Shalom/U2/Rembrandt

The translations of a word can be simple or complex. A dog is a very specific word and another language will have a specific word as an equivalent. Joy is closer to an idea, different cultures might explain it differently. Wabi-Sabi is an idea that requires a paragraph to really explain, but the shortened version boils down to a beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, incomplete. The modern day American explanation of wabi-sabi is a valued antique that has “patina.”

Shalom ventures off into the world of an idea much bigger than any word could do justice. Most cultures around the world translate shalom into the word peace. A seemingly simple word until you see how the variance of the word means many people abuse it for self. The world would like two powers to stop fighting and call it peace, this is a good use of the word. The alcoholic wants every family member to keep their mouth shut under threat of violence. Family members believe they are keeping the peace, not so. A saying I have begun to use over and over, “Peace comes through truth, and truth rarely brings peace.” In a world of fluid definitions, how does one understand a concept.

Shalom: While it is also a greeting to say hello or goodbye, here’s what you are asking for the ones we greet, the Hebrew definition of Shalom would include all of the following… Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. This full version is what God wants for us.

The opening picture is one of my favorite Bible stories captured in a picture. Anything but shalom right! Mark 4:35-41. It’s just a story until you see a picture of it and then that story comes to life as your imagination becomes a visual. The troubling part of this story is the question of the disciples, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Anxiety and fear cause us to ask questions that we know aren’t true. God does care about us and it’s just like the dilemma U2 describes in it’s song Vertigo.

Lights go down, it’s dark
The jungle is your head, can’t rule your heart
A feeling’s so much stronger than a thought
Your eyes are wide and though your soul, it can’t be bought
Your mind can wander

In anxious times our mind can wander and experience a Vertigo that causes a question to be planted in our heart. A question that divides and separates us from the One who can bring us the very thing we so desperately need. It’s in these times that we can’t allow the jungle to rule our hearts.

The end of this story ends with the waves turning to a sea of glass with the command of Jesus. The disciples were said to be terrified and asked “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him.” The disciples came to grips with the nature of Christ. The end of Vertigo is almost the same.

“Hello, hello (hola)
We’re at a place called Vertigo (¿dónde está?)
Lights go down, and all I know
Is that you give me something
I can feel your love teaching me how
Your love is teaching me how
How to kneel, Kneel

Shalom my friends, may it be in the fullest sense. Our hearts will be anxious (“In this world you will have trouble” -Jesus), but by God’s grace we choose to remember the promises He has already made. In the case of Vertigo, the instruments tell the pilot where the horizon is when the fog is too thick to see with our eyes.

Remember Christ said that he came that we might have life. I prayer your life today is filled with the Shalom offered by Christ.

Portion, Slice, Tranche

Word for the day: tranche. Commonly used in reference to money and it pretty much means portion. Tranche is a French word meaning slice. So next Thanksgiving this will be useful in asking for a tranche of pie. Since it’s French, I’m certain it is pronounced more eloquently than ranch with a tr sound to start.

The word portion is most commonly used in a discussion about inheritance or the food on your plate. Restaurants are praised for being generous, an inheritance is thought just through equality.

The food version of portion is difficult to fathom. A quarter cup of nuts is a serving. A tablespoon of peanut butter, a deck of cards is a serving of meat… are you serious. The rib-eye on the grill is three servings, funny how it goes down in one meal. Restaurants serve dishes that are 1,000-1,500 calories, for many, almost a whole days worth of calories. And if you flipped the script and had a restaurant serve you a 700 calorie meal, I can only guess at the response and the yelp review. I hate to say it, but Dallas Willard calls gluttony one of the great unaddressed sins of the American church. It’s not just food either, it’s the consumption for self verses generosity to others. Another blog post.

Portion in the financial world is also a hot topic. Fairness among helping our children, wills, disbursement of assets all are hotbeds of relational turmoil. “Mom always did like you best” becomes the cry from a heart even if unspoken. My parents taught me well to try and keep things as even and fair as possible. But very often the story isn’t that easy.

My reading this morning brought my mind across the idea of portion…

Psalm 16:5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 105:11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”

Psalm 119:57 [ ח Heth ] You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.

Psalm 142:5 I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

A portion is what I need for my meal in this moment to keep my body nourished for 3-4 hours before I eat my next portion. It’s shocking how small of an amount I need to be hungry in 4 hours and it’s a reminder of what is meant when the author writes God is my portion. It reminds me of the Isrealites gathering up enough manna for the day, anymore than that and it will spoil. Your portion is supplied today and you will have a portion tomorrow, do you trust me?

