Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why we struggle so much with 1 Corinthians 13

Scripture Verses that Caught My Attention Today: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Observation: Paul [seemingly] forgot to mention that love is hard work!

Application: I think that when we read Paul’s words above we are most inclined to think of other people for whom we think they might better fit. I mean we start off well, channeling our inner fortitude to remember what love should be (patient and kind). But then when we read of what love is not (envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, insisting on it’s own way, etc.), well, it’s as if we block it out in regard to ourselves and personify a quote of Judas (Jesus’ betrayer) when he said, “surely not I?” In our place we picture others—whether in general or in particular—who appear to fall short of love’s demands. How convenient. And how telling.

One of the most haunting pieces of Scripture is found is Jesus’ response to the quote from Judas above. “You have said so” Jesus replied.

Yes, love is hard work!

Whenever we deny our envy, boastfulness, arrogance, rudeness, insistence on our own way and all the rest, well, then we have once again shown our delusional-but-true colors…and our incredible need for the crucified and risen One who indeed bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the love that you offer to us all. Surely we are in great need of it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Numbers 24-27 and 1 Corinthians 13)

Monday, February 27, 2012

getting back into the swing of things

The last few weeks have been a challenge exercise-wise. The combination of schedule, messed up sleeping patterns and feeling under the weather played havoc with my normal routine and sense of energy for exercise.

Thankfully I found ways to keep eating healthy during that period, which was a big plus. Was even able to avoid needing to take any medication for the flu-like symptoms I had for a couple days.

At any rate, now it's time to get back into the routine. I started slowly last week by simply doing my warm-up routine on two separate days. The walking lunges from the first day actually made me sore. That's okay. Just waited an extra day before repeating the routine.

This morning was a moderate 'normal' workout to further ease back into things. It went like this:

Warm-up followed by:

Set 1:
Neutral grip pull-ups
Light Barbell Squats
1-leg push-ups.
Rest, repeat.

Set 2:
1-leg stability ball curls
dumbbell overhead presses
rest, repeat.

Set 3:
Ab-wheel roll-outs
cross-body mountain climbers.
Rest, repeat, done.

Gruesome Bible Stories

Scripture passage that caught my attention today: Mark 6:25-29 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Observation: This is a gruesome story and a great injustice. But, there are other gruesome stories in the Bible (and Apocrypha) that are portrayed favorably.

Yesterday I read and article that included a painting of a scene from the book of Judith (Judith is a book in a part of some Bibles called the Apocrypha. Catholics recognize the books in the Apocrypha as scripture. Protestant Christians do not elevate the Apocrypha books to that level, yet still acknowledge them as useful for teaching.) Anyhow, in the scene a woman named Judith seduces the king of enemy people to the point where he gets himself dead drunk, at which point she then cuts off his head.


At any rate, since he was an enemy king, she is heralded—and probably appropriately so—as a great hero.

In today’s lessons John is beheaded. In his case it’s a great injustice. Yet today’s readings also included Numbers 23 where enemy armies and people are wiped out by the people of Israel. There it’s considered an act of God.

Frankly, I don’t like gruesome stories, whether they are just or not. One would think they all could be avoided with a verse or two of Kum-by-ya.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Prayer: Lord, we live in what is sometimes a cruel world and it’s especially hard to reconcile such cruelty in light of our view of you as a loving God. But then I consider the fact that even your son endured such cruelty. So I guess it’s not a case of the wicked shall suffer and the righteous shall not. Rather, it’s an assurance that even in a complicated world, there’s no situation too painful for our Lord’s enduring presence. Thank you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture Readings today included: Numbers 21-23 and Mark 6-7)

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Scripture Passage that caught my attention today: Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Observation: Jesus was asleep. Jesus was able to sleep. Jesus was not afraid.

This passage bugs me, and I’ll tell you why…it bugs me that Jesus was able to sleep even though a storm was raging all around him. I want to be like that! Instead I toss and turn and basically sleep not…or at least not very well.

One of the most basic of human needs is rest in the form of sleep. Without it…or without enough of it, we are not able to function at our best…at least not for very long.

