Sunday, May 14, 2017

Handcrafted

McDonald's latest advertising campaign uses the phrase "signature crafted" to describe it's new sandwiches. At this time, I am also reading the book "Simplify" which is a book that describes how companies have succeeded through what the author calls "price-simplification" or "proposition-simplification". In price-simplification, the goal is to continuously drop your price to a point where it is almost a no-brainer to purchase. One of the examples in the book is the original McDonalds business formula which is to produce acceptable quality but fast, consistent, and cheap.

One of my management team in a previous company once coined a phrase that has stuck with me over the years. He said, "Dan there is fast, cheap, and great - pick two". I have nothing against McDonalds (I actually like their breakfast sandwiches), but crafted is not a term I would use for their sandwiches. It is not like Morton's or Ruth Chris where there is a cook to order and I wait for my meal. If I wait more than two minutes for my sandwich, I am disillusioned. That is why they still call it fast food.


As I think about the beauty of God's creation, I think of this word "handcrafted". The psalmist contemplates this "When I consider your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you have created, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him" (Psalm 8:3-4). I read the Genesis account and you see creativity and thought interwoven through the creative process.

Further, today is Mother's Day, a day we reach out to those that gave us birth and those that raised us. My mother did not craft me in my mother's womb and it is ludicrous to think that Deb that with our kids. No, God did that. Not one of our kids called Deb and said - "thanks Mom for making me". The perfect creator of the heavens fashioned a new human being using human agents, intimacy of human relationship, time, and process. It shouldn't get old to amaze at the wonder of God. As our kids get older, this realization that they are in God's hands gets easier and easier as I think the same God handcrafted them from the beginning and calls them by name.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Science Guy

A few months back, I attended the Tableau conference where the keynote speaker was Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Bill Nye is a very popular science educator and known for his wit and high energy presentation. Nye said a lot of very interesting things - watch the first four minutes of the following video from this conference. He said something like "we are a speck that is standing with a bunch of other specks surrounded by a bunch of other specks that orbits around a speck among other specks in the middle of specklessness. In other words, we suck. Yet you can know your place in space and with your brain you can change the world." Earlier in the speech, he talked about finding how he came to be through water they found with life in it on Mars.



Nye, who is very entertaining, got a standing ovation. I found myself with a deep sense of sadness that this man, brilliant as he was, could view his origin and his significance through the lens of himself. In my wildest imagination and as someone who did not always have a personal faith,  I could not even possibly imagine the complexity of space and of humans just coming to be from nothing. Nothing I observe points to that. I see a great designer who fashioned the vastness of the universe and then fashioned human beings in His image. I saw that even before coming to a personal faith.

I am humbled that the creator of the heavens and the earth has desired a personal relationship with me. I look into the vastness of space and I do see how seemingly insignificant we are. Yet I contemplate the infinite worth that God my creator gave to me. I imagine the ultimate cost that God paid to redeem me from the bondage of my sin through His son Jesus. I think it takes far less faith to believe that a personal God created man in His own image and bought a relationship with him than my origins are from water on Mars.

Every rejection of a creator God ultimately comes back to pride. We want to be the captain of our ship, to control our own destiny. We hate the thought of being accountable to someone. So we fashion ourselves as our own god. So when we hear this kind of thing, it actually sounds good to us. Paul says we worship the creation rather than the creator (Rom 1:16). I am reminded by his words to the Corinthian church - "But a natural man doe not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised".  A creator God who loves you longs for you to come to Him. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Reconciliation and Redemption

Friday night for Deb and I usually is movie night. We typically get something from Netflix or occasionally go to the movies. We watched last week the movie "Manchester by the Sea" because the actor Casey Affleck won best actor. We know there are various types of movies and genres, but this one was just flat out depressing. Without getting into the details (spoiler alert), Affleck plays Lee, a man who loses his family in a tragic event and then some 10 years later his brother dies and in his will he is asked to be the guardian of his nephew, Patrick. As we were watching it, we kept waiting and waiting for something to happen. This something Deb articulated as reconciliation or redemption. We were left at the end with two characters who were wholly unsympathetic and the story line as unfulfilling.

The human heart longs for at least one of these two themes, reconciliation or redemption. Everything else leaves us bereft. It doesn't mean only good news - often it comes at the heals of bad and tragic news. I think this week of Robert Godwin, the elderly man senselessly gunned down seemingly at random and posted on Facebook. What do we make of this? Out of this comes reconciliation. The family forgives a man they never met. I am struck by their interview with Anderson Cooper.


I talked to a friend this past week who was a managing editor of a major newspaper and I asked him why the press seems to only report bad news. He said it was because "bad news is easier to find". The Godwin family would be more than justified to want vengeance and retribution. And in the end, the killer committed suicide. If that was where it was left, we could understand it. But they take it a step further in forgiving this man. That has to be supernatural. They understood reconciliation was an essential part of the healing process.  The other was redemption. Robert Godwin was celebrated yesterday in Cleveland. This was a man who was far from perfect but one who by all accounts lived his life for his God and his family. So in this one tragic incident we have God working out these principles of reconciliation and redemption to His own glory and to our own healing.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Final Score

After the Cavaliers had won the NBA championship, I started reliving the moments of Game 7 and now have purchased through iTunes Games 5,6, and 7 so I can relive them in even more detail. I can recite the key moments of the game - "Oh, blocked by James" or "Kyrie Irving for 3 puts it up, it's good". The common thread of all these games is I can watch it knowing the final score. Usually, I can pick up a thing or two each time I watch it. The details are more fun when you know your team wins. I did the same thing with the World Series games 2,3, and 4 all games they won. I did download game 7 because it was so epic, but it wasn't so much fun because even though there was the homerun to tie the game, I knew the end result was not in our favor.

