Sunday, August 12, 2007

Public Nudity

Travis County (of which Austin is a part) is the only county in Texas that I know of which has it’s own public nude beach. I go down there from time to time (not that I ever go nude myself) because it is one of the places I’ve found where I can truly relax.

Nudists have a way of getting right to the point.

Today I was ordained as a deacon in my church.

Baptists have a way of getting right to the point too.

Part of the ordination service involved the laying on of hands by any of the Christians in the service. In the process, they offer encouragement, a prayer, or an insight they know of you.

The simplest way to express the experience is to say that God truly exists. People I barely know made the comments that struck the heart of my soul. Somehow they knew my inmost heart. The experience proved humbling.

My life has always contained a large portion of faith, but today my faith was even overwhelmed by the insight into me. I felt more exposed than if I had been standing there naked.

I’m glad I don’t have experience from the lake; it was much more meaningful today before the congregation.

Sunday Sermon 8-12-07

For some reason, the Mac is not letting me have access to all the tools I used on the PC, so the table format I have nicely set up as I work on this does not copy over - still working on that.

Sunday Sermon
August 12, 2007
Text: Luke 12:22-34
Key Thoughts: 1) Responsibility is key to understanding Christ’s direction 2) Need can be a guide for those things we have
The Sermon:

Today’s passage first made me think of Alfred E. Neuman, the ever-goofy symbol of MAD Magazine with his catch-phrase, “What, me worry?”

I must confess that worry is one of my private sins. I search for things to worry about – there is just something about the sense of power one gets by thinking one can control an issue. Sometimes, though, we need to learn where to draw the line between our sphere of responsibility and the area that just becomes meddling.

Responsibility is key to understanding what Christ means when He says to not worry. He does not say be careless and free, but be free from concerning ourselves with the means of the world

Christ makes one of His boldest promises in this passage by assuring his followers that God would provide. As evidence, He cites the creatures and plants of the field and the care God gives them. He promises His followers that God wants to give them the entire kingdom and that to access it, we need to build up our treasure in Heaven, rather than here in the world. (I dipped into this passage last week to demonstrate the breadth of Christ’s commands regarding greed in the previous passage).

Some pastors have actually taken this passage and built a “wealth ministry” out of it. The particular reference to lilies being more regally adorned than King Solomon, has led some of them to consider that God will really reward His most faithful with wealth and beauty. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Unlike His commands on greed which hold subtle nuances covering broad aspects of our life, the commands in this passage are direct: verse 33 says to sell your possessions and give alms. The imperative verbs leave little room for interpretation. Nothing He says promises wealth, rather it demands the opposite – don’t accumulate worldly wealth.

I do not think that Christ wants us to become the needy, but to be responsible with our possessions and use what we need. He is fairly clear that God will provide for our need.

The fine line between need and want remains a slippery slope for the Christian. The world today is so full of “useful” items. I need my cell phone for work, but do I need to take it with me every time I go to the grocery store? My laptop allows me to work in the evening, but do I need to pack it in the car every day just in case I stop at some wifi equipped restaurant or coffee shop so I can answer the emails that have arrived in the last few minutes because I want to be seen as efficient.

And thus we return to the theme of responsibility. God expects us to be responsible with our families and jobs, but we cannot use that as an excuse to avoid doing His work. Doing so makes us greedy with time in the way He warned about in the passage from last week.

Finding the balance is a challenge, but one by which people have been rewarded with full lives and fuller eternal rewards since the time of those who heard Jesus preach directly. Seek this week to find that balance in your own life.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I have done something I swore I would never do.

I bought a MacBook.

Some of the things I’m doing for work now would be better done on a Mac – as much as I hate to admit it. But with new jobs come new responsibilities and chances to learn new skills, so I’ve opened myself up again to another new skill.

I last used a Mac in the nineties when I was still teaching. Macs were supposed to be the salvation of education with awesome educational programs and ease of use. Instead, I found them to be a hindrance with limited ability to do much of anything, so I became a vehement anti-Apple person.

I’m officially eating crow to some extent. I still find the Mac much more difficult to use than my Dell. I have to go through more steps to open and close a program, but I’m learning all that I have to do. So far it also seems like I have to have more windows open at a time to do what I want to do.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the future – but for the time being, I have to figure out how to read the really small type on the screen (I have learned how to make it larger) but it still seems smaller.

Monday, August 06, 2007

My Life or Whose?

For the last two years, I established some strict rules for separation of work and life and worked consistently to preserve those rules. Since taking the new job I’ve found myself surrounded by people, who, despite having homes and families, give themselves over wholly to work. They continue work at absurd hours and on holidays.

Recently, I found myself getting caught up in their anxiety as it suddenly seems urgent that I check my email at night and on the weekend. My cell phone, lately, has doubled as an office extension.

One of the higher-ups, I understand, only has time to think up creative tasks for me at 5:30 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m., but the other night calling and leaving a message at 8:46 p.m. while I am in a movie topped all previous calls. And was as much the task he called with as the time he called.

8:46 p.m. on a Friday night is insane.

I cursed like my friend had never heard me curse when I listened to the message and then proceeded to stew about it all weekend. I made the conscious decision that I would return the call after I arrived at work on Monday morning.

Is setting a personal limit and sticking to it passive aggressive?

Not at all.