Still, the ability to sleep well through times of stress apparently requires a gift of faith somewhat greater than my own. I wish that were not the case. I wish that either sleeping through times of stress did not require faith or, far better, that I had so much faith that sleeping was a breeze.

Instead, whenever I do find myself stressed I then find myself scurrying to awaken Jesus, longing to hear him—even if he was annoyed—proclaiming the divine imperative, “Peace! Be Still!”

That would be nice…really nice. I think I could sleep better then. You too?

Prayer: Lord, bring peace into our troubled world. Help us see it. Help us make for it. And then help those of us who might be inclined to toss and turn to simply toss and turn everything over to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Numbers 18-19, Psalm 29, and Mark 4)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Leading with real risk and real vulnerability

Scripture passage that caught my attention today: Numbers 14:10-19 But the whole congregation threatened to stone them.
Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” But Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for in your might you brought up this people from among them, 14 and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people; for you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go in front of them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if you kill this people all at one time, then the nations who have heard about you will say, 16 ‘It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land he swore to give them that he has slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 And now, therefore, let the power of the LORD be great in the way that you promised when you spoke, saying,
18 ‘The LORD is slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love,
forgiving iniquity and transgression,
but by no means clearing the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
to the third and the fourth generation.’
19 Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.”

Observation: The above passage is just a glimpse of the story. Over and over again the people complain in one way or another against Moses. Over and over again the Lord gets angry and threatens to more or less remove them from the face of the earth or worse, as in this case, disinherit them! Indeed the whole promise to Abraham was that his descendants would receive a Godly inheritance. Now even this foundational promise was in jeopardy. Yet over and over again Moses pleaded for the people, though they hardly deserved such mercy, and endeavored to mellow the almighty’s wrath by calling God back to those original promises and back to the honor due to God’s name. It occurs to me that, contrary to popular opinion, the greatness of Moses was never really so much about him leading the people out of Egypt or even his giving the people the 10 commandments. Rather, Moses’ true greatness was the mercy he showed toward and on behalf of the people who appeared to have very little if any mercy toward him.

Application: Lot’s of people aspire to be great leaders. Yet the more I learn about leadership, both in practice and observation (Biblical and otherwise), I’m not sure it’s all it’s cracked up to be. Real leadership is often (and maybe always) closely related to real risk and real vulnerability. At some point or points it’s usually messy, complicated, and frustrating. It’s not all bad. If it were, no one would ever want to do it. But let’s not pretend it’s all peaches and cream either.

A big lesson from Moses is that leadership is not about aspiration but, rather, of call. It’s a stirring deep within one’s heart and at times against one’s common sense that sees beyond the perfunctory duties to the reason behind it all. Authentic leadership is less about self-preservation and more about care for the people who together form community—however wonderful or dysfunctional or both at the same time. What’s particularly striking about Moses’ leadership is that, for that reason, he was even willing to take the significant risk of calling God to account. Yikes! Talk about exposing one’s vulnerability! Yet he did it for the sake of the people who were even more vulnerable, and for the sake of a most holy promise that he held dear. Such are the some of the lessons from Moses that still have relevance today.

Prayer: Lord, enable all of us who feel called to lead to do so without hiding from risk or vulnerability. In the name of your Son who showed us the way. Amen.

(Readings today included: Numbers 14-16 and Mark 3)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When one can do no right

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Numbers 12:1-9 While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had indeed married a Cushite woman); 2 and they said, “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth. 4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out. 5 Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words:
When there are prophets among you,
I the LORD make myself known to them in visions;
I speak to them in dreams.
7 Not so with my servant Moses;
he is entrusted with all my house.
8 With him I speak face to face—
clearly, not in riddles;
and he beholds the form of the LORD.
Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed.

Observation: We don’t know much of anything about this woman other than that she was a ‘Cushite’ and that, generally speaking, apparently she was frowned upon because of her race (since that’s the only way in which she was identified) and her relationship (as a wife) to Moses.

