Living


Something there is that is intimate about a walk. Especially if that walk is with someone meaningful. Early in the last century, if a young man and woman were beginning to see one another exclusively with the eye to possible matrimony, they might say to their friends that they were “walking out” with that special someone. From time to time, when a person wanted to discuss something without the prying ears of an audience present they might ask the friend to “take a walk with me.”

When you take a walk with a person, there is a certain level of privacy achieved even though you may be in the great outdoors. Conversations can be deep and meaningful in which the participants can truly get to know one another. We can learn each other’s thoughts, emotions, and heartbeats. In the case of young sweethearts, there is the opportunity to walk hand in hand and truly feel the presence of the other. In the case of close friends, there is the opportunity to grow closer and even participate in private, unhindered conversation.

This is what it is to walk with Jesus; to sense His presence as we pass through life, to converse with Him in the heartfelt conversation of prayer. This is the desire of the heart of every person: to walk with the Maker, conversing and communing with Him at the most intimate of levels. It was for this kind of walk that we are created. It is toward this kind of relationship that we are constantly running. It is only in this kind of relationship with Jesus that we can find completeness.

Set aside some time to walk with Jesus this week. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Let His presence in your daily routine refresh you, mind and spirit. It is what you seek. It is what He desires.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze”  —Genesis 3:8a

As a follow-up to yesterday’s deep thoughts (and because I promised more on this) I thought I’d post about dandelions today. Let’s start with a reminder from Steven Curtis Chapman:

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God (from “God Is God” on 2001 Declaration)

Without a deeper understanding of our standing in the presence of a Living, Loving, and Active God we begin to consider that He exists for our pleasure and not that we exist to please Him. In turning the truth upside down like this, we misinterpret how important we are and how magnificent what we have to offer is.

Still today, my five-year-old daughter will enter the house from an excursion of play and joy outdoors with a handful of half-wilted yellow offerings to give to her mother or to me. “I picked these pretty flowers for you,” she beams. And we graciously smile our thank yous back to her all the while trying to figure out how to discreetly dispose of the unwanted and useless weeds. What she doesn’t see and what her mother and I both know is that these “pretty flowers” are really lawn-destroying weeds–pests to be obliterated all the way to the root–not precious gifts that bring joy.

For the uneducated in such matters, dandelions are small, broad-leaf plants with a bright yellow bloom that quickly, almost magically, and seemingly overnight (sometimes not even taking that long) shifts to puffy white seed tops that when slightly agitated scatter themselves. These seeds are spread by getting caught in animal fur, on clothing, or by a stray wisp of breeze. They are then deposited willy-nilly wherever they fall and produce a better crop than any grass seed ever wished to do. Once one of these plants takes root and bears fruit it is not only nigh-impossible to remove, but it multiplies faster than rabbits in springtime. No lawn mower is powerful enough to wrest it from its base of operation, and with an immediacy that rivals lightning flashes on a stormy night, carpets a well-tended lawn with thousands of its brethren.

And so, like a five-year-old with grubby hands, we bring to the throne of glory our offering–which we esteem great and beautiful–to present to God with the expectation that he is grateful (and well ought he to be) because we gave him a second glance. Perhaps it would be worth our while to remember that God was not created for our benefit although so many times that is how we view him–as our golden-clad maidservant to come running at our beck and call. Instead we are created by him and for his good pleasure. Certainly he is not a petulant toddler stamping his foot when his way is not followed. Instead he is holy God, totally worthy of nothing less than our best (which our dandelion gifts bestowed as afterthoughts are not).

The challenge of today is to stop strewing dandelions and move toward a total surrender of what Christ desires–the flower that is our complete existence. He then can prune away that which is unhealthy and tend us into true and beautiful growth.

I’d like to start this with a lengthy quotation that haunts me still, although I encountered this fable as a college student (more years ago than I care to admit):

A Fable

They were not overdressed, but their clothes spoke of quality, impeccable with a hint of flair—the right balance for the morning’s gathering. On this fall Sunday the four of them had just come from morning worship service at their church in the near suburbs.

