Whole Life Challenge: Day Five

Pizza sits nearby.
Salad fills up my belly.
I sip cool water.

Tonight we bought a pizza for a meeting with some folks from the church. We planned and shared a salad before going to the meeting. I was okay with my big mug of water.

There is something to be said for the five P’s: “Prior planning prevents poor performance.” If we are all in a battle for our wellbeing in both body and soul, then we should plan to be prepared.

As a minister, I don’t stand up Sunday morning without preparing to preach. As a Christian, I don’t walk through life without praying and studying the scriptures. As a person, if I wish to be healthy, then I need to prepare to be healthy in my actions.

Let us Ramble: Waiting for S’mores

It had been a very busy Wednesday. The day had been long. I slumped into my camping chair and watched as a fire began to spread in my family’s fire ring.

I was tired. The children have been in the office with me this week and had joined me for Senior Lunch. My youngest daughter had an audience for her antics. The senior citizens were amused. I was very tired.

I was tired. The children had been very well behaved on Tuesday morning in the church office. By Tuesday night they were beginning to snipe at each other. On Wednesday morning the bickering began shortly after we arrived. By Wednesday afternoon… I was very tired.

I was tired. A storm knocked down a tree in the field last week. I had been dragging the logs out of the field with an old “Radio Flyer” style wagon without a comfortable pull-handle nor any form of shock-absorbers. One of our Buildings and Grounds folks was able to set the church tractor up with a trailer to help me do the job without walking a thousand miles with the wagon. Even with the tractor’s help there was still a lot of wood and a lot of work. The last big and irregularly shaped piece that I grabbed to load into the trailer slipped through my fingers and tore a gash in my wrist as I scrambled to catch it before it could strike my foot. That ornery and unwieldy piece of wood was the first piece in the fire ring. I was very tired.

I was tired. It would be at least half an hour until my kids returned home from their swim lessons at the YMCA. I was very tired, but the lemon-flavored seltzer water was pretty refreshing. The smoke rose and the very human and fairly spiteful bit of myself smiled as the wood which hurt my wrist began to burn away into nothingness.

The ornery piece of firewood burning…

I was tired, but thought back to the fact that my kids’ biggest problem that morning had been who would have the first turn being the teacher as the played school. I was tired, but thought back to the fact that the senior citizens who we sat with at lunch seemed to reconnect to a bit of their past and smile as they saw me tormented by my child. I was tired, but thought back to the fact that Paul had helped me to use the trailer so that I wouldn’t collapse of exhaustion. I was tired, but that bedraggled piece of wood was getting what it deserved and would provide enough heat to make my kids s’mores after they returned from swim lessons.

I was tired, but I decided to be grateful as I stared into the flames. I knew that tomorrow would have enough problems, but for that one moment I could decide to be content with the blessings of a cool glass of seltzer water, a warm fire, and the promise of time together alone with my wife sitting by the fire after the kids went to bed.

Let us Ramble: Free Will

What choices are you making today?

I grew up into my own faith during an age of culture wars within the church. Some churches were beginning to adopt more charismatic contemporary worship and other churches were holding to the music of ages past. Some churches fought over drumsets and other churches restored magnificent pipe organs.

I have survived those culture wars. I now live with the view that Psalm 100:1 is ultimately what matters. Is it a joyful noise to the Lord? Well, good enough! Do I prefer certain music? Of course, but I am not the only person in worship on any given Sunday.

I am living in the midst of an ongoing cultural clash between different schools of Biblical interpretation. This is exemplified by the current struggles over LGBTQIA theology, but also rises up to the challenge on discussions of spiritual gifts, spiritual practices, and even the limits of God’s grace. I am surviving this clash by keeping my eye on my ultimate goal. I run this race with Jesus.

Interestingly, the culture clash that I believe is most important to our current situation became “yesterday’s news” before I even truly entered ministry. I believe this reality is a great tragedy because one part of the challenge we face as a culture requires the presence of a vital piece of theology.

I believe that we absolutely need an orthodoxy and orthopraxy that supports the concept of free will. We have become a culture that is complacent when we face situations that seem beyond our control. We have become a people that allows fate to decide some of the most difficult choices in our lives. To riff on the excellent work of Dylan Thomas, we go gentle into our own goodnights. There is no rage against the dying of our light, our neighbor’s light, or any light. We passively accept fate like people in Thomas’ poem accepted the end of life.

Let me explain what I mean through examples. These examples apply to many people, but certainly not everyone. In many cases they refer to very few people.

People are living within marriages where things are going to shambles. A lot of people live in marriages where things are going awry. I talk with people about marriage more than almost any other subject. People often accept that there is nothing they can do because their partner won’t change. Free will means that we can change their own behavior, but we almost always focus on the behavior of another person as the root of our problems. People give up their ability to change their circumstances and often do not realize what they are doing when they surrender their own choices.

People live life with children that have challenges. They accept they can do nothing about the situation because their children do not do exactly what they want them to do in life. People can be happy to give their children choices but are unwilling to accept that their choices have consequences. By letting go of their own free will they have set themselves up for further aggravation and hopelessness.

People are living in communities that are filled with anger and hatred. Facebook is filled with posts from angry individuals who rage at each other. People assume that nothing can be done, but we each can choose to set an example by our own behavior. We can affect our community through living out lives of grace and compassion, but we allow ourselves to be fated to frustration.

People can be frustrated by the lives we live in the United States. Politicians represent the people and ultimately power rests with the people. King George learned this lesson the hard way. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, ultimately the weight of corruption falls on the people who grant power in the first place. We tend to not accept our responsibility as citizens. One of the highlights of being a part of the Kingdom of Heaven is that we do not have to be in charge. In our secular lives in the United States, the buck ultimately stops with the American people.

We can choose to select our own identity in this world. We can choose how our behavior will affect our future. We can choose who we will become in the future by our actions today. We can make the world great tomorrow through our use of love and grace today. We must only choose to grab the helm of life and turn the ship around.

There are no shoals that we must strike. There are no hurricanes that must lie in our path. There is an ocean of possibility if we but believe that we can trim our own sails, lift our own anchors, and shift our own rudder. We can make the world a better place if we trust in God, accept God’s power to transform our lives, and live into the image of Jesus.