Application: Sometimes people attract attention through no fault of their own simply by being who they are. Perhaps it’s unavoidable.

On this Ash Wednesday we have opportunity to consider this aspect of our mortality, the fact that in some ways we can never measure up and yet, at the same time, by the Grace of God, consider that we who do not 'measure up' are, through Christ 'lifted up.'

My suspicion is that this ‘Cushite’ woman—as she is called—could do no right in Miriam and Aaron’s eyes. The Scriptures don’t detail whether or not she was talented or pretty or a joy to be around. She could have been all of those things and more or none of those things and less. Either way, Miriam and Aaron considered her relationship with Moses as inappropriate, plain and simple. Cushites should stay with Cushites. Israelites like Moses should stay with Israelites and never the two shall meet…at least in the eyes of Moses’ siblings.

What’s interesting in this case of accusation is that the facts are never disputed. “Indeed” Moses had “married a Cushite woman.” Yet the apparently the hearts of the accusers are the crux of the issue, to the point that a few verses later Aaron and Miriam are called to account by none other than the creator of the universe and found wanting.

I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this other than to say that apparently, even in Old Testament times when laws and procedures were to be meticulously followed, occasionally even the Lord cut people some slack.

I’m happy for that “Cushite” woman and, should heaven end up being a place where people are recognizable, I sincerely hope to meet her one day.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the many unnamed servants mentioned in our Scriptures and the ways in which to bore witness to the heart of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture Readings for today included: Numbers 11-12, Psalm 27, and Mark 1)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Camping and Setting Out

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Numbers 9:17 Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the Israelites would camp.

Observation: The Israelites needed to be in tune with the Lord, able to respond to the sign to move and the sign to rest. The Israelites were vagabonds of a sort—they wandered to and fro, though according to the direction of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Camping was a way of life. They would set out and then they would pause for unpredictable periods of time.

Application: Granted, these days the signs of when to move and when to stay in life do not appear, at first glance, to be as dramatic as in days of old. And by and large we are no longer a ‘camping’ people; very few people wander the earth in some sort of quasi Israelite fashion. But I also wonder how many of us take the time to intentionally strive to be in tune with the Lord. Listening is work… and it takes time…it requires a focus beyond self and the pressing concerns of the moment.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, a season when Christians historically focus more intentionally on the ways of God which, ultimately, was/is the way of the cross. Many ‘voices’ will endeavor to pull us from that journey…will try to convince us that it’s time to move on. But the journey to the cross follows different rhythm. It does shift between moving and pausing, but in a way that is out of sync with the more worldly answers to should I stay or should I go.

Sometimes, to be honest, it’s hard to distinguish between the two. That’s usually a sign that more listening is required…more trust in God’s ability to be God and more willingness on our part to be at peace with what we do not yet know.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the beginning of this most meaningful season. Allow us to enter it ever more fully. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Numbers 8-9 and Acts 28)

Monday, February 20, 2012


Scripture passage that caught my attention today: Acts 27:13-15 When a moderate south wind began to blow, they thought they could achieve their purpose; so they weighed anchor and began to sail past Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a violent wind, called the northeaster, rushed down from Crete. 15 Since the ship was caught and could not be turned head-on into the wind, we gave way to it and were driven.

They were caught in a rather helpless situation. Must have been quite a feeling of panic.

Application: Storms. They come. With modern-day forcasting they usually don’t catch us off-guard as much as they used to, but still they come. I can almost imagine the eerie panic of the sailors.

This past fall I traveled within a few hours of where the Edmund Fitzgerald ship (popularized by Gordon Lightfoot’s song of the same name) went down. It was supposed to be the captain’s last voyage. Indeed it was.

In life there are storms that catch us off-guard and ill-prepared as well. An untimely death, divorce, loss of employment, injury and the like can seemingly come out of nowhere. In such times we may attempt to throw down an anchor and find that it just doesn’t take hold. What then?

As the story of Acts 27 plays out, the people—at Paul’s admonition—stayed together. Ironically, even the prisoners’ lives were saved because one of the leaders wanted to save Paul who was himself a prisoner at the time. The account offers one of those feel-good happy endings, save perhaps for the owner of the ship who took an economic hit when his vessel was destroyed by the pounding waves.

