Our culture places a high value on winning. Picture the the New England Patriots after collecting another Super Bowl. Think of the North Carolina Tarheels winning their sixth college basketball championship last week. They are dynasties, storied programs, winning teams.
Americans are obsessed with being number one, on top, basking in the glory of victory. This preoccupation goes far beyond sports.
We are told that there are winners and losers. And all of life is about being a winner. Be wealthy. Be successful. Be the best at all costs. Make the most money. Be the biggest, fastest, and strongest. Have the best house with the perfect family.
In a society of winners, Jesus stands out for his propensity to lose.
What do you say in the face of death? What do you say to grieving family, friends, or neighbors? What has been said to you when you lost a loved one?
There’s the awkward moment in the greeting line at the funeral home. There is a hesitation the first time you see a friend after his mom died. There is the debate over whether you should call, stop by, or send a card. Or what do you say a month later, or on the one year anniversary?
Knowing there are a variety of circumstances and contexts, here are a few things to say at death.
"The road may be foggy, but trust there is a road."
I've been on numerous boards and committees that have engaged in the strategic planning process. I have enjoyed the analysis and assessment, collaboration and discussion. Personally and professionally, planning is a good thing.
But I have found one problem:
The best things in my life have been unplanned.
The woman I married.
The city I reside in.
The job I have.
The house I live in.
I got at app called Moment that tracks how much time you’re on the phone and how many times you check it in a day. Let’s just say, “Convicting.”
I was at my daughter’s gymnastics class. There’s an upper balcony with bleachers for parents to watch their kids. Forty parents and all of them glued to screens.
Ten years ago, before the iPad and iPhone were mainstream, the average person had an attention span of about 12 seconds. Now it’s 8 seconds. Shorter than the 9 second attention span of a goldfish. See Adam Alter’s book Irresistible and his recent interview on NPR.
So I’m going on a tech diet. I’m not quitting, just putting my electronic devices in their proper place. Why?
Did you give something up for Lent? Why? Why not?
I find it amusing when people give up things that are entirely trivial. Chocolate. Soda. Snacks. Coffee . . . Now, wait. Caffeine might be more than trivial.
You don't have to give up anything for Lent. There's no biblical command to fast. But if you do, make sure it's significant, and make sure it's for good reason. Below are four reasons to fast.
Is it worth all the work?
How much difference does it make?
He's discouraged as his church continues to decline.
She's frustrated by the people she helped; they returned her generosity with resentment.
He poured his heart out for a friend in need and it seemed to make no difference.
What do you do when you want to quit?
I don't love Valentine's Day. Sorry. We don't go out to eat on February 14th. We don't do roses, chocolate, or gifts.
I bought my wife flowers last week. A spring bouquet with tulips, daffodils, and a sunflower. Why? Because she likes spring and sunflowers.
And because I said something stupid.
Love is the long, perilous work of giving your life to someone else. It's more than flowers on one day. It's the act of selflessness every day. It is not proven in the diamonds and gifts. It's proven in the times we utter regrettable words. The times we mess up, struggle to be happy, and want to scream.
I've learned something from mentors married for decades:
It's easy to buy chocolate and flowers. Try loving someone for 60 years.
The following is what I believe about love. It's an excerpt from my book, Loved & Sent. Happy Valentine's Day :)
The older I get, the more I’m tempted. Tempted to be:
I have to admit, the more I mature, the harder it is for me to worship. To trust. To pray.
Today I have more control over my life than I’ve ever had. I have more financial security. More independence. More freedom to make my own decisions and choices. But with more control comes more temptation. The temptation of power and pride. The temptation that I can do it on my own. The temptation that I don’t really need God.
The older I get, I sense God calling me to be younger.
Here's my audacious goal: By the end of this post, you will be younger.
They are Syrians.
They are Muslims.
They are refugees.
They were at our 5:00PM Christmas Eve services last month.
Recently settled in St. Louis, a family of Syrian refugees was invited to our church. During communion, a dear woman in our congregation brought forward one of the children. Tears were streaming down her face. "Will you give him a blessing?"
The boy was six or seven. His bright eyes were intent upon me. I wasn't sure what to say. I wasn't sure if he could understand me. I said, "Jesus came for you, and he loves you."
As I walked back toward the altar, something struck me. Of the hundreds of people in the room, this boy had the most in common with the holy family. Jesus and his parents were wanderers in Bethlehem and refugees in Egypt.
I stand with this boy and his family. Here's why:
Have I been playing it safe?
Am I too comfortable?
Have I taken appropriate risk?
At the beginning of a new year, I wonder if I'm too risk averse. Faith has NEVER been a safe proposition. By its very nature, faith involves uncertainty. And uncertainty requires risk.
If there's nothing to risk, it's not faith.