One of the couples seemed in their mid-twenties, at that point where youthful enthusiasm haas merged with the air of confidence from early business success. Their companions appeared in the prime of middle age, reflecting a subdued pride of accomplishment mixed with physical well-being born of careful diet and measured exertion.

They had chosen a restaurant table near, but not next to, the tinted window, a location affording a view without distraction. After sutable study of the oversized menu, featuring samples in four-color views, each husband placed an order. In due course the diners were enjoying the cuisine, paced with relaxed conversation. They murmured proper appreciation of the dishes set before them, each laden with ample serving.

The young wife saw them first. Perhaps the two youngsters had left their customary alley route for a short cut beside the eating place. Maybe some movement among the diners caught the children’s notice. Or the seductive aroma may have beckoned them. What ever the reason, there they were, faces pressed to the window. They said nothing to each other, but stared at the tastefully set tables, the finely dressed patrons, and the heaping servings.

The pair’s color was uncertain. Perhaps brown; or black. A generous trimming of grime on each face blurred the hue. Their skin matched their clothes, dirty with a thoroughness achieved only over many days. They were not exactly thin, but their gaunt faces and the dullness in their eyes hinted at a lack of proper food.

The young wife stared, saying nothing. The sudden lump in her throat, born of a surge of pity, blocked words. She gently laid down her food-laden fork, but its soft tap against the plate drew the attention of the others at the table. Without a spoken question, they followed her line of sight. And they, too, became arrested by the sad tableau at the window.

Perhaps a dozen thoughts scampered through the young woman’s mind. Among them were words she vaguely associated with the morning’s sermon. The message, she seemed to recall, had something to do with responsibility to neighbors.

Here husband broke the silence. “Seeing those hungry faces makes this steak taste a little flat,” he ventured. The older man nodded his agreement. His wife added, “How can you look at them and not do something?”

“What can we do?” challenged her husband.

“It’s so simple, so obvious,” she answered with disdain, looking from the still-steaming food to the hungry eyes.

She pushed back from the table. With an unaccustomed directness she strode almost silently across the carpet. Straight to the window she moved, found the tassled cord dangling at the wall, and firmly pulled it. With only a sibilant swish the heavy, almost luxurious, drapery material shut out the view. The drapes swayed for a moment before their weight stilled the motion.

Resuming her seat, the young woman reached fro her fork. “There now,” she said brightly, “isn’t that much better?”

(from Endangered Species by Dunn, Loring, and Strickland, Broadman Press, Nashville, pp. 121-123)

Poverty has a face. It is a face that we would like to ignore. But if we look around us, we will find it staring through our window. Whether we are in the city, the suburbs, or even in a village such as the one where I live, poverty is with us. We must do something. Let me offer a couple of possible actions:

  • Donate to a charity that focuses on iradicating poverty.
  • Volunteer your time at a shelter or soup kitchen.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the faces in your window.

Tomorrow is “Blog Action Day 2008.” I’ll be participating by including an article on poverty. Please take the time to respond with your thoughts on the matter as well. Or better yet, join in the action by posting your own article on poverty.

(HT: Tony Kummer)

It was in a revival meeting—you know, those extended meetings that evangelicals schedule and claim to be revivals—that I got to know the old saint of a man who was the long-time pastor of one of the smaller congregations in our association of churches. He was a small man, full of fire and energy (especially in the pulpit). I recall many things from that particular series of meetings. I recall the night that he threw a hymnal at the church music director because he was either asleep or simply not paying attention. I remember the night that he locked his keys in his car and two or three men spent the better part of two hours trying to get the car opened. It was on that particular night (toward the end of the week) that he sang—I remember because he commented on both his ability to sing and his inability to get his keys out of the car—an old song that I had almost forgotten from my childhood:

Get the new look from the old book

Get the new look from the Bible

Get the new look from the old book

Get the new look from God’s word.