Still, whether by outright swimming to shore or by paddling along while riding a remnant of the ship, all made it out of this particular storm alive.

Prayer: Lord, not everybody’s story has such a happy ending. Nevertheless, whenever we face storms in life, help us to weather them by placing our trust in you and drawing strength from those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Numbers 7, Psalm 23, and Acts 27)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spirit of the Law

Scripture verse that caught my attention today: Numbers 1:25 those enrolled of the tribe of Gad were forty-five thousand six hundred fifty.

Observation: Chapters 1 and 2 of Numbers outline the results of a census of the Israelites (not including the Levites). The total number of the clans/tribes is 603,550. However, I noticed the number of all but one of the tribes seems to round up or down to the nearest 100. The exception, found in the verse above, ends in 50. There are no smaller numbers, no 47s or 53s or 13s and the like. So this census, though Biblical and commanded by God, would appear to be an estimation more than an exact number; it seems to offer a more of general impression rather than a hard and fast accounting.

The letter and the spirit of the law are often held in tension. By “law” I could be referring to prescribed ways of doing things in the religious sector or I could be talking of secular laws or simply established policies and/or procedures related to any organization. Most ‘laws’ or policies are designed to prevent some type of abuse. Yet because laws and policies are often flawed in some way from the gitgo (wording doesn’t take certain situations into account and the like or is simply open for various interpretations), there are the ironic situations where well-intentioned laws can actually cause or allow for more abuse than they prevent.

In the Bible sometimes people get bent out of shape when the ‘laws’ are not followed precisely. This usually leads to tension and accusation. But there are other times, and this census would appear to be a case-in-point, where the spirit of the law holds seems to hold sway. A census was commanded, and they indeed counted people, but when they got the number narrowed down pretty close, it would seem they saw it appropriate to do a little rounding.

Unless, of course, the number of people in each tribe really did end on an even hundred or, in one case, fifty. I guess we’ll never know.

Prayer: Lord, in the new Testament we are told that setting one’s mind on the spirit brings life and peace. Enable us to do so. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Numbers 1-2 and Acts 24)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lessons from baldness

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Leviticus 13:40 If anyone loses the hair from his head, he is bald but he is clean.

Observation: Just the verse I needed today.

Application: Let’s be honest, some parts of the Bible are a tough read. Most of chapter 13 of Leviticus deals with how Moses and/or the other priests were supposed to deal with various skin ailments, pronouncing some clean and others unclean and prescribing various treatments or times in seclusion. I’ve read it before and today could only bring myself to skim through it—partially because, for unrelated reasons, I’m totally exhausted. So the humor of this verse (at least from the perspective of one bald but still clean person) was a welcome nugget of diversion.

Sometimes we need such things. Yesterday I listened to segment by the former president of USC who described what he calls “Free Thinking.” For him this is like brainstorming on steroids, considering things that are completely outlandish and far, far, far, outside the box simply because, in his experience, the exercise frees the mind in such a way that some good can come out of it. He told the story, from his time as an Engineering graduate assistant at Purdue, when he was struggling to come up with a new way of controlling dishwashers. He actually laid on the floor and considered how a lady-bug might control a dishwasher and went on to consider how a host of other critters might do so as well. In the end such free thinking ultimately enabled him to come up with an idea that led to a patent that was used on something like 500 different kitchen appliances.

I’m not sure if recognizing my cleanliness as a bald man will ever lead me to such insights, but on this day when I’m feeling abnormally spent, this little diversion at least brought me to a smile.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for your gracious provision always. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(lessons today were: Leviticus 13-14 and Acts 17)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lessons of Community

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Leviticus 10:19-20 And Aaron spoke to Moses, “See, today they offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD; and yet such things as these have befallen me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been agreeable to the LORD?” 20 And when Moses heard that, he agreed.

