Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Event Mentality


















My son is a senior in high school, and to honor that, the school has held an evening banquet at a reception hall, a school-day afternoon "fry" at the local state park, and in addition will hold a Baccalaureate service, scholarship awards ceremony at the school the morning of graduation, and then finally, the graduation ceremony.

And that's just the beginning; then comes a summer of endless graduation festivities. There will be white tents raised in back yards, relatives who haven't seen the teen in years congregating in living rooms, pig roasts and beer kegs and caterers, etc. etc. I've heard of one couple that is having disagreements over how large their child's graduation party should be. Some schools take their seniors on cruises! It makes me marvel: if the graduation party is a huge deal, just wait until the wedding shower, wedding, honeymoon and baby shower! When does it ever stop?

Here's where I pipe in sounding like a member of the older generation: When I graduated, we had a graduation ceremony at which we were handed our diploma and then moved on. I know a woman who was raised by missionary parents, and when she graduated high school in Aruba, there wasn't even a ceremony. They were simply handed a piece of paper and told they were done. I like that. I like it a lot.

I don't mean to rain on anyone's graduation party. Small gatherings with close family and friends are fine. Maybe all the fuss my son's school makes is just a symptom of where I live: a small community with the average size of the graduating class between 60 and 90 kids. Most of them have journeyed from Kindergarten on up together. It's a tight-knit group. In contrast, my graduating class consisted of 600 students -- students who merged in high school from the two large local middle schools. Many of us just wanted to graduate and get out of Dodge. And since the drinking age was 18 at the time, most of us didn't need to have parties hosted by our parents; the bars did that for us. But I digress. It seems to me that, due to smaller families, better incomes and the self-esteem movement of the last 20 years, the red carpet is rolled out more and more for something that happens every day and isn't quite as unique as we might think.

As my husband says, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to graduate from high school. He also likes to point out that humans have been giving birth since, well, the beginning of creation. Neither is a particularly unique accomplishment, yet we treat it as if it were an anomaly in the way we grandstand over it. I'm not saying the birth of a baby or graduation is not to be celebrated or honored! I am saying that I think the celebration itself has upstaged and over-exaggerated the accomplishment.

I read an obituary today of an 81 year old man. It said he married his wife at the home of her parents. That reminded me of how marriages were often done back in the day: A quick intimate little ceremony with the local pastor or justice of the peace, with only parents and sisters and brothers present, and, after a piece of cake, off they went on their two-day honeymoon, if that. There weren't entire magazines geared to the one-day Bridal event, and people didn't have to hold off buying a house due to their extravagant honeymoon! (This is even funnier when you consider that most couples have lived together before they marry. It's not like their life together is just now being forged.) No, people got married without a lot of brouhaha and that was that. Not anymore. Celebrating anything has grown to hysterical levels (remember the trampling death of the Wal-Mart security guard last November by Black Friday "Christmas" shoppers?).

That's why I did a boycott so-to-speak of Mother's Day this year. I felt silly dedicating an entire day to me, as if what I do every day entitles me to this sort of honor. I'm honored every day simply by the privilege of living with the husband and sons that I have, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Getting all worked up over one day to somehow focus attention on the fact that I'm a mom seems fake and forced. I told my sons to never ever just go out and buy me something because the world tells them it’s Mother's Day. Whether it's Christmas, July 4th, Halloween, Father's Day or New Year's (there's a new one every year), the world is asking "What are you going to do?" and "How will you top last year?" There's an implied expectation -- a mandate really -- that this day shall be duly and extravagantly noted!

I've certainly been guilty of it myself, especially before I became a Christian. My hope then was put in the next experience, not Jesus. I needed the material stuff to celebrate with because otherwise there would be no meaning to the holiday or event. My life without Jesus was such that if I didn't have another event to look forward to, I had nothing to look forward to. Events kept life interesting and distracted me from that empty feeling inside. In addition, without God, holidays and graduations were also meaningless unless they had lots of food, parties, gifts, and drinks. Without God, we pump up milestones -- as common and universal as they may be -- with pomp and circumstance and keep raising the bar to get our fix.

God, for me, has made much of that larger-than-life celebrating seem silly and shallow. I think it's because over-the-top events block people's view of God's role in the event. The larger the pig roast, the bigger the tent, the more professional the band, then the more we see ourselves and not God. We slap ourselves and our kids on the back and take all the credit for whatever it is we're celebrating. God is not in it and therefore receives no credit.

