February 2010


A few weeks ago I had a nightmare that deeply shook me … cold sweat … the whole works. It was not a dream about a masked killer, a natural disaster, or a furry monster. The nightmare was about me (Go ahead, insert a snide comment here .). It was like watching a video record of myself at a low point.

In the dream I was behaving like a complete jerk. I was not doing anything illegal. Many people would have thought that my behavior was acceptable. In fact, within my dream I thought that my actions were completely justified. However, as I watched myself in the nightmare – I knew that I was wrong. My actions were coming out of a dark place within me. I was not acting like the person that I want to be.

The most frightening part of the dream was the damage that I caused to others. The second most disturbing element was my conviction that I was acting justly.  My character genuinely  believed that he was fine. But as I watched the myself in the dream, as I objectively saw my actions, it was clear that I was not fine. I was horribly wrong.

That dream holds a deep truth of life: Our actions reveal our true self more than our thoughts, feelings or words.

It is easy to construct a false self in our imaginations. It is easy to paint a picture of  life that does not fit reality. However, the rest of the universe interacts with our actual actions. It only hears our actual words. Our true self is displayed not in what we think, but in what we do.

That nightmare caused me to be more aware of and reflective upon my actions each day.  I spend some time playing the “video record” of the day in my head.  At times the self revealed in my actions is not nearly as glamorous as the self inside of my head, but it is reality. And reality is where we are called to live.

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Below is a post from my wife’s blog. May we all live more like this four year old.

I walked in the back door and the kids were sitting at the kitchen table, talking into hubby’s cell phone.

“Gram’s on da phone!”
“Hi, Gram! Hi! I’m out of breath, but hi!” I had just gotten home from running for a good 50 minutes.
Before I knew it Babydoll said this, “Oh, I can give you some of my warm breath right now– here…” And she leaned over and before I even understood what she was talking about, she was breathing into my mouth. “Open you mouth, Mommy, here…” And she was being completely serious.


minutes later she was still giving me breath 🙂
And then I burst out laughing.
She was giving me some breath because I was “out” of it.
And not just any breath, warm breath. She intuited I’d be cold.
She is instantaneously sweet, deeply selfless, and cute beyond compare.
Seriously, there are times I want to entirely absorb her into my being. I want to think and love as quickly as she does. She is so focused on things, that she solves problems quickly. But the deeply enticing part of her is not only her creativity, but her selflessness. It’s as if she’s quick to say, “Oh, you don’t have that? I do. Here, take mine.” Time and time and time again.
You need a pen? Some milk? My breath? Take mine.
Sister may run me to my daily ragged ruins with her activities and ideas and requests and messes, but she has got a heart in her that fuels me when I thought I had nothing left for the day.
She is marvelous.
“I can give you some of my warm breath right now– here…Open you mouth, Mommy, here… take mine.”
I want to be like my daughter.

I have posted a couple of times ( here & here ) about conversations with my 6 year old about his desire to be a “prophet of God.”

My wife just got this email from our son’s kindergarten teacher:

Jackson told me about being a Prophet of God today.  He told me today’s message from God was to stop people from chasing the girls.  When a friend reminded him that he usually chases the girls he said, “That was before I got the message from God.”  Just the smile I needed today!

I love music. I also like thoughtful news. So when I interviewed in Milwaukee a few years ago, I was curious to learn what I could find on the rental car’s radio.

I was pleasantly surprised!

After living here for three years, I am thrilled with the radio stations in Milwaukee (I say that as a person who has lived in a lot of cities!).  The radio stations in our city have turned my 1997 factory radio into a musical wonderland. Radio in Milwaukee is so good that I have not even bothered with using my iPod adapter. I just go with old school FM radio.

Here are my Radio Presets:

1. 89.7 WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio This is the NPR station at the University Wisconsin Milwaukee. During the day the station plays in-depth local, national, and global news. At night they play intelligent alternative music.

2. 90..7 WHAD Wisconsin Public Radio Oh yes we have two NPR options in MKE! This station offers quality programming from all over the great state of Wisconsin.

