The Story of a Helmet

Tucking and going for great speed seemed like an amazing idea.  That is until the snow-covered ground reminded me of the importance of wearing a helmet as my forehead and goggles smashed into it.  I completed a grand "yard sale" as my poles, my skis, and my body scattered in all directions.

My skiing, while nowhere close to "beautiful," is fast.  So several years ago, at the direction of my wife, I bought my first ski helmet.  All years prior, a winter hat or baseball cap were the only items I placed on my head as I carved the slopes. 

In the early days of my skiing, only the skiers who did not concern themselves with fitting in chose to wear helmets.  Now only the skiers (and boarders) who do not concern themselves with the protection of their heads choose not to wear them.

This makes me wonder.  Why do most of us concern ourselves with fitting in?

Why did the Israelites want a king?  

     To be like everyone else. 
Why do students ask for the same hairstyles?  

     To fit in. 
Why do adults "need" the latest "smart" device?  

     To do what others are doing. 

There is a reason "keeping up the the Joneses" is a well-worn phrase.  Long before the Joneses were a thing, the Apostle Paul observed a trend.  He observed how easily humans (including Christians) drifted toward fitting in.  Upon noticing such an occurrence, Paul wrote these words . . .

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2a (NIV)

No effort is needed to conform.  It is a natural (fallen nature) degradation.  Transformation, however, requires commitment.  Commitment to mind renewal. 

How then can we protect and renew our minds?
1. Wear a helmet (when necessary 😉).
2. Read the Bible. 
3. Engage in helpful rather than harmful conversations.
4. Select entertainment that adds value and joy to your life.
5. Learn to be okay with being different. 
      (See 1 Peter 1:17 and 2:11-12.)
And, finally, as number 6 - live by the words of Paul . . .

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)



In 1963, with President Lincoln's effigy behind him and his words in mind, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared,
"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.  It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity."
Within King's beautiful and vividly expressive words, we see through our mind's eye, "a great beacon light of hope."  Dr. King thought of the sixteenth president's signing of that great document of freedom as a sign of better days to come. 

Certainly things improved as our nation outlawed slavery.  However, as King said in the opening words of the very next sentence that followed those quoted above,

"But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free."
Again, certainly things have improved since 1963; yet now over half a century later, things are not fully as they should be.

As I ponder that reality, I notice a pattern best articulated by the Teacher, son of David.

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)
Ever since Adam passed the buck to Eve and blamed God for putting her "here with me," human relationships have displayed the marks of pain and brokenness.  
  • Cain kills Abel. 
  • Jacob tricks Esau.
  • Saul hunts David. 
  • Martha grows bitter toward Mary. 
  • Paul refuses to play in the same sandbox as John Mark. 
  • A husband ceases listening to his wife. 
  • A wife ridicules her husband. 
  • A father provokes his son. 
  • A mother verbally abuses her daughter. 
  • A person of one race disregards the value of one of a different race. 
  • A person is judged by the color of his/her skin rather than by the content of his/her character.
Human relationships display marks of pain and brokenness.  Yet there is a great beacon light of hope much brighter than a document bearing the pen marks of a president.  It is the great beacon light of hope whose name is Jesus who bears the marks of pain and brokenness.
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
John 20:19-20 (NIV)
Jesus showed them the scars in His hands and side made by the nails and spear; yet even more so, inflicted upon Him because of the sins of humanity which cause such pain and brokenness.  Yet, one of the great victories of the cross was the defeat of separation. 
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.
Ephesians 2:14 (NLT)
Yesterday was a day our nation dedicates to the impactful efforts of Dr. King - a man who stood up to and spoke against walls of hostility.  Let us do the same.  Let us remember to break down barriers to healthy human relationships as we live our lives in the shadow of Lincoln's monument and Jesus' cross.


A Lesson from the Dr

During the Roaring Twenties, researchers found that, for the average person, lethargy sets in three times a day.  Upon learning this information, marketing strategists from the Dr Pepper Company urged the soda-loving public to drink their product thirty minutes before each lethargic period.  Eventually that push led to Dr Pepper adopting the slogan, "Drink a bite to eat at 10, 2, and 4."

