Friday, April 27, 2012

Big World, Small World

Are you ever blown away by how big the world is? Ever been in awe of how many people are on it, and how we know so little about them? Sometimes it catches me by surprise when I'm in Target and I hear bits and pieces of strangers' conversations. I'm hearing bits and pieces of a life that outside of the Target is whole, and yet wholly unknown to me. The faces that I'll never see, the voices I'll never hear, and the thoughts that will never be expressed to me number in the billions. In this way, I feel so incredibly...small.

I have a friend who lives in Guangzhou (Southern China) and we were playing Words With Friends online, as we often do, and we use the chat function in there to talk smack and to just generally catch up. So, we recently had this conversation in chat:

Me: I've decided I really like Birdy. I mean, she has mad skills. (yes I said "mad skills"...I was born in the 80s)
Cons: I do too!!! Now listening to her album in repeat

I was blown away by that. Because in that moment...I was doing the exact same thing! Listening to Birdy on repeat. Loving every song, imagining myself making photo montages to her music (because I'm a nerd).

Big whoop, who cares, so what?

Well, I don't know exactly. I just know that right then I felt really connected. Cons felt close even though she's far away. She felt close, and she's thousands of miles away. Where she's like tomorrow. Isn't that amazing?! We don't even live in the same day, and she felt closer to me than the man who sits in the office across from mine...just because of a song.

This past weekend I engaged in something I have never done before: street evangelism. It was rough and part of it was because the people on the street felt far away even though they were walking right past me. I'm on the street, trying to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with someone who, though within touching distance, is thousands of miles my mind. No shared experience.  I was a failure out there, I'm not ashamed to say. No one had a "come to Jesus" moment on account of me. At least, not that I saw. But I had a moment. I had a revelation: my shared experience has to be more. I'm not saying I have to live their life, but I have to see their life. I have to be like Paul:

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. - 1 Corinthians 9:21-23

Shared experience. He made himself connected.

To be ALL things, to ALL people, just to save SOME. That is an amazing concept. I have to be a lot, to get a little. This is crazy, especially in light of the billions of faces, voices, and thoughts that I don't know about. But you know what...if someone on the other side of tomorrow can happen to be listening to the exact same music as me in the exact same moment...I know there is some way for me to connect. I just have to pray for it, I just have to reach for it, I just have to be open to it.

I want to connect.


For all those who are not hip to Birdy, check her out, she does covers. Which is cool, because I love covers so much I wrote a blog about them not too long ago (click here for Covers blog). Click below for Birdy :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mega Millions

Sally: "If you won the lottery, do you think all that money would change you?"
Bob: "Nah! I'd be just the same, except I wouldn't work anymore, I'd buy a new house, new car, and travel the world. But I'd be the same person." 

For a time, I truly lamented the fact that I didn't win the lottery 3 weeks ago. You know, "the big one". I PRAYED to win that lottery (along with millions of others). I mean, for years I've dreamed of winning the lottery--as that's what happens when you're an accountant. I had fantasized about it so much, that I knew the exact manner in which the the circumstance of my winning would unfold:
  1. Pure Unadulterated Crazy Joy - This is part carnal/part spiritual. There is like a part of me that will be doing the Moonwalk, and another part that will be slain by the Holy Spirit because I will be thanking and praising that hard. If you believe in the cessation of spiritual antics would give you pause. You'd think: "is that tongues?!" And guess would be!
  2.  The Cover-Up - I would be the anonymous winner. NO ONE will know that I am rich. No one (muah ha ha). This is not so I can hoard money, but rather so that I can still live a normal life...and hoard money.

  3. The Payoffs - Goodbye student loans! Goodbye debts of any and all family members! They won't even know what happened (because of #2), just suddenly stuff will be paid! I don't need thanks, just the knowledge that folks are all right. Tithes? Offering? The hook-up of my favorite charities? Of COURSE.

  4. The Business - After the payoffs, I would create an irrevocable trust for like half of the money, for posterity. Investments (some risky, some stable, a truly diverse portfolio which produces amazing interest) for half of the remaining half to support my needs. And the final piece of the remaining half will be spent on...

  5. The Prodigal Life - Until recently, I thought "prodigal" meant someone who ran away (i.e. The Prodigal Son). I thought "prodigal" was related to how he left, but it's really about how he lived while he was gone. The Prodigal Life is financed by the amount of money that I have set aside for discretionary spending...AKA "riotous living." This includes houses, cars, private jets (if Mega Millions can afford me a small jet), exotic trips, my entourage...and the like.
It's a dream...probably with a lot of holes in it related to taxation and applicable laws, but dreams of this nature don't have to be rational. So don't hate. In any case, three weeks ago, when I was playing to win the $500+ million jackpot a certain thought gave me pause:

Rich people have a hard time depending on maybe I don't want to be rich. 

