Sunday, April 20, 2008

Me? Pump My Own Gas?

Very few of you reading this blog are old enough to remember when pumping gas was a mystery- something done only by professionals. I was probably in high school or college before I pumped my own gas. Attendants filled your tank, wiped your windshield, checked your oil, radiator and even the air in your tires before taking your money.

There was a professional for everything in those days. Your all-knowing physician came to your house if you were ill. A professional sacked your groceries for you and carried them to your car. Even the simplest legal document required that you see an attorney. Every bank transaction required a teller. Every checkout lane had a cashier. Every eating establishment had waiters or waitresses. Every baby was born in the hospital under the no-nonsense control of professionals- no fathers allowed in the delivery room thank you! All television news was delivered by professional talking-heads on network television once each day. All written news was delivered to your driveway morning and evening- written by professional journalists. All television programs were watched when they were broadcast, complete with commercials- or not at all.
Our music came on vinyl discs and we played it in the order the record producers wanted us to hear it.

But the world has changed. We pump our own gas and check our own oil. If you want simple medical advice, you search the internet, often discovering more up-to-date information than even your family physician knows. More often than not we sack our own groceries and take them to our own vehicle. If you want a simple legal contract such as a will or trust agreement you simply fill out the forms on your computer and print it out. We handle 99% of our own banking at the ATM machines and we check out our own groceries in the self-service lane. We serve our own tables at all but the nicest restaurants and we expect to be the one in control at the birth of our children; husband present as we make most of the decisions.

We read blogs and websites created by millions of individuals around the world who each are as entitled to share their opinion as Walter Cronkite and Edward R Murrow. Today newspaper "news" means what happened yesterday. We get most of our information via the internet- often in real time. We watch what we want, when we want via time-shifting technology, and we either edit out or fast forward through the commercials. We mix and match our favorite songs and our favorite artists to our own tastes and carry it all in our pocket on our Ipods.

And so of course it was inevitable that the decentralization of service, information and entertainment would come to the church as well. Every other area of our lives has been individualized as we've shouldered the responsibility for how we live our lives. The role of every full-time paid professional is being daily challenged by the decentralization of power and information. Today we can write our own news stories on our blogs, create and broadcast our own movies via youtube, take care of many of our own basic health and legal needs via the internet and yes- even pump our own gas.

And suddenly we find a growing throng of individuals who are no longer willing to sit quietly on Sunday morning, being told everything from how to interpret scripture to where to give their money. These people want to take an active part in their own faith and are no longer willing to let spiritual professionals and institutions be their primary connection to God. They want to pray for the sick themselves, direct their own giving, create their own worship services, study the scriptures for themselves, serve the poor in their own community and become as much a part of the sharing of God's truths with others as yesterday's priest, pastor or theology professor.

But then doesn't that sound a lot like the disciples? Didn't that rag-tag band of working-class tradesmen turn the world upside down in the first century? Didn't those non-professionals simply share what they had seen and experienced with others, as they went about their business praying for the sick, teaching the scriptures, worshiping God and giving freely of themselves? Didn't they have the same empowering Holy Spirit that we've been given?

Maybe I don't need someone to pump my gas for me after all. At least, that's the way Boompa sees it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

If Only I Could Get My Father's Attention

New babies are amazing, aren't they? There's absolutely nothing they can do to help themselves or to try to impress us. And yet as a new parent or grandparent we love them so much it almost makes our heart ache sometimes.

I think that's how it is between us and the Lord, don't you? He's crazy-in-love with us not because of how much we do for Him or how "spiritually mature" we are or even because of how much we love Him. He just loves us because we "are".

So then why are we always so busy; busy trying to get His attention, earn His affection, win His favor? Why do we insist on always trying to "do something" for God? Why can't we just rest in the knowledge that He loves us, died for us and can't stop thinking about us?

In a book I read recently the author suggested that we would do well to simply learn to abide in His presence without any agenda. We can't impress Him and we can't make Him love us any more than He already does. If He is truly the vine and we're the branches then simply "being" connected to Him is our highest accomplishment. If He was wanting us to be perpetually achieving great things on His behalf we would be called "human doings" instead of "human beings" according to that author.

I agree. I'm tired of doing and I just need to learn to be. At least, that's how Boompa sees it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Impending Explosions

The explosion rocked our house. We knew something nearby had just blown up. It turned out to be a house less than half a mile down the road. The fire engines raced to the scene, battling the resulting inferno for nearly 90 minutes but by then it was too little, too late. There was nothing they could do to save the hollow shell that had once been a house.

In another, unrelated story, the argument spilled out of the neighbor's house and exploded out into the street. The Christian couple with five young children was at it again. This time the police came and took the husband away in handcuffs. The marriage counselors raced to the scene, battling the inferno of enflamed hearts for nearly 90 days but by then it was too little, too late. There was nothing they could do to save the hollow shell that had once been a happy home.

Both the home down the road, and the marriage down the street had appeared to be perfect to any casual passerby driving through our neighborhood. But there was something horribly wrong with them both. There was an impending explosion, just waiting to happen and destroy the lives of both families. One of the families will rebuild their house and pick up their life where they left off the day of the explosion.

But the other family will never be the same. Divorced now, the mother works to support the five children. The father and his new girlfriend live not far away and he sends his child support payment in monthly. But for the children, the sirens that sounded that day signaled the end of life as they had known it.