 

As I think about Easter, I am reminded that we know the final score. The final score was etched when Christ rose from the grave. Good has won - evil has lost. The price has been paid for the penalty of sin and the payment accepted. But unlike the Cavs, even though the final score is won and our team wins, the day to day game still lives on. Satan does not give up even though he knows the final score. If he can't win, maybe he can convince enough people not to believe their team has won. Or maybe he can convince others of an alternate reality that the game is still very much in doubt.

So I need to live my life in the reality of the final score. Easter very much reminds me of that. Jesus said "It is Finished" - the word tetelestai used there is the final score. There is victory in Jesus. Doesn't always feel like it every day, but since it is reality, it is fact. My feelings don't change the final score. What does that do to me? What does it change?  This needs to be a daily reminder. As Paul says, the resurrection is everything. Without it, we are "of all men most to be pitied". But with it "it is finished" (tetelestai).

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Food Poisoning, Part II

Thankfully, I am now recovered fully from the bout of food poisoning that I blogged about last week. I am not going to belabor this topic too much, but I feel there is one more side-note to this sorry saga. I knew pretty much immediately that I had eaten something that did not agree with me. I had a soup and salad and it was likely the soup that got me but the salad was the second thing I ate and even now, the thought of a Waldorf Salad skives me out. When I had food poisoning once before, we suspect it was a sandwich from Panera but it was cupcakes that skived me out then because it was the last thing I ate before all rumblings broke loose (you know what I mean).


Sometimes root issues manifest themselves to the second one in line. I may have a particularly bad day and I take it out on those closest to me. They are not the cause; they are simply the burden carrier. We know we can be transparent with them and sometimes they take the fall because they are just there in the aftermath. I know there are many times where I take my own baggage onto Deb (today is her birthday by the way) even though she is far from being the cause of my own frustration. My Waldorf salad was an innocent bystander of my contamination. A by-product of relationships is this diffusion of the stain of sin. I could be having the roughest of times but I know I have relationships that just seem to ease the problems.

Deb and I watched the movie "Fences" last night and Rose (Viola Davis) is a perfect example of this type of relationship.  Troy, (Denzel Washington) to whom she is married to is often despicable. He is always having bad days as he bemoans what he could have been and time and time again. Yet she is there for him even as he remains a despicable character. God has wired us for relationship even knowing we bear burdens of others.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Thank You Food Poisoning

I have been trying to lose weight. Last year, I put on six pounds that had never been there before after 10 years of being around the same weight range. Then the six pounds became ten pounds. Yikes! What happened? Age happened. I can't keep doing the same things I had been doing and expecting the same result. I have a particular affinity for sweets and lately latching onto Oreo cookies.

Last weekend we had dinner with some deer friends of ours at a nice, reputable restaurant. I ordered the seafood gumbo and a salad. After I ate the zippy, seafood gumbo, I did not feel quite right. I gutted it out so to speak. For the next five days, I extracted (my nice way of saying it) all of the stuff in my system. My weight chart (via Fitbit) shows the result. I dropped half of my excess weight and thus far I have kept it off.

It got me thinking about life. We can play around in the sandbox of life and if we draw close to God, He will put things into our life that rightsize us to him. Kind of like God introduces a little seafood gumbo and food poisoning into our life to get us back on track. God does not introduce temptation because that is for our bad, but He introduces trials for our good to get us back on track. James says that this is a welcome event and "we are to consider it joy when God puts us through trials". Why? It is "because the testing of our faith produces endurance" (James 1:3).

We have a number of friends going through various trials right now. My little food poisoning example is not to make light of the fact that trials are a burden. God says He will never allow any trial to be beyond what we can handle. The television preachers say that life is smooth and God wants us to be happy.  Wrong! God wants us to be holy. Holiness does not necessarily mean happiness - it means joyfulness and they are two different things and maybe the subject of a future blog.

I am hoping that my little bout with the gumbo will help level-set some new habits as half of my excess weight is now gone. Can I now take that as an opportunity to grow in my habits?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The 2:00 AM Friend

A 2:00 AM friend is someone you can call at anytime of the day or night and tell them anything. I first heard this term from Pat Morley at Man in the Mirror ministry.  Guys in particular are notorious for not having friends that we can be completely transparent with. When I was younger, I was always on my guard and very hesitant to open up my "broom closet" to anyone else. As I have gotten older, I have appreciated being honest and open with friends. It is vital that guys have close friends that are guys. While I am extremely open with my wife, there are certain things that only guys can relate to. I am sure the same thing applies to women.

One of my friends is a police officer and we were studying this particular topic. He has another similar category called the "DUI friend". He said when he is booking someone on a DUI charge, they have to have someone come to the police station to pick them up. He has seen people get out their phone and literally scroll through hundreds of names before saying they have no one they can call.  Who is your DUI friend? Do you have one? Who can you call and say I am in trouble due to my own stupidity.

Jesus Christ had twelve disciples but he had three 2 AM friends, Peter, James, and John. Keep in mind this is Jesus in His humanity. As God, He is fully present and with all who have faith in Him. But as a man, He maintained a close knit circle. They were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. They were with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Yet as friends, they failed Him at times. They fell asleep in the garden for example as Jesus bore His soul before the Father.

We just finished a retreat with couples that we have spent the better part of the past twenty years of life with. We laughed together, we worshiped together, we prayed together, we played stupid games together. All part of life. Many of those men, I would not hesitate to call at 2:00 AM. God has not wired us to be alone. We need community.