I know now that God gave me my kids. God is what got our family through to this point and He's the one I honor every wedding anniversary and birthday because only because of Him were my husband and I and our marriage and family re-born. I now know that God is the giver of my sons' talents and abilities, not me, and God is the one who will bring about marriage for them if He sees fit. God is the one who will also grace them with children: children that will be entrusted to my sons if God has that in the plan. Yes, we humans have something to do with it. We obey and use the talents and pray. But we do that through our faith in Jesus Christ--not of ourselves--and we do it to glorify God, not ourselves. Our faith in God allows us to mark the days and years in simple thanksgiving, joy and worship without, really, all the fuss.

I guess I'm losing the ability to make a big deal out of a fairly normal life event. Instead, I'm increasingly seeing the Grace of God -- not just in the milestone accomplishment -- but in each day leading up to it and every other day that follows. Because without God, when the tent is taken down and the after-party debris is bagged and put out to the curb, people will once again feel empty. So they'll look at the calendar and begin to plan. And look forward to. And the cycle will continue to repeat. Life without God truly is life lived in an event mentality.

This Sunday, my son and the Class of 2009 and their families will attend a Baccalaureate church service in their honor. And I am exceedingly thankful for the school for supporting this. At this gathering, God will be the focus. God will be honored and praised for each and every student there. If it were up to me, this would be the sole marking of graduation. It's reverent, it's joyful and it celebrates the God without whom there would be no graduates, no graduation, and no accomplishments whatsoever.

"Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together." Psalm 34:3

"But, 'let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'" 2 Corinthians 10:17

"...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:13

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Biblical Authority or Re-Incarnation?


I just received an email from a media company inviting me to participate in a "beta-group development project" for church outreach whose stated values are "missional, incarnational, and transformational." This company states on their website that they have "a covert agenda to fuel a revolution in how the world views and responds to the Church."

In other words, they want to test ideas and strategies that will lure more people into church. And it's obvious they'll try just about anything to do it. After reading over their "Wow factor" marketing plans, which include "viral components" (sounds dangerous) "movement-making strategies," "licensed media tools," "wrap-around (synergistic) withreach strategies," "holistic social-ministry solutions" and "constant additions, updates, and revisions," I’m sorry, but I'm not their guy.

See, I'm just not into the jumping-through-hoops-to-provide-an-experience church trend. I'm glad the "beta-group" folks factored in "constant updates and revisions" because when you try to be all things to all people all of the time, you end up being nothing. And that leads to a constant returning to the blackboard to find out what went wrong. And here's what goes wrong when a church attempts to be the all in all instead of God: they attract and cater to self and a "what's in it for me” attitude. And when you have hundreds of individuals at the feeding trough who only want to be placated and made to feel comfortable within the context of a "spiritual experience," nobody is transformed, nobody grows and nobody learns the Truth. And people wonder why "church" or "religion" isn't working for them. And churches wonder why people leave.

The churches that follow the "paradigm" of trying to please everyone usually say they are doing it out of a desire for unity. But unity in what? When you have hundreds of self-centered attendees obsessed with what kind of spiritual experience the church can offer them individually, you have hundreds of different ideas of what "church" and "faith" should be. How does a pastor say anything when he's trying to appease 100+ attendees who are there simply to see Christ, faith, religion or church re-incarnated into THEIR vision of what Christ, religion and faith should be?

They may be singing Kumbaya, but it will eventually be through clenched teeth.

John MacArthur, in a sermon on his Grace to You website titled "The Christian's Authority: Experience or the Word" explains:

"There is a mentality today that, in the Church, has a great desire for unity and love and I like that if it's Biblical unity and Biblical love; and we want everybody to be one in its brotherhood and happiness and light and let's hold hands and all that and that's good and that's wonderful; but what happens is in this great run for unity and this great run for love nobody's allowed to say anything about truth without being considered somebody who's divisive.

What's so scary about it is that no experience ever really has to stand the test of Scripture. The experience itself is okay. Whatever your experience, that's fine; and then we don't worry about the Bible, we had an experience.

It is mysticism and mysticism is this. Here's a little definition. "It is the comprehension of a spiritual idea by intuition rather than revelation. It is the comprehension of a spiritual idea by intuition or feeling or self-generated thought, rather than receiving a revelation." So that Christianity, instead of being a response to the Word of God, is a whole pile of experiences and then the Word of God is twisted around to make it fit the experiences; and that's nothing but sub-Christian mysticism.