Observation: Aaron’s sons had been “consumed” by the Lord earlier for presumably not doing something according to the proper procedure. So Moses kind of went on a righteousness rampage, insisting that everyone do everything exactly as he said. By the time we get to the verses above, Aaron has had enough of it and speaks his own mind. At that point Moses had no choice but to agree. From then on he lightened up.

Application: I was listening to a leadership journal this morning during my drive. It was the story of Carly Fiorina’s outster from Hewlett Packard several years ago. One of the unfortunate situations regarding her experience revolved around a couple people (in her case board members) who felt they knew what was right for the company over and above the rest of the board. When their proposal(s) were not embraced by the rest of the board, they essentially went around the board to air their thoughts on the front page of a national publication. The process led to a lot of unfortunate and unnecessary fall-out.

To me it’s a vivid reminder that it’s easy for personal pride and self-righteousness to blind us from seeing the value and wisdom of the community. In the process, we can easily unwittingly inflict deep wounds on the community, some of which may be difficult or even impossible from which to recover.

I’m struck by Aaron’s actions in the story above. He went along with Moses’ unilateral pronouncements for a while. But finally Aaron realized that Moses was just taking himself too seriously. So Aaron spoke from his aching heart in a way that Moses could finally understand…and, thank God, Moses agreed. From that point on they were a team again.

Prayer: Lord, help all of us to understand that we are not islands unto ourselves and that none of us needs to bear responsibility for the entire community. Keep our personal pride in check that we might be servants and partners rather than lords and rulers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Leviticus 10-12 and Acts 16)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Walking the fine line between trust and Accountability: Finding what's Bearable

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Acts 15:19 Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God,

Observation: The pressing question of the community of faith was whether or not the Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. After hearing the testimony of all that God was doing through the Gentiles and taking into account some ancient words of Scripture that seemed to allow for Gentile conversion, James decided that the community of faith should lighten up and more or less just be thankful for Gentile conversions rather than trying to “trouble” them by placing more demands on them.

There is a fine line, and often tension, between trust and accountability. The tension usually revolves around differing views on the word “should,” as in, what “should” be done. It’s a dilemma that just about every community of faith wrestles with at some point.

One question that comes to mind is this: At what point do standards of accountability become “trouble?” In other words, at what point do well-intentioned efforts to assure a certain level of consistency or performance become a source of “trouble” that upsets individuals and/or groups to the point that the whole effort actually becomes counter-productive and, possibly, out of line with the faith (or mission) we endeavor to proclaim and live?

Peter, in verses 8-11 of this chapter, offered the following viewpoint which no doubt influenced James pronouncement: “And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9 and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10 Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Based on Peter’s pronouncement, the answer to my question may revolve around the word “bearable.” When well-intentioned efforts to assure accountability become “unbearable” in some way (creating undue stress, diverting attention from the mission, etc.), that may be a sign that the efforts of accountability may need to be re-examined.

This is certainly true at times in the church and non-profit sector, but it is also true in government, education, and even business. It’s hard to come up with ‘reforms’ that actually reform in a positive way. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try. But it is to say that we should know from the onset that what we think is right, in the greater scheme of things, could still be wrong. Let’s pay attention to what people (ourselves included) are actually able to bear.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for people of good wisdom like Peter an James and Paul and Barnabas and all the rest of your people from then and now that are open to your insights. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Leviticus 7-9 and Acts 15)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Verse I'd Just as Soon Forget

Scripture Verse that caught my attention today: Acts 14:22 There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Observation: Paul and Barnabas understood well the cost of discipleship.

Application: This is one of those verses that I’d just as soon forget. I don’t like the sound of it! And yet, it is strangely comforting…sometimes…like when we are feeling a little persecuted in some way.

I’ve got a few things on my mind that, to my dismay, are keeping me from sleeping at a time when I would really like to be sleeping. “Persecution” is way too strong of a word to describe it. “Life” is more accurate. It has its ups and its downs. Worries and concerns can grab our attention and, sometimes, hold sway.

