Monday, January 24, 2011

This Week in Worship: Get Your House in Order: Boundaries (Luke 4)

Rubber bands are one of the greatest inventions of all time. I mean it. Think about what we couldn't do without them:

1. make pony tails a snap
2. throw newspapers onto the front porch without them being strewn all over front lawns (back when people subscribed to newspapers)
3. bring guns to school (rubber band guns that is;-)
4. make tie dye easy
5. contain pencils in bundles
6. curtail your pants from getting caught in the spokes of your bike when riding
7. make a reminder wristband
8. straighten teeth
9. trade silly bands
10. work out

The list is endless! But there is a unique flaw that rubber bands possess...they have a limit to their elasticity. You can only stretch them so far before they break.

Come to think of it, people are a lot like rubber bands. We, too, have our breaking point. When the demands from others stack too high, we tend to snap just like a rubber band that has reached its breaking point.

Jesus was no stranger to the high demands of others, and this week we are going to continue to explore boundaries by looking at the topic of discernment. Believe it or not, our "calling" sets us free, but most people in the church believe it is just those in professional ministry that are called; however, we are all called. Calling drives the setting of boundaries. To prepare for this week's conversation, read Luke 4.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Radical Hospitality

Two weeks ago, my family and I went to Washington DC to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday party. My grandmother is an amazing woman. She lives alone, drives, has no physical problems, and doesn’t take one prescription pill! (I hope I have her genes). Since this was a big occasion in her life, we decided to kill the fattened calf if you will.

Those of our family who were out of town booked a hotel downtown, and it was really quite amazing…once we got there that is. We rolled into town on a Thursday afternoon around 6:00 pm, and as it turns out, you can’t make a left turn until 7 pm! Mapquest was useless, so I turned to Samquest. My wife, who lived in DC for a short period of time, managed to get us to the hotel by only taking right turns through a maze of one-way streets and 5 street intersections. Needless to say, I was a little frazzled after 30 minutes of driving around the hotel, but unable to get to the front door!

Once we pulled in front of the hotel, we were greeted by two men who gave us non-stop service. One man rolled a cart out of the door and began unpacking our luggage from our car, and the other took my keys and parked our car in their underground garage. Now, I was really uptight. They didn’t jump to our service out of good will. They were expecting a little financial remuneration in return for their service. Now their service was exceptional, still all weekend it cost me to enter the hotel and leave the hotel. I felt like just handing them my wallet, and saying, “Just give it back to me when I leave on Sunday.”

Yet as I left to travel back home, I began to think about their service as a parable for our call to offer radical hospitality to our world. As we read in Gen. 12 in last Sunday’s class, Abraham’s call was not only to be blessed, but to be a blessing to others…the whole world even! So when we read in Gen. 24 of Rebekah’s extreme hospitality, I catch a glimpse of how we can bless the world.

Abraham’s servant goes to his brother’s house to secure a wife for his son Isaac (I know, but it was ok back then). There at a well in Abraham’s brother’s land, the servant prays for a woman who will show hospitality to him. Next thing we read is that Rebekah shows up and is fully prepared to not only give Abraham’s servant a drink, but also give a drink to his camels! Now for those of you counting at home, the servant brought 10 camels with him. Each camel could drink more than 25 gallons of water. Rebekah lugged 250 gallons of water out of the well to water the servant’s camels – and this with no prospect of anything in return!!!

What is more, the author tells us that she did this “quickly” and she “ran back to the well to draw more water” for the camels “until they [had] finished drinking” (Gen. 24:19-20). This is extreme hospitality, and it demonstrates the character of the future matriarch who is more than capable to carry on the mission with Isaac to be a blessing to the nations.

Pray with me that we would be a community who takes hospitality seriously as an act of blessing the nations. In a season where many new people will be looking for a church home this fall, may we take on the character of Rebekah, and radically serve those who come into our life no matter how inconvenient it may be for us.

Friday, June 20, 2008

You Got What It Takes!

My wife and I were doing routine errands in Target, when my oldest daughter spied the action figures of the Jungle Book on the bottom shelf of the toy section. To be honest, I have not bought many toys for my kids. Most of the toys that they have are gifts from grandparents. Yet, this day was different.

The Jungle Book was the first full length feature film that they had seen, and we just let them watch it two weeks earlier on our vacation. As a result of that movie, my kids have been pretending to be the various characters in the Jungle Book. They sing the “Bare Necessities” constantly, and they pretend to be part of Colonel Hatti’s elephant brigade as they march around on all fours through the house saying, “1, 2, 3, 4, keep it up, 2, 3, 4…” Their love for the Jungle Book has even gone so far as Lydia, my 3 and ½ year old, asking to me to introduce her as “Baloo” when young adults or college students come over! They are really into this movie. With this history, let’s go back to Target.