Non-emergency phone calls outside the work-day violate me as a person and undermine my value as a professional. His own sacrifice of his personal life does not justify his disregard for my personal life, nor do I give him permission to do so. {My career sometimes does involve emergency responses and thus my phone stays on all night and next to my bed – but in those cases the call values the contribution I can make to a crisis unlike the phone calls asking what time I’m free for a meeting on a day later the next week.}

Technology does us no favors when it invades our personal time with career expectations. Fewer and fewer people understand when I explain to them that “who” they are consists of much more than the “job” they do. Email, texts, cell phones, and the devices that allow constant and immediate communication truly diminish the whole person we become when we are with family, friends, and community.

I’m certainly no Luddite. I like my technology. I just bought a newer, faster laptop with even more efficient wireless abilities, so I can stay connected in more places than before.

Hell…I write this blog.

I spend time every day reading other blogs I enjoy. One truth that emerged to me more than I imagined it would after my trip to New York to meet some fellow bloggers, knowing the person is even better than reading the writing. I enjoy the blogs of those people I met at the gathering exponentially more than I did before. I can hear the voice, imagine the inflection, and see the expression like I never could when I just read the words on the screen.

Beyond my personal experience with meeting other bloggers, I have been hearing on the news of other bloggers gathering to meet one another.

All of us geeks, be we technology geeks, political geeks, or just geek geeks, still yearn for the human contact.

That does not mean being a geek at a busy Starbucks.

Sometimes we communicate best when we set down our devices and pick up a beer (or a burger) together.

I encourage others to set down the work phone and blackberry when the work-day is over. It will be ok to return the call or text in the morning.

And if the world ends because you don’t return the call or text, who’s really gonna care at that point?

Now playing: Johnny Cash - In My Life
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sunday Sermon, August 5

Sunday Sermon

August 5, 2007

Text: Luke 12:13-21 (NRSV) (12:22-34 supplemental)

Key Thoughts: 1) There is more to greed than wealth, 2) Christ is talking about more than money

The Sermon:

This parable from the series of stories collected together in Luke has been one of the most told when churches are about to begin a capital campaign or when giving does not keep up with the budget. The story also sometimes crops up at funerals of generous individuals with the emphasis being on the stored up treasures with God.

As He so often does, Christ starts his lesson with the lesson: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” On first glance, the tendency to see the parable as simply one of greed and laziness is natural. Christ tells of a wealthy landowner whose crops exceed the capacity of his barns – so he vows to build new barns and then spend time in his abundance relaxing.

Christ’s stories, though, never stop with a first glance. He gives several clues to what he really means beginning in the lesson when he says, “all kinds of greed” and when the wealthy landowner says to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods…”

According to Webster’s:

“Greed: excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness : AVARICE”

And there it is – one of the seven deadly sins – avarice. Maybe Christ did indeed mean worldly possessions. That is so easy to see and understand. We all have our own covetousness – I like clothes. It is easy to cloak something like clothes in the wake of necessity (work, play, public decency), but that does not mean my desire for clothes is not greed.

Greed is easy for us to point the finger at – anyone with less than his neighbor finds it easy to point the finger and label his neighbor as greedy.

Christ’s lesson means so much more considering this passage is only half of the story. Verses twenty-two through thirty-four give us the rest. Christ considers the care and state of his followers in the years to come. He certainly encourages them to give up the worldly possessions for God promises to care for his own as they strive to build God’s kingdom. He encourages the believers to put their treasure in Heaven and keep their hearts on that treasure.

I have yet to come across a Jesus Savings and Loan, so that treasure probably is not measurable in dollars and cents, which is why I think His lesson is about much more than material wealth.

Verse fifteen again is where the heart of the lesson lies. Christ talks about all kinds of greed which include our time, our thoughts, and our feelings as our life is about “more than an abundance of possessions.”

How many times have we not given our time freely? It is so easy to find an excuse not to go help clean the church, feed the hungry, or care for the poor.

How often do we let the cares of the world creep into our worship times and have our mind wandering when we try to concentrate on Him? Maybe He wants us to let that go and just be with Him without sharing that time with our worries.

How often do we keep our feelings boiling inside and not turn them over to Christ? You may wonder how we can be greedy with feelings. I tell you it is easy! What do you think jealousy is?

In the light of Jesus’ exhortation to “guard against all kinds of greed,” I encourage us to look deeply within to see where we are being greedy. Don’t build bigger barns to store your time, thoughts, and feelings, for time cannot be kept for later, our thoughts flee with time, and our feelings are as fluid as the tide.

Each day I try to ask myself: what can I do to put myself in the care of God and store those things that do matter in my heavenly barn? In Heaven, do you have a treasure chest or a barn?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What? Me? Think?

My dear friend over at Lunar Gemini honored me as one of his “Thinking Bloggers.”

Instantly a wave of writer’s block overwhelmed me – what if I say something stupid!?!

Indeed, that very day, I had planned to come home and vent about the “raise” I received with the new job – and I will do that yet (when I can laugh about it and not cry).

The bloggers I read regularly who are “thinkers” have been already named. I’m going to reserve naming any thinking bloggers until I find some new ones I consider thinkers. I’m regularly following the links and discovering new and interesting bloggers.

On a personal note, I’m somewhat excited that the 2000th hit is coming up since I installed a counter in January. I know some blogs have that many hits an hour (and so I won’t contribute to their traffic by linking to them), but for my own excursion in writing to reach this number in eight months motivates me to write more and to write better.

I enjoy the regular weekly posts some bloggers do and have been contemplating my own regular column. Stay tuned.