Now listen, if you were gonna build a Biblical theology, write down all true principles about God in the world, would you rather do it by adding up the experiences of a whole lot of people or would you rather do it by seeing what this book says? Imagine trying to build a Biblical theology of all the truth there is about God from the experiences of people. What a mess. What a mishmash. You'd have as many views as you have - what - people. That's why God gave us an authoritative revelation.

Now, there are only two approaches to truth; Biblically, you either take the Bible as the historical objective record or you go with the personal subjectivism and chaos. The historical, objective kind of approach is what is called creedal theology. It is based on creeds - Jesus Is, God Is, the Holy Spirit Is, God said, boom bang. It's all creedal and we would call it a theology of the Word. But the personal subjective one is simply intuitive, "Well, I think and I feel - well, to me God is - well, I think that God is -" and what you've got there is a theology of experience. But the difference is that the theology of experience is authored by man and the theology of the Word is authored by God and who knows best about Himself, God.

When the whole mentality is experience, experience and phenomena and feeling and emotion, then everybody who gets that certainly can't be told they're wrong and so there's no checks on it. There's no way to stop it. It just runs wild. It's like the America today - Christianity in America is literally drowning in a sea of subjectivism and mysticism and experience.

The mystical experience becomes the determiner of truth." (
End of quote by John MacArthur)

The Bible predicts this very thing:

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

The Kjos Ministries Website further explains:

"These days, the word "incarnational" can be heard in most denominations and postmodern churches. It's at the heart of the new, experiential form of Christianity--the transformative movement attempting to unify the world under the banner of the evolving "Church."

It calls for a non-offensive form of the "gospel." No longer is the emphasis on God's Word and personal regeneration through the Holy Spirit. The new emphasis is primarily on collective experience and unifying community service. To avoid conflict, the true Gospel -- including the "offense of the Cross" -- must be banned along with other divisive Scriptures."

The Bible clearly warns against adding to or taking away from Scripture:

"I warn everyone who hears the prophesy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." Revelation 22:18-19

John MacArthur sums it up when he says,

"You see, it is a question of authority. What is the authority in the believer's life? Is it his experience or is it God's Word?"

Which Jesus have we decided to follow and worship and live according to? The incarnate Jesus in the Bible, or the Jesus re-incarnated by humans in order to appease and allow everyone to be their own mini-God, "having a form or godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5).

This all takes me back to the wise words of my Christian mentor who, when I disagreed with Biblical authority (without having read the Bible) she told me that I needed to go and read what the Bible actually said. She admonished me that if I was going to call myself a Christian, I needed to accept Biblical authority. Kicking and screaming, I did just that. And lo and behold, I found that Biblical authority--the Bible's Truth about Jesus and faith and the body of Christ and church -- to be far superior to my naive, self-satisfied, narcissistic and haughty opinion of the Bible that I'd formed based on faulty intuition, hearsay and second-hand information.

Through Biblical authority, NOT an "incarnational, experiential or missional" worship service, I found transformation, a changed heart and life, and a love and compassion for others. Through the authority of the Bible I was finally freed from the oppressive bondage of self and the ball and chain of constantly trying to re-incarnate myself, my life, my faith, my religion and my God. Only through the authority of Scripture did I come to know the Truth that set me free once and for all.


"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32

"For he 'has put everything under his feet.' Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." 1 Corinthians 15:27-28

"All Scripture is God-breathed..." 2 Timothy 3:16

"'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Revelation 1:8

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Revelation 22:13

Friday, May 22, 2009

Separation from God


We need to stop defining sin as the thing that will lead people to burn in flames for eternity. Who can ever think they'll be so bad as to wind up with that as their destiny? Since many people can't accept that they're bad enough to burn in hell forever, they simply decide there is no such thing as sin or hell, like I did for many years.

What, actually, is sin and hell? Sin is what separates us from God. Hell is the separation. Both are a choice we freely make. We are the ones who choose to commit the sin and live in the separation.

