Archive for February 2008

Invest First, Withdraw As Interest Grows

Everywhere that I have had a bank account, the understanding is basically the same.

First you must make a deposit.  There is a period of waiting until the initial check clears.  Then if you choose, a withdrawal can be made.

I have never heard of a bank that allows a withdrawal before a deposit has been made. (If you know of such a bank, you really owe it to the rest of the planet to let us in on this amazing institution…  This deal must be advertised a bit.  How they would stay in business is not important to us – it’s just important that they allow people to withdraw from a nonexistent fund!)

This routine of “Deposit First – Withdraw Later” is violated continually, by regular church people – and without realizing what they are doing – church leaders-teachers-pastors are encouraging this pattern.  How so?

We model and strongly encourage people to approach virtual strangers with a call to a dramatic life change.  This is akin to not just a spiritual drive-by.  Think drive-by with a rapid fire bazooka and you are close to the reality here.

Am I suggesting one ought never to call a complete stranger to conversion?  Not in the least.  What I am saying is that a dramatic encounter such as this is the exception to the norm.  The norm is that we ‘bring’ the gospel.  We don’t ‘send’ the gospel.  To bring anything has everything to do with personal connections, relationship, a touch, and the word we love to use around Christmas – ‘Incarnation.’

It’s funny how we love to talk about ‘Incarnation’ around Christmas, but shun that word / concept after December 26th.  We bring the message of Jesus every time we connect with people.  If you continue to ‘send’ the message – well, you will continue to see lots of rejections. 

When those rejections come, do all of us a favor – for Pete’s sake, don’t sit back and glibly mutter something about the hard-heartedness of this generation.  You may be partly right.  Then again, you may be referring to your own hard-heartedness.

Valentines Lessons: Finally I’m Learning To Love People

Valentines Day – the universal celebration of love.

Anyone keen on walking in, learning about, and speaking the fluent language of love will be electrified this day.   Get excited – spread some around.   You aren’t the source of it so take a risk here and love like there’s no tomorrow!   (I can tell you from experience, you may be right in that guess).

Problem is – many if not most who are purveyors of love as part of their role sketch – turns out they / we aren’t so great at it.   Not so great until the yogurt hits the fan anyway.  

Most pastors I know (myself included) deeply love people… in theory.   Hey, it’s in their job description.

“Humanity I love, its people I can’t stand…” – Charles Schultz

This line could well be the universal static cling window sticker of pastors.

Change usually happens in me when I get sick and tired of my own pathetic, lackluster, embarrassing ways. Strong change in me is almost always preceded by an emotional double slap to the face (after which the appropriate response is, “Thanks, I needed that.”)   Such encounters are usually delivered accidentally – in the category of ‘out of the mouth of babes’ communication. Nearly always the “Slap” that begins the needed change means nothing to the “slapper” but plenty to the “slapee” so long as they are paying just a bit of attention to life. 

A mega domino toppling began some years ago when driving with my daughter Laura. She is the quietest and greatest people noticer of the three in my quiver. We were on a “Date” to see a film.  On our way we had seen several people holding the pervasive ‘Will Work For Food’ signs.  In the space of a fifteen-minute drive we passed by three sign holders on various corners. She asked the obvious – ‘Dad, you talk about showing love to people all the time. Why don’t you show love to those people too?’

I began to give her my standard ‘Well dear, it’s complicated… addicts… systemic behaviors… ‘ After a few syllables of that nonsense I literally grew nauseous at myself. This was one heck of a slappish moment for me. If I live to be one hundred that moment will stand out as one of the great slaps of a lifetime for me! 

The notion of having a policy regarding how to respond to people in need, with signs, for example, seems absurd. ‘Policies’ about ‘love’ – someone please explain how those two words fit into the same sentence. I’m all ears on that one.   How about we join in what Jesus is up to in given situations. In short, ‘Go with God!’

A need is not an invitation to act upon. If that is confused we will need more therapy and an increase in our meds shortly.

Our invitation came that day.

Another sign holder crossed our path.  This time it was a couple.   They were low IQ people who had set up in front of a store in the downtown area. I had chatted with them previously … and walked past them. They sold chewing gum and mints to cover their expenses as they sat on a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk.

Laura got it first. (Dang it, why are kids so intuitive?)

I asked Laura to pick out her favorite flavor of chewing gum.   Our payment was made with the cash we had in pocket to pay for the film we were going to see on our ‘date.’ Don’t recall how much it was but it was all we had.   It was the most expensive chewing gum I have ever purchased!

As we continued to walk, Laura asked, “How are we going to see the movie now? That was all we had to go to the movies with.” With that she smiled!
This was a rhetorical question from Laura. The look she gave me was in Lauraish style – it was a huge ‘Attaboy Dad!   You’re catching on now!’
Oh yeah, we did end up going to the movies – our ‘movie’ was a couple of episodes of Scooby Doo. Well worth the investment.

“Love one another deeply… for love covers a multitude of sins!”
1 Peter 4:8