I’m coming to grips with the idea that if God is my portion, then whatever is placed in front of me is enough. I say thanks for my portion in the moment and look forward with hope, that my next portion will be available when I am in need of it. I don’t need more than I need, but a to go box and a full pantry make us feel more secure. There is an unintended result for that though, makes me think of Proverbs 30:8-10

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

God is my portion today, and it will be enough for today. Tomorrow has it’s own daily bread.

Relearning the Learned

In a here today gone tomorrow world, it seems we forget the great things we knew. Then a generation or two later we have a class to teach this new thing smart people found out. I enjoy psychology, the study of humanity and the things that make us tick. I imagine the good folk like my great-grandparents above could teach the class in a profound way from street (prairie) knowledge.

Solomon had it right when he said, “All streams run into the sea and yet the sea is never full; to the place where the streams flow, there they will flow again. All things are filled with weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done, is what will be done and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Old lessons become the new lessons as if the old lessons were never taught. In the end, regardless of the age you live, all we really want to know is questions surrounding…

1.Importance. 2. Belonging 3. Love

Importance

Growing up we all have delusions of grandeur right. I’m going to be a movie star, music star, sports legend. Kids don’t grow up dreaming to get to middle management in a medium sized local (not regional, national, international)company. And yet, at some time you come to the truthful understanding that my great-grandchildren will barely remember my name and any generation past that will see you picture and ask, who’s that and the usual response will be, mom told me but I forget. The vast majority of us will never end up in a history book. The question becomes, why does it seem to matter to us?

Belonging

We’ve all known the joy of belonging. A group of friends, a team, a marriage. The joy of including and bringing people in; watching confidence, joy and a full heart settle in to being one of the group. We’ve all also known the heartache of being picked last, terminated, cast aside, replaced and the gut wrenching experience that provides. Why does it feel so wrong when it’s wrong and why does it feel so right when it’s right?

Love

What do you see in someone who is loved? Confident, generous, sound, willing to take calculated risk, and resistant to the chaotic world around them. People who aren’t loved sadden me. I see over and over again the desperation for attention, rejectable behaviors asking you to reject me because I’ve already rejected myself, shame, self-destruction, and little to no resources to deal with the day by day trials that come.

This reminds me of a Rich Mullins song titled First Family…

“My folks they were always the first family to arrive
With seven people jammed into a car that seated five
There was one bathroom to bathe and shave in
Six of us stood in line
And hot water for only three
But we all did just fine

Talk about your miracles
Talk about your faith
My dad he could make things grow
Out of Indiana clay
Mom could make a gourmet meal
Out of just cornbread and beans
And they worked to give faith hands and feet
And somehow gave it wings

I can still hear my dad cussin’
He’s working late out in the barn
The spring planting is coming
And the tractors just won’t run
Mom she’s done the laundry
I can see it waving on the line
Now they’ve stayed together
Through the pain and the strain of those times

And now they’ve raised five children
One winter they lost a son
But the pain didn’t leave them crippled
And the scars have made them strong
Never picture perfect
Just a plain man and his wife
Who somehow knew the value
Of hard work good love and real life.

An old truth in a new day. There is importance, belonging and a true selfless love offered to us by Jesus, and if we are blessed to be rooted in a family that knows Him, then like me, you get to say thanks Mom and Dad for not only giving faith hands and feet, but wings as well. If you weren’t blessed in that way, then a new journey could be you living in something old, and making something new!!

In our national time of pause, I pray we aren’t into a rush for a new thing(except in the world of medicine), but that we would rush back to an old thing that’s always been of infinite value.

Looking Back to Look Ahead

John Wooden: coach of the UCLA Bruins. In a 12 year period he won 10 NCAA championships including 7 in a row. As a coach myself, you look around for people who have done it so well, not only from an x’s and o’s point of view, but from the perspective of using sport to teach young men and women about qualities they should bring with them for the rest of their lives.

John Wooden is known for his pyramid of success, character qualities each person on the team should posses. These include Team Spirit, Poise, Enthusiasm, Skill, Intent, Cooperation, Loyalty, Industriousness(is that a word?), just to name a few. It’s a pyramid because the ones on the bottom are built on as we head to the top characteristic… Competitive Greatness.