No matter. It’s apparently part of the process of entering the kingdom of God.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the reminder that our walk with you is not always easy and yet, in its own way, it is deeply rewarding…even if only we are reminded that other people of faith have walked a similar or much more difficult path. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Leviticus 4-6 and Acts 14)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lifted up, even in the face of discouragement

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Acts 13:48-52 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. 49 Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Observation: Discouragement didn’t seem to discourage the disciples.

Application: Last night our family watched part of a show called “the Voice.” It’s another one of those “sing for us and we’ll let you know whether we think you’re good enough to possibly be a star” kind of shows.

One of the contestants was an endearing character whose lack of self-confidence may have inhibited his performance. The judges didn’t dislike him, but none of them picked him either. In the pre-performance bio-spotlight, the contestant was emotional, indicating that he’s never really felt very good about himself but that others have encouraged him and so he was beginning to wonder if they were perhaps right and he had something to offer after all. So now he has this mixed message—friends, family or whoever telling him he’s really good and the judges trying to be encouraging in their own way but also saying that they don’t think he’s quite good enough. I'm curious what his future will hold.

I"m also not sure why it is that so many of us (sometimes myself included) try to ascertain our own value as a person based on what others say about us. This is not to say that other people’s opinions don’t have value. After all, other people’s opinions can help us determine what field of study/work might best suit us. Yes, other people’s encouragement or even cold-hard truth can help us find the career for which we might be especially gifted. But our over-all value as a person is not something that others have the right and/or ability to assign.

Paul, Barnabas, and the rest of the joyful disciples have the right idea here. A roadblock in one arena simply opens up another.

How can they have such confidence? Well, ironically, they too have based their value on what someone else has said about them. When Jesus died for them (and rose again) they took that as a sign that of permanent value, the likes of which no little or big skirmish of other earthly folks could ever squash. I guess you could say that they found their voice after listening to THE voice.

Prayer: Lord, regardless of what’s happening around us, help us always to recognize our value through you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Leviticus 1-3 and Acts 13)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Every Smoothie ought to be this good...and most of mine are.

It's a great feeling when you consume something that tastes really good and you also know that it's really healthy. Today's smoothie was a case-in-point. Here's how it went down:

It all started with a knife-full of plain Greek Yogurt (probably between 1/3 and 1/2 cup) placed in the Vita-Mix blender. Next I poured in a little milk (maybe (1/2 or less) and a handful of raw almonds. Since I had a little more time today (it's my day off) I shelled 5 whole walnuts and added them into the mix. From there I went to the plastics stack and grabbed a 32 oz container, headed to the freezer and added the following frozen items:

4 large strawberries
Medium handful of blackberries
4-6 peach slices
small handful of pineapple, papaya, mango mix
Roughly a cup of chopped frozen spinach.

By then the plastic container was probably 4/5ths full. Brought that inside and placed it in the microwave for 30 seconds to partially defrost the mixture and then dumped it into the Vita-Mix.

Next I put 1/2 of a frozen banana in the the plastic container and microwaved that for 15 seconds (again just to partially defrost it) and dumped that into the Vita-Mix.

From there it was just a matter of turning on the Vita-Mix, cranking up the speed, switching to high, and using the tamper to make sure everything was mixed together nice and smooth.

This smoothie totally filled my 24 oz Tervis tumbler and was absolutely awesome. Healthy greens (that you can't even taste), lots of protein in the Greek yogurt and milk, healthy fats in the nuts, and a rich variety of delicious and anti-oxidant-laden fruit that merged beautifully into a thick, rich, and creamy purple smoothie that went down like a nice thick shake.

I realize that some diets might not appreciate (or be able to tolerate) the inclusion of dairy products, but for the vast majority of us, what's not to like? :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lamenting vs Wallowing--and the gift of someone to help us see the difference

Scripture Verses that Caught my attention today: Exodus 33:6 and 15 [God said to Moses] “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” And [Moses] said to [God], “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

Observation: This dialog between God and Moses is fascinating. In similar fashion, this chapter includes a note that God spoke to Moses as to a friend (vs. 11). Clearly that is the case, for certainly Moses didn’t pull any punches with God and often times God responded favorably to Moses’ requests. We also see that God is prone to a little pouting now and then and that Moses helps God snap out of it. Very interesting.