The inward look

The outward look

The upward look

From the old, old book

Get the new look from the old book

Get the new look from God’s Word.

It’s inspiring still to think back on that night’s service. His encouragement was one that I try to practice each day—get a godly perspective from diving into His word daily.

Here’s what else I remember from that particular situation. The church from which this pastor came to preach our revival meeting had the reputation of being very evangelistic and highly successful at their efforts in evangelism. Knowing the man, I suspect that the great success that the church had rested mostly on the shoulders of this fiery preacher who was full of evangelistic fervor. The church itself also had a reputation of never growing.

This is the thing that happens in many of our churches today—even those who are exercising fantastic evangelistic muscles. Even though we have reports of numbers of people coming to know Jesus, these same people are not becoming part of the church. We’ve missed the point of the song altogether. We don’t want the new look from the old book, but the old look from the old way. We have neglected the outward look and the upward look. We have become highly skilled in looking inward toward ourselves.

We worry about buildings and budgets. We concern ourselves with our wants and wishes. And we’ve stopped looking [upward] to the Master for the direction we should go—which by the way is outward.

What do you think? Is the evangelical church evangelical? Or are we just happy with ourselves?

It’s eerie sometimes how the flow of things manages to curl in on itself. While I often enjoy surfing the ‘Net, I’m not a surfer in the true sense of the word, but I have watched many hours of Hawaii 5-O and plenty of Gidget movies. What I’ve observed about the incoming tide is that sometimes it comes so fast that it curls in on itself—then the expert daddy-o can ride the pipeline. Well today, I’ve been riding a pipeline in conversation. While I was enjoying my weekly visit with other preacher-types over a local McCoffee, we started talking about brands and brand loyalty. Then I saw this guest post over at Ken Hall’s Buckner Prez. It’s well worth your time.

I’ve been noticing over some great amount of time that branding and brand loyalty are not what they used to be.

For instance, during my seminary days I heard the story from one of our faithful church members how he had given A&P almost thirty years of his life. He’d built a career. He’d been faithful to his company. Then, just as his stability seemed to be with him, the company began selling out (this was the early 80s). He lost his job at a time when getting another would be difficult to impossible. When he thought he had been loyal to the company that would be loyal to him, he was disappointed.

I’ve watched as professional athletes went from being part of the team to developing a free-agent society, as record labels moved from being the house for an artist to picking new voices and bidding for winners, as actors signed on for a movie because of the box-office prospect instead of signing onto a studio contract for the long-haul. Businesses have begun to think only of the business and not of the employees or the people the business is supposed to serve. The new business centered around the “head hunter” has developed as a big business—finding the best and brightest and stealing them away from one company to another. Our society has become a free-agent society right in step with the sports, music, movie, and business arena.

This is not to say that branding is either good or bad, but there is a question as to whether or not there is something to be loyal to. Fifty years ago we could characterize the typical family or teenager. Then 25 years ago as I began serving churches in the capacity of Youth Minister, we were told by the experts that there was no “traditional” example of the teenager, but that the typical teenager was to rebel against typicality. The result was that all the teens looked the same without being the same: a same uniqueness or a unique sameness. Now we are told that the typical young person is one who questions anything and typically commits to no brand at all.

I wonder if the SBC will still be around in the years to come. My personal observation (as I made it this morning) is that the convention will be here 100 years from now, but will bear a strong resemblance to the churches that have plateaued or died over recent years. Partly because of the lack of brand loyalty, partly because newer generations will examine the genuineness of Christ in the practice of the people and will move to where they see more reality in the people.

I wonder also, if other “brands” of Christianity are seeing the same trends, making non-tradition the new tradition.

What do you see?

I’ve finished my reading of Kinnaman’s unChristian and posted my review. I still have a couple of things that I’m working through that I will post here at a later date.

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