Competitive Greatness: You are at your best when your team needs you to be your best + your team always needs you to be your best. After years of coaching you see this in competitors all the time. In the height of a big moment will people wilt and disappear under the pressure or will people be great or attempt to be great in those moments? It’s why I love to watch sports even when I really don’t care who wins. What will people do when the pressure is on?

This leads to Wooden’s definition of success. I confess I pull out one clause just to make it more simple, but it is this… “Success is the peace of mind which is the direct result from knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

The best that we are capable is born in practice and the confidence to achieve competitive greatness on game night will be there if you’ve done the prep work. Let’s be honest, we’d all like a short cut, confidence without the work. Wooden was notorious for making practice so hard that games were easy comparatively.

I told my JV team this year, I want you to play the best that you are capable. If we’re up by 20 or down by 5 all of this is a success if you play to what you are capable. Then practice is not just a chore to get through so you can get to the games that are more fun. Practice is a chance to work on excellence, then have the confidence when it really matters.

The best things in life are worthy of our best effort. Faith, family, friends, work, hobbies, folding laundry!! Of course there is a balance we all need to find, it’s not about doing everything perfectly, but it’s always a good question to ask, am I doing the best that I’m capable? There is a peace of mind in knowing, by the grace of God I’ve done my best this day. By His grace I’ll do my best tomorrow.

Dressed Up, (K)No(W) Where To Go

Consider the lilies: No seriously, stop, sit down, forego your next ten tasks, ten minutes, slow down… and consider.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin, Yet I tell you Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of them. -Mark 12

Our world is forcing our hand, this stopping. And like some kind of curse, we rue the day we are stopped to muse. I’m making some of you look up words to slow you down even more!! I love flowers, for years I maintained a large landscape of flowers. The details of colors, textures, aromas are all evidence of an artwork that goes beyond chance. It demonstrates the attention to detail and the blessing it is when creation could be so much more pragmatic.

The Showy Ladyslipper pictured above(MN State Flower), the Creator is just showing off. The colors, the shape, tongue, flaps, bowl, strips, dots, hairs… Solomon had money, but he didn’t have clothes like that. Why does God care enough to put so much effort into one little thing? And then 1,000 other little things as well. Good question.

This chapter of Mark is all about the issues that make us anxious. We live in times that could make people anxious. But Mark is reminding us that if God takes care of the way flowers are clothed, flowers that are here today and dead tomorrow, how much more does he care about the details of your life and mine? Beloved, I pray that if you are anxious, you could stop and consider the flowers of the field. Embrace being embraced by a God who is exceedingly more interested in the details of our life than the beauty you see above.

As you step in the piles of panic our world is leaving, I pray you have the eyes of faith that creates a pause for people and they wonder about the hope you have in Christ. We are dressed up, and we have somewhere to go!!

Freedom: Another Perspective Away

We get locked into seeing things a certain way. Our world taints the colorscale in ways we don’t even know. We are all part of the system we live in and it’s difficult to see things from another perspective.

We were in Belize on a mission trip. One of the projects they asked us to work on was to build a bridge over the river that separated the village, in years past, a hurricane had washed it out. They paid for the materials and we helped the do the work. It was a simple task really. Three utility poles in a foundation and a deck with rails. When it came time to finish the deck, we did what most Americans do when you finish the decking, we snapped a chalk line, took out a skill saw and made a nice even edge (no board cut more than a 1/4 of an inch). It was beautiful for a moment, then the eruption.

A different perspective and the realization that you just crossed a boundary you didn’t know was there. The local men who had helped pay for that wood were livid that we would just cut off the ends of those boards and throw them away like trash, how dare you??? It was a chest to chest discussion with extreme tension. One person satisfied with a job well done, another extremely upset with the waste and disregard for resources.

It’s in those moments of reaction that you discover a view very different from your own. It really is quite shocking in those moments and difficult to not offer a reaction in kind. The picture above, what is it? CGI, snapshot from the blue world of tron? This photo encapsulates much of what I love in something that catches my attention, symmetrical, quirky, disctinctive. It’s fun to look at for a moment, but in the end people want to know what they are looking at, no seriously what am I looking at… no seriously.

Well, what you are looking at is… typical for us. The need to complete the picture, answer the question, make the unknown, known. If I can do that, I can make sense of the world around me. If it makes sense I can relax, I tell myself. There is a fallacy in thinking that an irrational mind wants a rational answer. An irrational mind can only accept an irrational answer, thus the run on toilet paper.

