Monday, June 21, 2010

Couple more things on this longest day of the year...

Donald Miller's blog would be worth you checking out, in my humble opinion.

Father's Day-
This past Sunday was Fathers Day, in case you missed it.

I have a pretty cool dad. And while separated by distance, I'm thankful for a close and good relationship. I'm thankful for his example, his heart, and his passionate seeking after God. I'm thankful for the way that I've seen him love my mom faithfully and well. I'm thankful for his faithful support of my brothers and I. And I also enjoy seeing him in his grandpa role.

He also rides a Harley, which adds to the coolness factor. And... he knows how to play the Wii (although most nursing homes are employing that gaming system now as means of exercise for their patrons). Just kidding, dad. (and mom). * I could have included more embarrassing pictures, but don't want to put anyone on the spot.

People say that I'm a lot like my dad. My mom has said several times that, "you're your father's son." And I think she meant it favorably.

I take is as a great compliment.

I'm also thankful for my brothers, who are now both dads. And good ones... We've had a good example in not just our dad, but our grandpas.

Happy Father's Day

Cookie Day-
Also, if you read one of my recent posts, besides Father's Day, this last Sunday was also "cookie day" in heaven. My friend Colleen was released from her earthly limitations and ushered into eternity early Sunday morning.

Even writing about not being able to see or understand all of who God is or what He is doing makes me think of how much bigger a perspective she has now. She sees things more clearly than anyone here on earth. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't a bit jealous.

Please pray for her husband Mark and her kids Ryan and Michelle, along with the rest of the family and friends who are grieving her death.

Math Maniac

I have a shirt that says, "Math Maniac." 

That is not the point of this post, regardless of the post's title.

The shirt is nothing more than a Goodwill purchase that makes people look weirdly at me . I like that it's green, and I like that it's a bit quirky (read: I like that it makes people look at me weirdly). I like that it has symbols that I've never seen before, but which I assume have something to do with math.

But it's just a shirt. I'm not really that into math at this point in life, outside balancing my checkbook or counting fantasy football points. This shirt has nothing to do with anything significant in my life, other than covering my naked torso, which is important.

But I digress...

I enjoy reading Donald Miller's books... Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years are my favorites. I like the way he writes- a combination of brutal honesty, vulnerable transparency, self-deprecating humor, and deep spiritual insights. They are easy reads for me, and I find myself reading and re-reading them quickly. They're that good. But, like many books that are good, reading is one thing; digesting and applying is another.

I admire the way that Miller can engage people who think differently than him while staying grounded in who he is and what he believes. I admire that he does the hard work of listening and studying and reading, rather than just talking. While I've never met him, he seems to be the kind of guy who would make you feel important, even if you just met.

Several months ago, I found Miller's blog, signed up to receive his feed in my blog reader, and have since read whatever he writes there. Most days, I skip over his blog to read the rest of the blogs that I have feeding in... blogs with pictures and fun stories and family. But after I read the rest, I go back and read Don's blog. It's usually deep and profound enough to need extra time and attention to digest.

Let me throw in a caveat: if you have 'made the cut' on my blog feeder, your blog is not 'inferior' to Donald Miller's. It's just that I have to think about his a little bit deeper than most. 

Another caveat: I will not be listing who has or has not made the cut on my blog reader :)

Back to Donald Miller...

Miller's entry today was, again, something that hit home to me. He talked about how complex life and faith is, but how simple some people try to make it sound. Those people want to feel in control and 'in the know,' so they talk and act as if they have life and God figured out. And it seems like, as those people show their so-called prowess or wisdom, they make others feel inferior and even stupid. They close themselves to others who think differently and attack people or ideas that threaten the comfort zone that they've created.

There is a chance that, like me, you could put your name in the 'some people/those people/they' sentences above. It definitely, and unfortunately, describes many Christians that I know or have interacted with. Sad.