You or someone you know might say, (as I did for many years) "I haven't chosen to separate myself from God!" (Meaning, "I'm not a sinner!") Well, let's look at that. Have you ever lied? Have you ever said something about someone that wasn’t true...or exaggerated the truth about someone so as to make it a false account? Have you ever repeated gossip? Have you ever secretly held a grievance against someone, and instead of going to that person and discussing it, you told your sister, co-workers, husband and the whole neighborhood? Have you ever hated someone? Have you ever lusted after someone, even secretly so that nobody ever knew? Have you or are you disobeying your parents or another authority figure out of stubbornness and pride? Have you ever physically or emotionally hurt someone with your words or hands? Have you ever cheated...on a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, tax form, expense account? Have you ever taken advantage of someone's weakness for your own gain? Have you ever knowingly exited the grocery store with an item that the clerk failed to scan? Have you dug up perennials from national parks and other public lands and planted them in your garden? Have you looked at porn on the computer? Have you gotten into an email relationship on the computer behind your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend's back? Have you ever not accepted someone's apology or forgiven them? Have you lied to your spouse or boss about a money matter to protect yourself in a wrong transaction, or to cover up over-spending? Have you ever shopped on EBay or played computer games while at work, on the company's time and dime? Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Do you binge eat or drink? The list goes on and on. This is all sin. It's what separates us from God in this life and from God in the next. Everyone will live in eternity. It's just that some will live with God in heaven and others will live separate from Him, in the place of eternal separation: hell. We choose. It's up to us to decide.

If you've read this far, I hope you're seeing that none of us is worthy on our own to stand before God. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). So do we throw in the towel and give up? No. We look to the Savior, Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty in full for our sin when He died on the Cross for you and for me and for all people. Just as we can freely choose to stay separated from God, we can also choose to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ. It's up to us to decide.

We mustn't let the devil-with-a-pitchfork picture of hell blind us to what sin and separation from God really is. It's easy to create a false sense of security by telling ourselves that hell is reserved for the baddest of the bad, and not for us. But picture, for a moment, hell without flames, and without the little red ghoul and hot coals. Picture it instead as a frustrating, lonely, dysfunctional, non-progressing place where you strive and strive and strive and get nowhere. Maybe that vision of hell looks a bit like life. If that kind of life is possible here and now, why won't it be possible in eternity?

Many people live separated from God. Many of them even attend church, like I did. They're Methodists, Presbyterians, UCC'ers, Dutch Reformed, Catholic and on and on--but they continue to live separated from God because they haven't personally and intentionally allowed Christ into their life. Some people think they're Christian because they live in a "Christian" nation or because it was handed down generation to generation. Others believe that because they worship nature, they worship God. Others are experts in Biblical Studies and teach at Christian seminaries but have only head knowledge: they haven't made the 12 inch connection from their head to their heart (thanks, Pastor Steve, for that illustration). They are still God of their lives. They live without ever having made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to live according to His ways.

In John 3:3-21, Jesus talks to Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. Today Nicodemus, in spite of his own high status of teacher, would be considered a ”seeker,” as he comes to Jesus under cover of night to get some answers. Here is their conversation:

Jesus says, “’I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’
'How can a man be born when he is old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!'
Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.'
'How can this be?' Nicodemus asked.
'You are Israel's teacher,' said Jesus, 'and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.'"

Condemned. That's a pretty heavy word, and it sounds like we're being punished. But if you read the above verses closely, you see that the condemnation is of our own choosing: we are the ones who punish ourselves by choosing to ignore Jesus and the light He brings us into and instead choose the darkness of separation from God. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that it is God's desire that none shall perish. Yet though He calls, many ignore. Though He calls, many reject. Though He calls, many choose to remain separated from Him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Self-Directed or Christ-Directed?



























Campus Crusade for Christ has a great website called DiscoverGod.com. In their own words, "It’s a simple, yet compelling, guide to knowing God. Through powerful content, the Web site helps seekers discover who our Lord really is -- and why it matters." I encourage you or anyone you know to take some time to explore this site. You can get to it here:
http://discovergod.com/home/.One of the things you'll find there is a link to the above graphic. DiscoverGod.com lays out the difference between being self-centered and being Christ-centered. I once used this illustration in a Sunday school class, and learned right along with the kids the ways that I was being self-centered and often times didn't even know it. These illustrations were a huge eye opener for me and an impetus for spiritual maturity. They showed me the truth of John 8:32, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Free from myself, that's what the Truth set me free from, along with freedom from what the world had taught me all my life. I was now free to put Jesus on the throne and learn from Him. And nothing in life has ever made me freer than that!

To read DiscoverGod.com's take on the above diagrams, go to
http://discovergod.com/pdfs/spirit.pdf.


"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29

"So Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.' Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him." John 8:28-30

Friday, May 15, 2009

More Americans Pro-Life than Pro-Choice




Click on chart to see better













The Headline: More Americans "Pro-Life" Than "Pro-Choice" for First Time
Also, fewer think abortion should be legal "under any circumstances"
written by Lydia Saad:

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.

