grandeur.  It wants to be a giant tree.  However, I want it to stay small and low to the ground so that it doesn't block our view out that window.  I want the tree to look like an umbrella with the branches going out and down.  The little tree, on the other hand, wants to grow up and outward, reaching for the sky and taking over the whole front yard.  It's not content to be what I want it to be.

Moreover, the little tree is sneaky.  It sends out these skinny branches from the top reaching upward.  Sometimes I don't notice for a while.  But eventually I realize that the little guy is at it again, trying to make like a giant oak or a noble sequoia.  On Monday, once again, I whacked the little guy back down to size and told him to knock it off.  I don't want him to grow into a mighty tree.  I like him the way he is and I'm the one in charge, not him.

That one-sided conversation started me thinking.  I'm a lot like that little tree.  I have my plans.  I have a vision of what my life should be like.  I want to be bigger, more noticed, more well-known.  I want to pastor a bigger church.  I want to have a more influential ministry.  I want to preach to bigger crowds and make a bigger impact in my community.  But every once in a while God has to say, "Settle down, Mike.  I didn't make you for that.  I made you for this.  I like you this size.  I want you to be a healthy, beautiful tree where I have planted you.  It's not about your size.  It's about My plans for you."

Sometimes I chaff under that.  I look out and see some bigger trees around me and I want to be like them.  When I compare myself to others I feel like a failure because I'm not bigger. 

But that's the problem, isn't it?  We have no business comparing ourselves to others.  That is an inappropriate and inaccurate standard of measure.  There is only one Person we need to please, and that is our Lord and Master, Jesus.  His plan is perfect and it is beautifully form-fit and unique for each of us.

If we can just learn to rest in God's love and be content with His approval our stress level will go down significantly.  The little tree in our front yard is stubborn though, and I'll probably have to have "the talk" with him again next year because he tends to forget what I tell him.  And probably, the Lord will have to remind me of these things again, too, because I also have a short memory.

Trying to be content to be a little tree,
Mike

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Texan?

Hello you crazy people,

I haven't written anything here for a long time.  My inspiration and creativity have been running low, and so has my spare time, but I plan to resume writing once in a while.  I have several articles going, in various stages of completion and will post them soon.  In the meanwhile, I offer you the following story that my daughter-in-law, Sharon, sent me.  This little charmer poses the question, "Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Texan?"  I hope you find it as amusing as I did.

Here is a little test that will help you decide.  The answer can be found in your response to the following scenario:

You are walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children.  Suddenly, an Islamic terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you.  You are carrying a Kimber 1911 .45 ACP, and you are an expert shot.  You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family.  What do you do?  Think carefully.
________________________________________

The Democrat’s Answer:

“Well, really that’s not enough information to answer the question!  Does the man look poor or oppressed?  Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?  Could we run away?  What does my wife think?  What about the kids?  Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?  What does the law say about this situation?  Does the pistol have an appropriate safety built into it?  Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?  Is it possible he’d be happy with just killing me?  Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?  If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?  Should I call 9-1-1?  Why is this street so deserted?  We need to raise taxes, have a “paint-and-weed day” and make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior.  This is all so confusing!  I need to debate this with some friends for a few days and try to come to a consensus.”

________________________________________

The Republican’s Answer:

BANG!

________________________________________

The Texan’s Answer:

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Click...... (Followed by sounds of reloading)
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Click.

Daughter says: “Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silvertips we bought, or just the regular hollow-points?”

Son: “Dad, can I shoot the next one?”

Wife: “Listen to me now, Buford, you ain’t taking that to the taxidermist!  You hear?”

Oh yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about.  You've just gotta love those down-home fellers.  They know how to take care of business.
Mike

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Proofreading: A Dying Art

Hello, my slightly deranged friends,


Check out these riveting headlines, taken from the pages of some of the world’s most prestigious newspapers, along with a reader’s logical comments. Somebody sent these to my wife. I thought they were funny. Maybe you will too.

MAN KILLS SELF BEFORE SHOOTING WIFE AND DAUGHTER
(OK, I give up.  How did he do that?)

SOMETHING WENT WRONG IN JET CRASH, EXPERT SAYS
(No, really?  Ya think?)

POLICE BEGIN CAMPAIGN TO RUN DOWN JAYWALKERS
(Now that's taking things a bit far!)

PANDA MATING FAILS; VETERINARIAN TAKES OVER
(What a guy!)

MINERS REFUSE TO WORK AFTER DEATH
(Those no-good-for-nothin' lazy so-and-so's!)

JUVENILE COURT TO TRY SHOOTING DEFENDANT
(Let’s see if that works any better than a fair trial!)

WAR DIMS HOPE FOR PEACE
(I can see where it might have that effect!)

IF STRIKE ISN'T SETTLED QUICKLY IT MAY LAST A WHILE
(Ya think?!)

COLD WAVE LINKED TO TEMPERATURES
(Who would have thought!)

ENFIELD COUPLE SLAIN; POLICE SUSPECT HOMICIDE
(They may be on to something!)

RED TAPE HOLDS UP NEW BRIDGES
(You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?)

MAN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING FACES BATTERY CHARGE
(He probably IS the battery charge!)

NEW STUDY OF OBESITY LOOKS FOR LARGER TEST GROUP
(Weren't the other guys fat enough?!)

ASTRONAUT TAKES BLAME FOR GAS IN SPACECRAFT
(That's what he gets for eating those beans!)

KIDS MAKE NUTRITIOUS SNACKS
(Do they taste like chicken?)

LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUTS CUT IN HALF
(The Chainsaw Massacre all over again!)

HOSPITALS ARE SUED BY 7 FOOT DOCTORS
(Boy, are they tall!)


And the winner is...

TYPHOON RIPS THROUGH CEMETERY; HUNDREDS DEAD
(Did I read that right?)


Beijos e abra├žos, (In Portuguese = kisses and hugs)
Mike