I bought the action figures thinking that I was being the good father. It was an instant hit with the kids…and an instant headache for the parents!

There are 7 characters included, Bigera (panther), Kha (snake), Mogli (man-cub),), Shir Khan (the dreaded tiger), King Louie (the orangutan), the wolf dad (the surrogate father whom I am blanking on his name), and finally Baloo (the bear). Needless to say, Baloo is the overwhelming favorite, and they instantly burst into tears if they can’t play with Baloo. After 3 days of constant fighting (and crying) over who gets to play with Baloo, my wife decided that Claire gets to play with Baloo in the morning till lunch, and Lydia gets to play with Baloo after lunch till dinner. Yet, this still didn’t solve the issue. Each morning for the past week, we start with our kids in tears over who gets to play with Baloo. Instead of blessing, these characters have brought nothing but chaos to my life. Last Saturday, was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for me.

My wife and I took the kids to go see David Wilcox at the American Tobacco amphitheater in Durham, and my kids took some of their prized possessions (Baloo, Bigera, Kha, & Shir Kahn). It was hot, crowded, but filled with many familiar faces. We thought we would be able to sit on the lawn, listen to some good music, and relax with friends and family. Instead, we felt both like McDonald cheeseburgers under the heat lamp of the sun, and sardines in a can pressed up against everyone on the lawn. Needless to say it wasn’t relaxing. Since the kids were not able to sit still in such confined quarters, I took them for a walk around the lawn of the American Tobacco amphitheater.

They loved the running water that flows through the park. I let them bend down to see the water, but safely enough not to fall in. Not so, thought a police officer that publicly reprimanded me and asked me not to let my kids near the running water. (Easy for him to say, as the water had no fence or barrier around it.) So we walked a bit, but their interest returned to the water. As I leaned over to scoop them up from the waters’ edge, Lydia screams at the top of her lungs as if she had just been pierced in the heart by a rusty dagger. I asked her what happened, but she couldn’t conjure up any intelligible words. She just screamed…and screamed…and screamed some more. It was then that I looked into her hand. She held only Bigera…Baloo was gone! She dropped him in the drink.

There was no consoling Lydia, so I hunted down Samantha in the crowd holding both daughters in my arms trying not to make a scene; however, both girls were now crying now at the top of their lungs, so my efforts were failed. I gave Samantha one look (the look that has nothing but longing affection and endearment attached to it for the joy of creating two precious children together;-), and we were outta there after the 4th song that just happened to be entitled, “The Eye of the Hurricane.”

As I stood there with my daughters in my arms trying to explain what happened (Samantha thought Lydia was A) tortured, B) had an emergency appendectomy without pain killers, or C) got her foot caught in a bear trap), the thought occurred to me to curse The Jungle Book and all its characters and creators. To be honest, everything in my being wanted to get out of there as fast as I possible. Then, after I explaining the episode to Samantha, Lydia was in no better shape. She refused to be comforted. At that moment, I realized I couldn’t leave without Baloo. “But how was that going to happen?” I thought. “The waters flow continually into waterfalls over 100 yards, under the concrete walkway and down 40 feet into the large collection pool. Where could he be in this maze of churning water?”

My only hope was that he didn’t go over the first waterfall. At the place where Lydia dropped Baloo there was a 1 ft. lip that created the first waterfall. If Baloo went over, then he was a goner for sure, but if he got stuck on the lip then there was a chance I could search for him and find him. As I plunged my arm into the murky waters to search for Baloo, I canvassed about 10 feet without any sign of him. Then, when I reached the 1 ft. wall, my hand brushed over something. I scooped it up, and sure enough there was Baloo! I raised my arm so Lydia could see that Baloo had been rescued from the deep. Her face, still red and swollen from grief, now displayed a smile from ear to ear…and there was relief written all over my face as I returned Baloo to her safekeeping.

This week in Sunday class, I shared with you in Genesis, that the Spirit hovered over the chaos
of the waters of the earth. All this, chaos (tohu wbohu) was hostile to life. Yet, the Spirit was hovering over it, anticipating God’s command to order it and bring life from it. On the last day of God’s creating life out of the chaos, he makes humanity – male and female – and he puts his image in them. The implication of our bearing God’s image is that I am also able to create life out of the chaos. As the Spirit leads me into the chaos of my life (in this case, all things Jungle Book), I have a choice to enter the chaos or run from it. Remembering that I have the image of God in me, gives me courage that I have what it takes to create life where hostility and despair currently operate. So every time I face chaos in my life, it is a decision to either to take up my created image to bring forth life, or run from it and let chaos rule.

Pray with me that we would be a community that fosters the image of God in each of us, so that we can remember that God gave us what it takes to enter the chaos of our lives (the tohu wbohu) in order to bring about life. This week, may we not shrink back from the chaos we face, but plunge ourselves into it knowing that God will use us to bring forth life.