Application: It seems to me that a little pouting now and then is natural, for any of us. There are things that don’t always go right, situations that we wish were different, regrets that periodically haunt us.

To ignore these realities doesn’t allow us to address them, to come to terms with them, to move on from them. Sometimes we simply and honestly need to come clean with how we’re feeling, regardless of how taboo such a feelings might be. We might have feelings ranging from revenge, to lust, to giving up, and/or any number of other thoughts that cross our mind.

It’s okay, healthy, and perhaps even critical to admit such things in a safe environment.

The great irony in this passage is that it is the Lord who is having such thoughts. The Lord has had it up to here with these people and is ready to cut the losses and just send them on their way. But God also has Moses who functions, at times, like a friend. True friends nurture a relational environment where true honesty and candor is possible. They are not afraid to hear the discouraging word. But they are also keen to distinguish from lament and wallowing. Lament is a healthy form of expression that needs no response or “fixing.” In such cases friends just listen.

Wallowing, however, is a different story and true friends will call us to account.

When God begins to wallow, Moses calls God to account. Feelings are one thing; actions (or inactions) are another. And when God is ready to act/wallow in the form of withdrawal, Moses will have none of it.

I wonder, do we all have someone we can turn to or at least a process by which we can lament in a healthy way and yet be called to account should we begin to wallow? If even God needs such an outlet, who of us can presume to need any less?

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the various ways and people and circumstances you provide that help keep us from wallowing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Exodus 33-34, Psalm 16, and Acts 9)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Today's Smoothie

Added a little twist to the smoothie today--was out of raw almonds but had mixed nuts in the shell. Used 4 walnuts, 4 Hazelnuts and 8 almonds.

Other ingredients included:
1/2 cup milk
1/3 (approx) cup plain Greek Yogurt (excellent source of protein, among other things)
5 large frzn strawberries
8-10 frzn blackberries
1/2 cup frzn pineapple, mango, papaya mixture
1/2 frzn. banana
1 cup frzn spinach .

Blended up and enjoyed. Really good.

Today's Workout

Short but solid workout today. Began with my normal warm-up and then proceeded to the following:

Set 1
Dumbbell Lunges (12)
Bench press (25)
short rest and repeat set (only 20 bench presses on 2nd set)

Set 2
Barbell bench squats (15)
1-leg stability ball curls (15/leg)
short rest, repeat

Set 3
Bent-over dumbbell rows (15)
cross-body mountain climbers (50)
rest, repeat

Set 4
Ab-wheel roll-outs (10)
rest, repeat

Set 5
Seated Barbell overhead presses (10)
rest, repeat.


The Softer Side of Moses...and God

Scripture Passage that Caught my attention today: Exodus 32:7-14 The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
Ex. 32:11 But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Observation: Verses 7 and 11 are polar opposites. God says the people are Moses’ people and that Moses brought them out of Egypt. Moses says that the people are God’s people who God brought out of Egypt. And then using a little “what will the neighbor’s say?” logic, Moses convinces the Lord to change his mind.

Application: I love this passage! Had Moses not spoken up, the promises found in 50 chapters of Genesis and the previous 31 chapters of Exodus might well have been for naught.

It occurs to me that there is tremendous virtue in speaking up for and on behalf of the downtrodden of every tribe and race and creed, even if, like Moses, we might be personally upset with and/or deeply disappointed in them.

It is noteworthy that Moses’ compassion for and identification with the people of Israel enabled him to summon up the courage not only to plead with the Almighty on behalf of the people, but also to request (see verse 32) that his own name be blotted out of the book if God would not relent. Moses may be known as the law-giver, but he clearly had a softer side as well. Such sacrificial compassion I find far more compelling than much of the self-righteous rhetoric (often from purportedly Christian enterprises) that is so prevalent today.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for creating people in such a way that we can even have deep and abiding discussions with you, so much so that sometimes even you are moved with compassion to change your mind. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Exodus 30-32 and Acts 8)