What it is…is a learning opportunity. The realization that freedom is often another perspective away. The weight we carry today, will be found out tomorrow as unnecessary. Very often this is what the Lord wants for us, an easy yoke, when our perspective offers a heavy one.. Very often it’s difficult to see what you can’t see, so we build a panic big enough for our trouble.

When I look at the world around me, what do I see? What does God see? What does faith see? What does fear see? Often in the midst of seeing things our way we make accusations of God that drive us further away from the solution. May it not be so.

As for the picture, well it’s a fish eye lense taking in a lot of blue. Sit in the joy of not knowing, just take it in as an interesting new perspective. At this point, the tension of learning is more important than the answer.

What’s In A Name?

Head to southwest Colorado and you’ll find the San Juan Mountain range. A group of majestic peaks that are more jagged than other mountain ranges in Colorado. Home to some of the more difficult climbs for those looking to climb fourteeners. The mountains have some great names…Uncompahgre, Sneffels, Windom, Vestal, Twilight and Hesperus peaks just to name a few. I’m sure each has a story.

These peaks, while jagged and rugged, look like any other mountain range in Colorado. Vast expanse of gray granite, pockets of snow resisting the summer sun, trees that rise to a line where life becomes too much of a struggle to survive. In the middle of this typical photography shoot, the peaks pictured above rise as a complete anomaly to the rest of the landscape. Peaks that are inspiring, colorful, unique, divergent and make you live in a world that would like an explanation. Ironically the names of these two peaks are Red Mountain #1 and Red Mountain #2. WOW, what a let down! It sucked all the oxygen out of what was an already oxygen deprived location.

How does one go from Uncompahgre Peak to Red Mountain #__. All the creative people move out of town after the gray mountains were named? A name offers little in terms of really knowing. A last name might give you a heritage, or not. A name might seem to fit your preconceived notion of others you have known by the same name. In the end each of us is unique, and has something exceptional to offer as long as we don’t get tripped up by shallow things like names.

Back to Red Mountain#1, after years of visiting and living in the Rocky Mountains, seeing this place is stunning. The amount of color and the flow of it seems surreal. If I saw a painting of this without knowing of it’s location, I would never agree to it being real and assume someones creative skills were indeed…imaginative.

Well, Someones creative skills are imaginative and the world is a testimony to this. Sometimes I wonder why God throws a red mountain range here, a huge pile of sand there, petrified Redwood stumps between Colorado Springs and Buena Vista? Our world cries out of unimaginable beauty in vast and tiny scales. One could easily come to figure an artist with such great skill is required for such great work.

Some don’t believe in the artist, some use his name vainly. Others recognize great art for what it is and pay millions for a cherished piece. There’s more to a name, there’s more to His name. We’ve all been blessed by His handiwork. “The Heavens declare the Glory of God, the sky proclaims the work of his hand. Day after day it POURS FORTH speech and night after night it reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19 The reason it feels good to be out in nature is because we are enveloped in God’s art gallery, a place of wonder. Like the Clampett’s invitation… sit a spell, take your shoes off, ya’ll come back now hear!!

There’s more to God’s name that we could ever know. I pray that if you don’t know Him well or are estranged from Him, that His artwork would cause in you a desire to know the One who could do so well. What’s in a name… let’s discover!

Gripped By/Cast Out…FEAR

Years ago while living in Southeast Colorado we took a tour of Picketwire canyon. http://www.exploresoutheastcolorado.com/picketwire.htm. This canyon is known for 1300 dinosaur tracks along a 1/4 mile of exposed ground. The edge of a former lakebed was a walking path for herbivores and carnivores alike. There are a lot of Native American rock art sites as well as homesteader dreams and fears.

The rattlesnake pictures above was one of our attractions that day. Our tour guide had a long walking stick, would tap the snake just a little to “disorient” it, then let us grab a picture when she pulled the stick away. The snake played percussion like nobody’s business, the snake was stirred, the tail shaken. It’s one of those moments when you tell the kids to step back as you lean in for a good photo, YOLO!

When fear grips us, we do funny things. We get all tightened up in a ball, ready our muscles for a sudden snap, strike out and maybe even give a warning. One of the characters in Shawshank Redemption reminds us of fear and our real desires, “It’s a terrible thing to live in fear. All I want is to be back where things make sense, where I don’t have to be afraid all the time.” The quote speaks to the reality of being in prison for years and the difficulty coming out. I just want to be where things make sense and I live in the known, not the unknown.

