Life


In sixth grade, I noticed that two of my classmates drew large crowds by break dancing at football games. I decided that I would get in on the action, and I bought a book on “how to break dance.”

Yeah … that did not really work. I was not a break dancer.
We often fail when we focus on what other people instead of being who we are. This happens even, maybe especially, within Christianity.

We see an example of this in John 21:20-22

Peter and Jesus had just finished a remarkable conversation clarifying their relationship and Peter’s role in the mission.
Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple John.
Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

Most of us can relate to Peter in this story. We have taken our focus off of Jesus and our calling, and become consumed with looking at and evaluating others. Focusing on other people’s walk with God and their calling takes a few different expressions:
We Compare Ourselves to Others
We Copy Others
We Criticize Others

All of these expressions of  looking to others do damage to our calling and relationship with God.

I suspect that when we ask Jesus, “What about that person?”
Jesus still responds as he did to Peter, “What is that person’s calling and relationship with me calling to you? I will take care of them. You are called to follow me. Stay focused on me.”

May we be people who keep our focus upon Jesus and who he calls us to be.
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I love my idealized self. The me that I imagine in my head is really amazing.

I have a far more difficult time loving the self who actually exists in the real world. The real me has weaknesses and flaws.

The story of Jesus shows us that God loves us, the real us, weak and flawed.

Tom Wright helped me see this in Jesus’ appearance to Peter in John 21:9-17, in ways that are not obvious in many of our English translations.

Setting of the Story: The smell of a charcoal fire burning was in the air as Jesus cooked breakfast. Peter had smelt a charcoal fire burning earlier in the Priests Courts where he had denied Jesus three times.

Jesus: Peter, do you love me?

Peter: Yes, Lord I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my lambs.

Jesus: Peter, do you love me.

Peter: Lord, I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my sheep.

Jesus: Peter, are you my friend?

Peter was grieved that he could not say more, and that Jesus had to adjust the question.

Peter: Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend.

Jesus: Feed my sheep.

A couple of observations on this story:

First, Jesus meets Peter where he is. Surely, both men would have preferred for Peter to say that he loved Jesus. He could not do it.  Jesus accepted what Peter could give.  Likewise, Jesus graciously meets us were we are.

Second, Jesus’ forgiveness comes in the form of a commission for Peter. That pattern still holds true today. We are forgiven and we are sent. All authentic ministry is rooted in the forgiving love of God.

May we learn to accept the love of the God who has taken our denials and our imperfections and has graciously dealt with them in Jesus.

Sometimes I feel a little claustrophobic.
There are times when my plans, setting and ideas feel small. Sometimes that means I need a change something in my life. Sometimes it is just my own internal issues and restlessness. Sometimes I simply need to place everything in the context of the biblical story.
The story of the scriptures is large enough to capture the corner of the world that I experience and the world that I sense is beyond what I know. The biblical story feels like a wide open field, a vast ocean, or a majestic mountain range to my claustrophobic soul.
Here is a quick summary of reality as I see it revealed in the bible:
God created everything.
Sin warped everything.
God is healing everything.
God invites every person to experience healing in every area of life.

Now that is a big story! It is a story in which everything matters and everything belongs.
I find freedom to run, explore, play and work in the picture of reality described in the biblical story.

Last weekend Robyn and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary! In addition to our annual anniversary outing in the city, this year we added a photo shoot!

The photo shoot was a lot of fun. We were in a unique yet beautiful setting that provided us with  some wild and crazy options for pictures. We were both in playful moods and ready for silliness.

Our wedding day was a lot like that – unique, exciting and a little silly.

There was a down side to the photo shoot, namely mosquitoes. They were unbelievably bad. It was painful to stand still at times. Those pesky hungry mosquitoes threatened to make a great event horrible.

In some ways it was like marriage – there are times when things are painful. Most of the time it is external forces and bumps in life, other times it is our own issues , either way we have to choose to keep moving forward.

In spite of being bitten by swarms of bugs, we would occasionally look each other deep in the eyes and smile. We had a sense that it was crazy and a little painful, but it was good. We had a deep joy in being together.

Our nine years of marriage have been like that. There are times when we face major obstacles or some comically absurd challenge, we look each other in the eyes and smile. We smile because we are in this together.

I have found that both the fun times and painful times contribute to a deep joy in marriage.

Thanks to our friend Matt Heltsley for taking the pictures in less than ideal circumstances!

Thanks to Robyn for a great idea for a wild and crazy anniversary photo shoot, and for nine years of wild and crazy marriage. I love you more today than I knew possible nine years ago!

There is a growing number of people who have taken it upon themselves to “defend the truth.”

Now, I am all for truth – my metaphysics roll A Priori (Translation: I believe there is reality outside of a person’s experience.). However, there is something about the approach and the spirit of many of these “truth defenders” that seems off the mark. They often seem driven by fear, anger, or pride rather than by a love of what is true … or a love of the people they engage.