Miller's point is this... God can be known. But at this point in life and eternity, we do not have the capacity to know it all. God has revealed Himself, most poignantly in and through the person of Jesus, but there is no one on earth that can say that they perfectly  understand who God is, how He works, or what He is up to. There is TRUTH, but we are not the authors of it- only broken vessels through which God desires to convey Himself, His love, and His truth. That is a much more humble posture than the one with which most seem to approach life, God, or other people.

It's okay to say, "I don't know," or, "I'm not sure." We are not God and don't have to act like Him. We don't have all the answers, and we shouldn't claim to.

My "Jim's Contemporary Version" of that truth is: "chill out, enjoy the journey, and bless those traveling with/by you by listening well and sharing graciously what God has shown and is showing you. Be real. Be humble. Point others at God, the One with the answers, rather than at yourself."

Donald Miller quoted this in his blog entry...

"mathematicians go mad, not poets, 
because mathematicians try to build a bridge across the infinite, 
while poets swim in the sea."
-G.K. Chesterton

I want to be more of a poet than a 'math maniac.' I want to enjoy the swim. I want to create beauty out of what is beyond my understanding. I want to trust the God who created the sea, and Who threw me into it, instead of trying to escape the faith-building opportunities that He's seen fit to expose me to by building some human perspective-centered 'bridge' out of those opportunities. 

And, in His sovereign wisdom and grace, God has us all on unique and intersecting learning curves. There is no such thing as 'one size fits all' in that learning process, so it seems smart and, *surprise*, biblical and Christ-like, to show grace to others swimming in the same water. I want to be someone who others enjoy swimming with. (And even if others don't agree with me, or vice versa, I want to be able to talk about it in a respectable, if not enjoyable, way) I want to be someone who swims in such a way that others want to know God and His Son Jesus.

I know I have long way to go on this journey.

Thanks to you who are graciously and patiently swimming alongside me.

And to dissuade any awkwardness and potential misunderstanding, I'd like to ask everyone to avoid posting any cheesy comments like, "I enjoy swimming with you." yeah... thanks.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cookie Comfort

It's been a stormy beginning to summer. Even today the weather map is colorful. It seems the atmosphere has been volatile and damaging on a pretty regular basis. And the evidence of it's volatility is plain to see.

One of the most beautifully flowering and symmetrical trees on our property fell victim to wind and storms. It's a tree, yes, but it was sad, given this particular tree's strategic place on the landscape. And now it's gone.

A different kind of storm is raging and threatening to extinguish the life of a piece of my personal life landscape. I learned, a few months ago, that cancer was rapidly consuming the life of a lady that has been a huge encouragement to me, especially during my years of ministry at Grace. This lady wrote me countless notes and cards, and baked me untold numbers of cookies. And she made a point to make the kinds of cookies i like... monster cookies and peanut butter cookies.

I saw her last Saturday, after hearing that she wasn't doing well and wasn't expected to live through the next month or so. I was saddened to see how much she'd deteriorated, but thankful for the opportunity to visit with her and her husband. As I prayed with them, and then left, I was struck by the reality that heaven might be the next place that we visit.

So I baked cookies.

I wanted to do something tangible and symbolic of the impact that this woman had had in my life, and the positive input she'd made on my ministry. Even realizing that she might not be able to enjoy them, I wanted to at least bless her husband, especially if she hadn't been able to bake since she got sick. And I also prayed that they would be edible.

A Crisco baking stick and one packed 1/4 cup of brown sugar inspired me. 

I strategically placed the second cup of brown sugar to create a little Pinocchio face in the mixing bowl.

I was thankful to find my roommate's electric mixer after my hand cramped up gripping a wooden spoon.

And voila... the finished, golden product. In sincere and thankful humility, they actually tasted pretty good.

Storms are inevitable, and so is death. But cookies help ease the frustration and helpless feelings that accompany the hard stuff.

I had a lump in my throat as I wrote a note to my cookie encourager, Colleen. I told her that it's people like her and her cookies who keep people going when they need encouragement. It's timely words and sweet treats from well-meaning people that help take the edge off of life's storms. And I told her that I was pretty confident of rewards for her in heaven... and maybe cookies.

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