The Bible says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”So I sit and wonder why are my fears not cast out, what could help?

1. It’s been a recent conviction that I am the sum of my thoughts. As an introvert prone to overthink things and gather around me voices similar to my own, I am becoming keenly aware of the result. The angst I feel about this topic or that topic is rooted and growing a plant I’m not interested in. As I’ve taken a break from gathering more fuel for my angst on certain things, I see God’s perspective on the same issue and it’s rather different.

2. Many of my fears are similar to the cry of humanity. Do I belong, Does my life have meaning, Does my life have value and/or Does it all really matter? Problems always stem from answering those questions outside of what God has already said about us. If you want a known to live in to cast out fear, God is the only place for a solid rock known.

3. In an anxiety based society, one of our attempted cures is information. We become data junkies as a way to minimize our fears. The problem is, more information leads to more thinking about the issue that’s causing the fear. The only solution… get more information… round and round it goes. We don’t slow down enough to reframe the question, we just go out and buy 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, who came up with that as a solution. By the way, I bought a box of 400 grit sandpaper disquised as TP. It was the only thing left and we were down to two rolls.

4. A realization that the herd instinct is more likely to run you off of the cliff than inquiring of the Lord and living in confidence about His ability to care for us.

I pray the recent events of our day will cause you to think about the issue of what drives your life. I pray that it’s driven by faith and not fear, strength not weakness, love and not self, and a sound mind. It’s part of being a beacon of light in our reactive world.

a difficult simplicity

Simple… you’d think things in life would be more simple. In a strange twist, it’s remarkable how difficult it is to pull off simple. One key to simple is minimal, but in the middle of minimal one should discover profound. As Americans we tend to have a sense of profound being equal to many or much, erasing any sense of simplicity. Round and round it goes.

In the world of Bonsai, there is a style known as Literati. The trunk of the tree is twisted, long, gnarly, with a sparse amount of foliage. It’s the rugged nature of the bark that screams old…profound…weathered… worn out from its attempts at life. In an attempt to fake reality artists attempt to take a young tree that is tall and lanky and artificially create a natural look. Again I emphasize artificailly create natural, it rarely works. It seems like such a simple tree to create. But like we’ve already said, simple isn’t that easy.
  It’s not that easy because it’s the combination of things, simple and profound.  Simple is a childs game, “Chutes and Ladders.”   Profound is an adult game like “Chess.” Simple is enjoying the art of another. Profound is 1,000s of hours working and failing and working again to artificially make something look natural. Simple is nodding your head when your teacher tells you to love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you. Profound is actually loving your enemies and praying for Gods very best to come into their life.

Life is simple, we tend to complicate it. But don’t be surprised at the difficulty of simplicity and don’t be surprised about the profound discovered in the simple. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you… you see… simple. For those that I see doing it… profound, thanks.

Virtues and Vices

“Virtues are funny things, they are the fruit of faith and when paraded, they become parodies of themselves and the worst kind of vanity imaginable. When they are not the fruit of faith, they become faith’s greatest obstacle. Virtues are most vital when invisible and most sharply imaged when they are not the focus of our intentions. They are evidence of their Source and not the generators of it.” -Rich Mullins

My Thursday post is always going to be related to my upcoming sermon on Sunday. We’re in the book of 1 Peter and the section is a list of people that we should subject ourselves to. I know, insanely popular topic right.

The more I look at the story line the more I am drawn in to the piece about Jesus. Never lied, never returned evil for evil, never threatened anyone in the midst of his unjust suffering, he simply entrusted himself to the only just Judge, His father.

The story is a reminder of virtues that should be alive inside of us, regardless of any of the circumstances that surround us. Last week we spoke of Joseph and his brothers. In the midst of jealousy and unfairness, the brothers two brilliant ideas were kill him, no sell him. Awe the injustice of perceived justice. Joseph’s response was to be the best slave in the house, the one the owner could trust above all else. Be the best prisoner and let the guards put their faith in him, interpret dreams and finally be the second in command of all of Egypt.

God invites us to virtues, the irony is expressed by Rich, feel too proud of being humble and the virtue has become our vice. Virtues are generated by Christ alive in us, a coming to the end of ourselves and an allowance of Someone radically better being alive in us. Not an empty Temple of vanity, but one filled with the living God.