As Chrstians, we always want everything to look nice from the street. In real estate they call it "curb appeal." In church, they call it "the perfect Christian marriage." Both our house, and our marriage needs to look perfect to those who drive by- even when there is an impending explosion.

Jane and I are committed more than ever to bringing help and reality to Christian marriages that look perfect on the outside, but are about to explode on the inside. If there's one place we can't afford to pretend- it's our marriages. We must get real; real with God, real with each other and real with those who can help our marriage before the explosion takes place. At least, that's how Boompa sees it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Who Knew?

Although I take almost all of the photos on this blog, I didn't take this one. I feel like I'm old enough to have been around in July of 1888 when this photograph of 8-year-old Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan was taken- but I don't remember ever having been in Brewster, MA so it couldn't have been me, right?

But it struck me as an interesting reminder of how little we know about the future, and how much the Lord knows. Duh!

Who could possibly have known when that photograph was taken of a blind, deaf girl sitting with her doll and her tutor, that Helen Keller would go on to become one of the most famous Americans in history? Certainly not the photographer who tucked it away in a family album where the photograph languished for nearly 120 years. And certainly not Anne Sullivan or even Helen Keller herself. And perhaps least of all her parents, who just hoped that their daughter might not end up living as a vegetable, tucked away in a dark room with a nurse.

None of us knows the end of the story when we're in the middle. None except the Lord. We would perhaps shrink away in fear if we had any idea of what the future holds- good or bad. Mr. and Mrs. Keller had no more idea than Mr. and Mrs. Moses, or Mr. and Mrs. Saul of Tarsus what the future held for their child.

I suspect Mr. and Mrs. Jesus had more of an idea... but surely they didn't comprehend the horror that would precede the glory.

Our job is to simply put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time as we raise our children. Loving them, teaching them and surrounding them with patience, wisdom, honesty and grace. The rest is up to God. At least, that's the way Boompa sees it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Few Reflections on Reflections

The Bible tells us that we respond to God because "He first loved us." In other words, we reflect the radiant love that He bestowed upon us- even while we were yet sinners, the Bible adds. While we were in open rebellion, denying God's very existence or shaking our angry fist in His face- He still loved us with a relentless, reckless love that illuminated our own face in glorious reflection.

The Bible also tells us that husbands are to love their wives the way Christ loved the church- willing to lay down His life for her, initiating reconciliation where there was no way and loving us, even when we were unlovable.

And so what is the logical response in the heart of a woman whose husband loves her the way Christ loved the church? She will, of course, reflect that love back. She can't help but reflect the selfless love of a husband who takes the initiative in reconciliation- even when it's the wife who might be wrong.

Wives were created to be responders- reflecting the love that illuminates them. It's their natural bent- their natural function. Like a mirror, a woman reflects what she is being shone. Like a brilliant moon on a dark winter night, a woman who is loved by her husband in a Christ-like fashion is radiant- glowing with a reflected love which lights up everything in her path.

Show me a woman who lacks that glow, and I'll show you a husband who hasn't been loving her in a selfless, Christ-like way. A woman simply reflects what she receives.

I pray that I might be better at loving my wife in a Christ-like fashion, and I pray that I might bask in the glow of her reflected love. It's the natural order of our roles. At least, that's the way Boompa sees it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Purpose or pleasure?

I see them all the time around Lake Michigan; huge, beautiful, insanely expensive yachts sitting quietly with their sails furled- the owners sipping margaritas and catching a few rays.

Maybe they were inspired by Jimmy Buffet- the voice of all things pleasurable from cheeseburgers in paradise to wasting away in margaritaville.

But I can only scratch my head and wonder how one can be content to sit at anchor when one has a yacht capable of sailing around the world.

We're not much different though, I guess. We've been given the Holy Spirit- able and willing to lead us on a world class adventure but most of settle for swinging around the anchor rope aimlessly; watching the world go by.

I'm ready to hoist my sails and see where the Spirit of God takes me- to follow the wind and find God's purpose for my life. I think I've had enough of cheeseburgers and margaritas for the time being. How about you? At least that's the way Boompa sees it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fresh picked blueberries...

You ought to have seen what I saw on my way

To the village, through Mortenson's pasture today:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!

Thus begins Robert Frost's poem Blueberries. My wife Jane often quotes those first seven lines from memory- especially when we're picking fresh strawberries under the warm July Michigan sun.

If you've never picked fresh Michigan blueberries you have no idea what blueberries are all about. The tiny, shriveled caper-like excuses for blueberries found in a polyethelene bag in the frozen food section of your grocery store are NOT fresh blueberries! No, a fresh blueberry, as Frost observed, is as big as your thumb and heavy.

It's kind of like that with the process of hearing from the Lord. Reading a great Christian book or hearing a well-prepared sermon may satisfy our hunger a bit- but it will never taste like the real thing, fresh from the bush. When the Lord speaks to us directly we realize how much is lost in the process of commercial picking, freezing and thawing.

So how can you pick fresh blueberries?

Through prayer, through meditation, through worship, through fasting. It's during those times that the Lord so often drops a fresh insight into our personal pail- as big as your thumb; fresh and ripe. When we savor the sweetness of fresh fruit we realize that second-hand blueberries, given to someone else and then served up later will never be quite the same.

Why not spend a little personal time with the Lord this week and see what He has to say to you.

fresh blueberries! Frozen berries just aren't the same. At least that's how Boompa sees it.