I am in no way trying to come off at some righteous goody two-shoes. But I was reacting to what I knew to be my five-step plan. It had some issues. The issue is that it was a plan. A plan for my life, and the life of others without any true consultation of God. In the plan, I give to charity and the church, but I also plan to 1) stockpile a certain amount; 2) lie by omission to every single person I meet forever; and 3) live a life of total chill/ease while there is suffering in the world. It all made me think of scripture:
 “Two things I ask of you, LORD;
   do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
   give me neither poverty nor riches,
   but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
   and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
   and so dishonor the name of my God. 
- Proverbs 30:7-9

I have a loose belief...that money could possibly make everything better. I'm not a "paper chaser" or someone who is obsessed with the market and IRAs/401ks/etc. However, sometimes I think money can fix a situation, so...I pray for more money. Yet, the Proverb writer--the writer of wisdom--is asking for a set amount of money. He's asking for "enough". And not enough for extravagant vacays and beautiful clothes, and an array of sparkly clutches. But enough to eat. In each case, having too much or too little affects the level of faith he has in God.
  • If he has too much: he doesn't believe he needs Him anymore. 
  • If he has too little: he doesn't believe he can afford to wait on Him anymore. 

Both of the above are spiritual issues that are linked to a carnal situation: the possession of money. Which is why "the love of money" is such a problem. If I didn't love money, those wouldn't be problems. When you don't love money, having lots of it is cool, but having none is okay too. It in now way affects how you treat God. But the Proverb writer knows himself so well in this situation that it affects his prayer life. He's praying to his faith level: Lord, this is what I need to be able to serve you...right now. And this is what I need you to keep away from me, so I can serve you right now.  Some people can't handle fortune. Some people can. Based on the list above...maybe I'm in the former category. Maybe I love the thought of money, and that could lead to the "love of money."

Whoever loves money never has money enough; 
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. 
This too is meaningless. 
- Ecclesiastes 5:10

I like to link things together. If in the Proverb, the lack of "enough" leads to criminal activity which dishonors God, and if in Ecclesiastes, the lover of money never has "enough"...then the lover of money will probably always dishonor God.

But it goes beyond money. It goes to our obsessions, and to our inability to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). If it's not money that's affecting your ability to serve God...what is it? What is your hang-up? And how do you pray for God to remove it from your grasp?

Just thoughts...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Race Results!

So today I ran in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. If you read Run Without Stopping you know there was a time when I didn't think I could do it. But...I made it! The sweep truck didn't get me. And believe me they were legitimate sweep trucks! Like the ones that clean the street. They symbolically "sweep you away." If they reach you, you are "scrubbed" out of the race. Your time is up! Shame is your portion. Luckily, it was not my portion. And though my feet hurt, in fact, one toenail may be at the end of days... But despite that, I'm smiling (cheese!), because I finished. I accomplished what 3 1/2 months ago was impossible: I ran 10 miles without stopping. Albeit, very very slowly. Official time: 1:59:43.

What was really cool about the race was that it was kind of like a parade. There was music and singing. There were people playing the drums. There was a juggler (a running juggler!). People were clapping and cheering you on, holding up signs that said "You're Almost There" and "Don't Stop Now!" I even saw one that said "This is the Saddest Parade Ever..." which was funny! And everyone seemed so happy to see you complete the race. They were just elated to see you arrive at the finish line. These people who don't know me. They don't know who I am, or what I've done in my life. They just cheer because that's what you do at the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Around this time, approximately 2000 years ago (some would say April 9th 32AD), there was another "parade" type event. We celebrated it today in church and we call it Palm Sunday. I know what you're thinking: "Palm Sunday ain't no parade! (frownie emoticon)" But by definition a parade is merely:

A procession of people, usually organized along a street, often in costume, and often accompanied by marching bands, floats or sometimes large balloons. Parades are held for a wide range of reasons, but are usually celebrations of some kind.

People - scripture says that on this day there were "...crowds going ahead of Him [Jesus], and those who followed..." - Matthew 21:9

Along a Street
- scripture says that "Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road." Matthew 21:8. This road was otherwise being used as a "road" prior to Jesus reaching the city, but when he came it was suddenly:

Costume/Marching Band/Floats/Large Balloons
- AKA "A Big Deal!" Jesus, on this day, was the big deal. He was someone to be excited about, like a marching band, or the way kids react to a huge Snoopy at the Macy's Parade. And he came in style. Riding on top of a donkey and its colt. Which was an entrance of biblical proportions (Zechariah 9:9). But why is Jesus a big deal on this day?

"The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead... On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him..." John 12:9, 12-13

This is how my parade today, and Jesus' parade then are similar: the people are only there for the spectacle. They are only there for the spectacle! Palm Sunday has always rubbed me the wrong way (from a historic viewpoint), because the people are just pouring out all this love on Jesus: singing, cheering, crying HOSANNA! laying their coats and palm branches in the road...treating Jesus like the king they have no idea that He really is! And then, BOOM!, one week later, they are the same crowd screaming "Crucify Him!" I've always had a hard time reconciling that. How do you go from "Hosanna" to "Crucify Him"?

I wonder if they were surprised at their own reaction. I wonder if they looked at themselves and said: "we were just celebrating this dude, and now we're consenting to His death...crazy!" But, you know what? I get it now. They weren't believers...they were fans. They weren't followers...they were groupies. Jesus was popular for His miracles, and He'd just performed a huge one with Lazarus. And when you know and appreciate Jesus only for what He does, instead of for who He is, you can go from celebrator to hater. Fast. That's why the personal relationship with Christ is key.

You have to know Him for yourself. You have to know Him for who He is.  Your Way. Your Truth. Your Life. Nothing less. Anything less, and we might be fans...

John 14:6