Winning in Life

On Sunday, the Eagles from Philadelphia will knock heads with the Patriots from New England.  Both teams will endeavor to claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  Lest their coaches (Doug Pederson and Bill Belichick) bench them, the players will commit to play their best for the Big Game.  When they do, one team will win and one will lose - guaranteed.  Note that.  While all players who take the field will give it their all, only half of them will bring home the trophy.  We don't actually, after all, live in an everyone-gets-a-trophy world, even though it might appear as such.

That's life!

Those who decide to live the Ordinary Life decide to give it their best and to embrace the fact that sometimes their best will fail to claim the trophies of life.  Yet, catch this, they won't fail.  Failure is not in the losing; it's in not giving one's best. 

One of my favorite passages to read in God's word is Matthew 25:14-30.  I greatly enjoy verses 21 and 23.  Two of the three servants receive the same verbal blessing.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’"
Matthew 25:21 (NIV)

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’"
Matthew 25:23 (NIV)

Those identical blessings are found in Jesus' parable called at times "The Parable of the Talents" and at other times "The Parable of the Bags of Gold."  In the parable, the Master represents Jesus and the servants represent followers of Christ. 

As a follower of Christ, I look forward to hearing those very words of verbal blessing.  I believe that I will - as long as I give God my best. 
I don't have to win.  God does not expect my perfection - Jesus takes care of that. 
I am not required to outdo my neighbor - I must love him.
I don't need to keep score (a tally of my accomplishments and losses) - God already knows those stats.

More Ls than Ws?  Fear not.
Fewer As than Bs?  Not that big of a deal.  That is . . . if you gave it your all.

Those who choose to follow Jesus strive to win the prize.  (See 1 Corinthians 9:24.)  Christians run that race.  Do you know what awaits at the finish line?

I believe that Jesus stands at the line and says to each who has served Him with their best - "Well done, good and faithful servant."


Tell the Tales

From the years 1828 to 1921, any Londoner who desired to do so could read the various literary compositions in "The Athenaeum Magazine".  Contributors included the likes of T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, and Virginia Woolf (Don't be afraid).  Another contributor was William Thoms.  Few today know his name.  Yet most are aware of his regularly recalled addition to the English vocabulary.  He coined, in 1846, the term "folklore."  he combined two words: 
folk = "the common people"
lore = "knowledge"

When people think about folklore, most think of tales such as "The Ugly Duckling, "Rip Van Winkle," and "The Frog Princess." 

African children grow up hearing the story, "The Clever Jackal Gets Away."  Parents in Japan tell their children about Momotaro.  In 1922, Clara Bayliss' collection of tales told stories of Eskimos living in North America.  

Many tales of folklore make their way into published material.

Other stories stay within tighter realms. 

What are your family tales?  I love each time that my wife, children, and I visit our families in the Lower 48.  We enjoy eating, laughing, and telling old family favorites.  The stories range from times when great-uncles fished the rivers of Arkansas to great-aunts with wigs flying off as events made it necessary to quickly apply the brakes.  If anyone in our family merely says, "Who's got the tickets?" or "He's got to Uncle Lee it," we all laugh - recalling the origin of such phrases. 

What are your stories?  What phrases bring laughter to your family?  Keep telling those stories!  Future generations will be glad you did.

Common people tell Ordinary tales, passing the lore on down the family line.



You and I are well into the third week of 2018.  How's the New Year's pledge to eat less sugar going?  Has your new gym membership card seen much use? 

My wife and I are blessed with three children.  While they seldom go to the physician due to illness, they do go once a year for their "well-visits."  While they hope the visit will not include shots, they do like to come home and report their latest stats - height, weight, overall well-being. 

For some, visiting the doctor when well seems foolish, meaningless, and a waste of money. 

While I rarely go myself (not leading by example, honestly), I am glad that my children go.  That way my wife and I know the condition of their health.  Knowing one's health condition is important.

This, too, is important in regard to one's spiritual health.  Resolutions, whether in regard to spiritual or physical, serve well as starting blocks.  They do not, however, do much for endurance.  Endurance requires consistent check-ups.  In regard to one's spiritual growth, that entails such things as . . .
(1) Reviewing how often you've read the word of God.
(2) Asking your spouse if you're loving him or her well.
(3) Recalling if you have grown in patience.
(4) Observing your thankfulness barometer.

I hope your commitment to your 2018 resolutions has not yet waned.  I hope, even more, that your determination to regularly engage in spiritual well-visits will endure all things.


A Not-So-Common Prayer

Recently I attended a worship service in Anchorage of a church not my own.  As a pastor, the opportunity to do so occurs rarely. 
My experience was a positive one.  In Rabbit Creek Church (my church) and the church I visited, Christ is preached and the people welcome members and visitors warmly.  We share much in common. 

Some non-essential differences exist as well.  For example, while I preach in jeans, the other pastor wears a clerical robe.  As another example, during the Lord's Supper at my church, each person drinks from an individual cup; on that Sunday's visit, I drank from the common cup.  (Wine rather than Welch's makes that possible.)

During the worship service that day (and I assume every Sunday), the pastor drew our attention as a congregation to The Book of Common Prayer.  We turned to the page to which he asked us to turn and we, in unison, read the following prayer . . .
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. 
We are truly sorry and humbly repent. 
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name.  Amen.

I dare not attempt to guess or write of any other congregant's thoughts that morning.  However, I will write here of my own.
- First, I determined to actually pray the words we read.
- Second, I focused, by no initial thought of my own, on the words "what we have left undone."  The words challenged me.  They challenged me to acknowledge my sins of omission.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.     James 4:17 (NIV)
- Third, another phrase penetrated my heart.
"We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves."
There we read a confession that we have not fully kept the greatest of all commands, and Jesus' command at that.  Before reading that sentence, I knew those words to be true.  However, upon reading them, I felt them.

As I write now, to these three thoughts I add a fourth. 
- Fourth, I wonder just how common is this prayer found in The Book of Common Prayer.  Perhaps, in reality, the prayer is not so common.  Confessions are after all, well, difficult to confess.
"Yes, I did break that."
"No, I didn't keep my promise."
"Yes, I was wrong to . . ."
"No, I didn't tell the truth."

"We [I] have not loved you with our [my] whole heart;
we [I] have not loved our [my] neighbors as ourselves [myself]."

None of those confessions flow easily from one's [my] mouth.

I'm glad I visited my fellow Alaskan Christ-loving church.  I am thankful for The Book of Common Prayer.  I consider it a blessing that I read (and prayed) the not-so-common prayer.