Read the entire article with complete poll results here:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/118399/More-Americans-Pro-Life-Than-Pro-Choice-First-Time.aspx

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Lepers in our Head


Last night Adam Lambert sang U2’s "One" on American Idol. After the song, he told Ryan Seacrest that the lyrics to the song are really beautiful and people should check them out. So I did. And one line jumped out at me from the song, a line that was not in Lambert's version. And the line is this:

"Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head."

That jumped out as a terrific way to put what so many people do: they try to be Jesus to the rejection and unacceptable behavior in their life. Many try to be Jesus in healing or dealing with being ostracized or outcast, either by ourselves or others.

And then we wonder why we still hurt. We wonder why we don't change. We wonder why we still feel empty.

It's because Jesus is replaced by our own human determination, education, emotionalism, winsomeness, independence, pulling ourselves up by our boot straps and pride in thinking we can do it ourselves. Delegating to Jesus is not logical or relevant. Many don't even know who He is and others who claim Him as their Savior haven't gotten around to claiming Him as their Lord.

In the Bible, Jesus heals the lepers. These were physically marked by their highly contagious disease, resulting in being outcasts from society. We are lepers yet today: ostracized in our own minds because we keep making mistakes: can't break the addiction; can't get the relationships right; can't get our anger or spending under control, and on and on. We castigate ourselves as much as anyone; maybe for the same things our family, friends and society give us heck for, and maybe for different things.

The point is, whether it's coming from inside or outside of us, we are lepers to ourselves and others in one way or another. I'm a leper to the person who wrote me off after we had a disagreement. I'm a leper to myself when I repeat a sinful thought or action. I'm a leper to some people simply for being a born again Christian. Conversely, we carry other people as lepers in our hearts and minds. That person who wrote me off was becoming a leper to me: but God, because I'm asking Him to, is gradually replacing animosity towards that person with compassion and forgiveness.

This is what Jesus walks into: the cave that is our life where He reaches out and dares to touch the untouchable in us. Through Jesus entering into our bodies, minds, hearts and souls, the leprosy is finally dealt with. The leprosy of sin can now be handled and eradicated through the power of the Holy Spirit and God's Word. The leprosy of being persecuted, laughed at, mocked and stereotyped because of our faith and righteous living (and the mistakes we continue to make as Christians that garner the label "hypocrite" by the world) can be lived within the joy and confidence of knowing Who we belong to and Who we aim to please. We go forward sure of the promise that God knows those who are His and will never forsake us.

Since we are His, then why do we think for a minute that we can be God? Will the clay try to be the potter? (Isaiah 64:8) We are not the Triune God and never will be, to ourselves or anyone else. Today, will we willingly and humbly fall at the feet of Jesus and allow Him to come in and touch the lepers that reside in our head?

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Luke 13:34-35

"While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' And immediately the leprosy left him." Luke 5:12-13

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer




Every day is a National Day of Prayer.


"...pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Beautiful Thing















"A beautiful thing," in the words of Paula Abdul, is happening on American Idol, and it's the reason I continue to watch this season. I'm talking about the chemistry and readily apparent growing friendship between Adam Lambert and Allison Iraheta.

Last night the two sang a duet of Foghat's "Slow Ride." You can watch it here:

http://www.americanidol.com/videos/season_8/performances/adam_lambert_and_allison_iraheta_slow_ride

Here's what struck me: Allison was on stage first, and as Adam joined her on stage, he looked at her and a big smile crossed his face. The two continued looking and smiling at each other throughout the song, and before it was over, I said as I watched, "they're going to hug each other when it's done." Not only did they hug, but they continued to hug and smile and beam at each other throughout the judges' comments, who recommended that Allison and Adam record together. Adam readily agreed, saying that Allison was like a little sister to him.

So, what's so special about all of this? In this day and age of hyper competitiveness, cursing and cattiness in reality shows and in shows where people are voted off or, on The Food Network, "Chopped," it is a refreshing thing to see two people going after the same prize actually support and bring the best out of one another. It's wonderful to see friendship, love and genuine sincerity between two people who didn't even know each other a frew months ago. It's like they have each other's backs; there's loyalty there! Wow! What a concept in today's world!