So how should we speak of truth?

The ancient writings of James provide a helpful guide for those who believe that true truth really does exist, and they want other people hold to it. James shows a right way to speak of truth.

Be Slow to Speak of Things Beyond You. James 3:1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Remember the Power of Words. James 3:5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.

Do Not Slander Another Person. James 3:10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Living the Truth is the Best Proof. James 3:13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.

Real Truth is Loving. James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

Back in January I gave a shout out to the Princeton Club for their Million Pound Challenge. At the end of the post I mentioned that I was going to participate by losing ten pounds. Well the club’s campaign ends this week, and I have reached my goal! Now the Princeton Club will donate one hundred pounds of food to a local food pantry!

Weight loss used to be pretty easy for me. My wife jokes that I could say “Hey I need to lose five pounds.” and it would be gone.  That is not the case anymore. Today it takes more than just thinking about weight loss for me to lose weight.

Here are a few things that helped me drop ten pounds as a Part of the Million Pound Challenge.

Being Part of a Cause: It was helpful for me to know that my weight loss was about more than me. I liked the idea of food being donated to the needy because of my work. There are many different causes – playing with your kids, running a race, or staying alive a few more years. Find a cause that motivates you.

Making a Public Decision: Making the decision to lose ten pounds was an important first step. Sharing that decision publicly was an important second decision.  Yes, there were a few, probably crucial, days when my primary motivator was the fear of telling a person from the blog that I had not reached my goal. Get some accountability.

Becoming Aware of Reality: It is easy to get a rut. What we consider normal might be a root cause of our problems.   I would have never considered myself a sweet tooth – until I gave up sugar for lent this year. The reality is that I was in a rut of eating sugary snacks when I was tired in the afternoon. Do something to show reveal what is real.

Being Intentional about Life: It is liberating to realize that our small choices really make a difference. I have become a moderate calorie counter over the past few months. I do stress about what I eat, but I do hold to a set amount of calories for the day. That calorie level is based on what I want to weigh.  Treat each choice like it matters.

In my first post on Immigration, I addressed the theological reasons why Christians should engage in immigration issues.

In my second post on Immigration, I addressed some common sentiments about immigration by clarifying the historical and present immigration realities.

In this third post I will address what is being proposed in Comprehensive Immigration Reform. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about this term. We must have an accurate understanding of the proposal if we are going to evaluate the proposal. It is not as dramatic as what we hear on cable news shows, but it is a realistic plan.

Four General Components of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

1. Reduce the backlogs for family immigration.

The waiting lists for people seeking to reunite with their families in the United States are tremendous. A spouse is on a  waiting list for at least six months. Children are on waiting list for at least three years, and if that child gets married the wait becomes decades long. A nation that values families must do better than that. Around one-third of undocumented immigrants have a family member here legally. Part of the problem is our current laws do not meet the current needs.

2. Make it more difficult to enter and work in the USA.

C.I.R. is not a call for “open borders.” Current reform proposals include making our borders more secure. These proposals also recognize the reality that most immigrants come here for work. Our current policies make it very difficult to work here legally, but fairly easy to work here illegally. Think about your Social Security Card – you could have made that on your old Vic-20 computer in 1985! We should require more secure documentation for employment. We also need to hold employers responsible for who they hire. Today, enforcement of employment laws  almost exclusively means deporting the workers. We must make hiring undocumented workers too risky and too costly for employers. Until we do enforce our hiring laws for employers, there will be jobs for undocumented workers.  And as long as there are jobs here, people will come – it does not matter how big the wall is.

3. Make it easier to enter and work in the USA in ways that benefit the USA.

While entering the United States because of family is difficult, entering the country legally for work is an even greater challenge. Employment Green Cards are given primarily to upper skill level positions. However, the employment market is very clear that we need more low-skill laborers.  Many of those roles are already filled by people who are here illegally. It would benefit everyone to have those roles filled by citizens or legalized immigrants. We need to adjust the laws to fit our reality and the needs of our economy. Many people say that we also need more openings for high-skilled workers. When an American high-tech firm can not find an American citizen for a position, and they can not bring the right person in on a Green Card, then they must either eliminate that position or employ that person in another country. Neither of those options are good for America.

4. Establish a way for immigrants who are here illegally to earned legalization. While there are variations of this plan looks like, most C.I.R advocates envision: a reasonable fine, a background check, temporary status during the process, and placement in line behind the family backlog.  C.I.R. is not a call for amnesty. It is not a proposal to forgetting that laws were broken. This proposal includes openness, penalty, and a process that is fair to other legal immigrants and citizens.  It is also far more realistic than deporting everyone who is here illegally today. The “put them on a bus” approach is not practically possible or economically feasible, and it’s impact upon families and the economy would be devastating. Earned legalization is the best way forward.

Thanks again to Matt Soerens for clarifying these issues.

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