3.  88.9 Radio Milwaukee This is one of my all-time favorite radio stations. I love their quality eclectic mix of music (Wilco and  DeLaSoul in the same hour!). I also love that they include local musicians, and focus on community events.

4. 91.7 WMSE This is a non-profit radio station out of the Milwaukee School of Engineering. They have a number of volunteer DJs who really press the margins with fringe and experimental music.  It is the opposite of mass pop radio.

5. 102.1 Independent Alternative Radio When I need to hear something with a little more angst, I tune into this great station. They provide a nice mix of alternative tunes from the past twenty years

Why do people do good things?

We are often moved by external motivators.

–          Positive motivators or  “Carrots”

–          Negative motivators or “Whips”

We can also have internal motivators.

–          We want to do something because we see value in it.

–          It is our natural reaction.

External motivators are a lousy way to live a good life.

Philemon 14: so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.

Paul was about to make a big request of Philemon. However, he was not only interested that Philemon do the good thing. He wanted him to do the right thing for the right reason.

Paul did not want Philemon to do the right thing because he was coerced. He was not interested in people being feared, shamed, or seduced into conformity.

Paul wanted Philemon to do the good out of his own free choice. He wanted people to live lives of grace and peace because they were touched by the grace and peace of King Jesus.

God does not call a people who simply conform out of external pressures. God calls a people who are changed internally and therefore live different lives.

I have asked myself this question a lot recently: Why do I do good things?

I am often tempted to act certain ways or say certain things because of the response of others – either gaining praise or avoiding conflict or shame. It is an act that cannot be sustained.

I need something more, something internal. I need the grace and peace of God to mold me so that I naturally live grace and peace, regardless of the praise or conflict that it might bring.

Why do you do good things?

To gain external praise, acceptance, blessings?

To avoid shame, conflict, punishment?

Life under king Jesus can be more free and more powerful than navigating external motivators. God’s grace and peace can transform  us into new people, a good people who do good.

I found this prayer on JR Briggs’ blog, who found it on Ben Sternke’s blog , who found it on JR Woodward’s blog.

Let’s join them in this prayer.

God,

We yearn to be the church you want us to become.
Shape us into something beautiful
We recognize that you are the Potter and we are the clay
Please continue to mold us into the image of Christ

We want to join in what you are already doing in the world.
In our worship and life together, in our ministry and service
to others, we want to give people a glimpse of your intentions
for the whole world.

Help us to welcome the outcasts, love our enemies,
and form a Community that is visibly different from the culture around us
as a sign of what you are doing in the world.

Help us experience your love and grace,
grow in our relationship with Jesus,
and experience the power of your Spirit
as we offer your good news to others.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

The other day I had a brief conversation with my son after he said he wants to be a “prophet of God” when he grows up.

We had another conversation tonight at bed time …

Jackson: I really do tell my friends messages from God. I am a prophet.

Jim: Oh, what do you tell them?

Jackson: Real God stuff like ‘Stop being mean to each other. Stop hitting. Stop fighting.’

Jim: What do your friends do?

Jackson: They listen to me. People always listen to prophets of God. People always like prophets of God.

Jim: Buddy, there are some stories in the bible where people do not listen to the prophets, and they do not like them.

Jackson: What!? Why wouldn’t people want to listen to a message from God? Why wouldn’t they like a prophet?

Jim: There are times when people do not want to hear what God has to say.  They want to be their own boss. They do not want God to tell them what to do – even if is good.

Jackson: They don’t want to listen to God?

Jim: There are times when it is difficult to listen to God, like when he tells us that we need to change. Prophets should always make sure that they are listening and obeying to God before we tell other people to listen and obey.

Jackson: Yeah, sometimes kids don’t listen. (Pause) So, sometimes people do not like prophets?

Jim: Prophets should give messages from God to people because they love God and they love people – not because they want people to like them. And that is really important to remember, even if you are not a prophet.

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