I have no doubt that Adam and Allison want the best for each other. They share a chemistry that is larger than each of them individually and encourages and supports, instead of tearing down and stepping over. Adam embodies that old fashioned sense of chivalry and mentoring that one doesn't see nearly enough of these days, and Allison is humble enough to not just allow it, but embrace and find joy in it. For these two, it's about accomplishing great art through collaboration, respect and truly liking one another! And any difficulties or differences of opinion they may have are worked out and each is willing to make a compromise to get to the finish line successfully. I think this is an example of "checking your pride and ego at the door" and "it's not about me." And the true prize for Adam and Allison is their dignity, integrity and a new (and no doubt lasting) friendship.

In this day of partisan politics, talk radio on all sides grousing non-stop over just about everything, violence in the news and in video games, and a general mood of schadenfreude (malicious enjoyment at the misfortunes of others), watching Adam and Allison is, truly, a beautiful thing.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Monday, May 4, 2009

Myanmar One Year Later




















Above Top: "A woman feeds her baby as she rests in her makeshift tent Thursday, April 30, 2009, in Twantay, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Yangon, Myanmar. Many in Myanmar one year later are still struggling with the effects of Cyclone Nargis." (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

Above Bottom: "Myanmar children look on from a Cyclone Nargis damaged home Thursday, April 30, 2009, in Twantay, Myanmar. Many Myanmar residents are still struggling to meet basic daily needs a year after Cyclone Nargis struck the area. Twantay is about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Yangon." (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

These pictures reveal just a tip of the iceberg that is the situation in Myanmar one year after Cyclone Nargis hit the area. Oregon's South Coast The World has a good article on what happened one year ago, and the situation today. You can read it here: http://theworldlink.com/articles/2009/05/04/news/doc49fbfb0f4c12a037809086.txt
The article states that, in the weeks following the disaster, Myanmar's military regime denied aid agencies access to the area. However, the junta, under global condemnation and pressure from the UN, finally did begin allowing aid in.

I remember when this cyclone hit, and how I heard that Samaritan's Purse (a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization headed up by Franklin Graham) was able to be in Myanmar just two days after the disaster. An article on the one year anniversary of Cyclone Nargis that appears on the Samaritan's Purse website states:

"We had staff in the country just two days after the storm hit, and in the weeks that followed we flew in 10 cargo planes filled with tons of relief supplies. Knowing that even those who made it through the disaster were at risk because of a lack of food and clean water, we worked to provide rice and other staples to thousands of families and installed large water filtration units."

Samaritan's Purse outreach in Myanmar has expanded and continues to this day. To read the entire article, view pictures and find out how you can help, go to

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/ongoing_help_for_myanmar/

"'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?'
The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.'
Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" Luke 10:36-37

"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." 2 Corinthians 4:5


Saturday, May 2, 2009

When What We Say is Not What People Hear











Did you ever say anything and then realize, hours or even days later, that what you said might have been misinterpreted by someone listening?

I recently said something at a school outing to a woman I don't know very well that I think she may have taken the wrong way. Two things led me to this conclusion: one, the expression and reply of said person, and second, her chilly hello to me at a subsequent meeting!

If this has ever happened to you, you know what it means to feel like an idiot. But then again, if our intentions in what we said were not even remotely related to the meaning that the person took away, why should we feel like an idiot? I think it's that we feel bad--and personally responsible--when something we say is mistakenly and negatively applied by the person we are talking to.

If this is confusing, I guess that's indicative of how confusing communication among humans can be! Intonation, facial expression and words--often ill-chosen in the spur of the moment of conversation--can all convey things that we never intended to convey.

So, what to do about my words that were possibly taken out of their intended meaning? As my husband says, I can't control how people interpret my every word (he also says that most people probably are not even thinking about what I said, and I’m just paranoid!) But still, I think a simple thing to do is next time I see this person, I’ll just bring up the time we were together on the outing and tell her that I hope she didn't take my words the wrong way. If she doesn't know what in the world I'm talking about, I'll know I definitely have some paranoia issues to deal with. But if she does acknowledge that yeah, she was taken aback by my words, then we can clear the air.

What this has taught me is to be more careful and selective in what I say, while at the same time not become obsessed with analyzing every little word in the hopes of not ever being misinterpreted! I'm trying to listen to God and to speak more out of His grace and less out of my reactions, responses, agenda and shooting from the hip. This means that, going forward, the best course of action in conversations and social situations may be to wait, listen, talk less and perhaps, to not even say anything at all.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children..." Ephesians 5:1