You will be hard-pressed to find modern-day researchers who recommend three sodas a day.  However, you will see the numbers 10, 2, and 4 on Dr Pepper cans, bottles, signs, and logo wear. 

While I back away from vouching for the "science" behind the statement that lethargy sets in at three certain times a day, I do testify to the value of rhythm.  Stepping outside of routine is healthy when it fuels fresh perspectives, shakes up the humdrum, or adds some spice to life.  However, stepping out without stepping back in leads to confusion and a lack of stability. 

In Matthew, chapter eleven, Jesus invites His followers to "learn the unforced rhythms of grace."  While God is certainly a God of interruption [think Moses' experience at the burning bush or the blinding experience of Paul (then Saul) on the road to Damascus], He most certainly is also a God who introduced Time (think seven days, sunrise, sunset, and four seasons).  God knows the values of consistent patterns.  He appreciates and encourages routines and invites His creatures (including we humans) into rhythms. 

In a column from early last year, John Lee wrote a thought-provoking piece on this theme. 

“By looking at our lives in broad strokes, we should be able to see whether our cadences are godly. The benefit of a broad overview is that we don’t have to exegete details; a snapshot is enough. The big picture usually does not deceive because we see leanings, tendencies, and habits. If we have not been a part of Christian community for years, then we do not prize fellowship. If we have not read the Bible in months, then we do not value Scripture. If we have not prayed in many seasons, we don’t really have a relationship with God. If we don’t give to the work of missions, then we don’t have a missional heart. If we incessantly think about getting ahead in the marketplace, then that, too, tells a story. A diagnostic analysis can teach us which way our hearts are leaning and what the rhythms of our lives are.
From Christianity Today:
All We Need Is the Rhythm Divine
Patterns in the Bible and life keep us in sync with God.
JOHN LEE - MARCH 8, 2018

Well said, John.


Do I Belong?

Church is for the people who have their lives "together".
Church is an assembly of the perfect and the sinless or, at least, people who think they are!

Maybe you have heard people say that.  You may even think that's the way it is.

Jesus said . . .

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
"Weary and burdened" are not adjectives used to describe people without flaws.  The church is made up of people with needs, people who have made mistakes, people with real problems.

Many in our nation and our community are focused on having a life without trials.  Despair comes when their job shows no mercy.  Temptation to "throw in the towel" creeps in when classes demand more than one has to give.  Confusion arises when a family full of love discovers they have conflict.  Deceiving oneself about a world of perfection causes anxiety and denial.

Those inside the church must be honest about their failures and humanity; those outside the church should feel welcome to come to a place where people are real (sins and all). 

Once a man or woman has discovered what Jesus meant when promising "rest" and they gather with others who found their place of rest, you have the church.

Rest does not mean the absence of long days or conflict.  Rest does not promise rose-colored existence and seasons without rain.  What Jesus does promise with His rest is the gift of knowing that, although we cannot be perfect, we can come to Him with our "skeletons in the closet," our pain and our faults. 

Who belongs in the church?  The church needs all kinds - the successful and the struggler, the hopeful and the worried, the energized and the tired, the champions and the discouraged, the confident and the doubtful.

The only people a church does not need are the perfect.

Days to Live

"Don't talk trust and live worry."

With those words, Alan Fadling, in An Unhurried Life, shares what he felt the Lord say to him during a particularly fast-paced time in his life.  

As one reads Scripture, the text seems to address a similar theme repeatedly.  Talking trust proves rather easy.  Living that trust, however, asks for more from you and me.

As 365 days lay before us, we have at least that many opportunities (far more, truthfully) to talk and live trust.  I am a preacher and not a prophet; therefore, I will not attempt to tell you what this year will bring.  Based on experience, I will, however, go out on a limb and "predict" that you and I, in 2019, will encounter . . .

- great victories
- stunning defeats
- praise reports
- paralyzing prognoses
- amazing sights to behold
- images we wish we could forget
- needed relaxation
- fear-based stagnation
You see the pattern.Call it a "mixed bag," a "smorgasbord," or "alphabet soup," or whatever you will - 2019 will bring a wide assortment of experiences.  As you join me on the journey through this year, take God's words to Fadling as words for you.  I know I will.