I’ve started noticing a new trend with Halloween. Last year, I went to a costume store to pick up some props for an event and I found myself in a very awkward moment. In the front of the store were little items like make up cases, vampire teeth, and I guess what you would call mummy accessories; fingers, fake, blood, etc. In the back of the store were the large, expensive items to place in your front yard; self opening caskets, screaming signs, and skulls that light up. But it was the middle of the store that scared me the most.
Aisles and aisles of costumes for women took up the center. There were witches, nurses, pirates, cops, and princesses. At first glance everything seemed normal. (Well, normal for a costume shop.) But as I took a closer look, I noticed something more… or less. There was something missing in these outfits… material. These costumes were provocative. I saw more material on the little kids' princess costume than I did on the adults'. When did this happen?
I felt like the women’s costume section needed to be separated from the rest of the store like those old video stores. Remember the old days of video rentals? There was always one section set apart from the rest of the store. Sometimes there was a curtain of beads in the doorway between the “family” section and the “adult” section. Anyone seen going into the adult section was considered to be kind of sleazy. And yet, here I was standing in the middle of what seemed like the adult section of the video store and it was smack dab in the middle of the room with kids running all around.
When did witches become sluts? I thought they were ugly hags. Why does Little Red Riding Hood have a tiny skirt that barely covers the buns she taking over to Grandma? Doesn’t it get cold in the woods?
Am I overreacting here? Let me know what you think.
Last night my church hosted its third annual Trunk or Treat. At the event we brought in a giant blow up slide. Before the gentleman who set it up could walk away, kids were lined up waiting for the exhilarating experience of sliding down. The Trunk or Treat was scheduled for two hours and every second saw a child going up or coming down.
Over and over, young ninjas, Spidermen, Batmen, princesses, and Disney characters formed an assembly line of sorts, running up the steps on one side and tumbling down the other. As soon as a kid hit the bottom, they ran right back to where they started and got in line to start the whole process over.
Makes you think about life doesn’t it?
As adults we spent a lot of time climbing the “ladder” only to come sliding back down don’t we? And when we hit bottom, we head right back to get in line. Are we like Sisyphus, the figure of Greek mythology, who was eternally punished by having to move a boulder up a mountainside only to have it forever slide back down again?
For many of us, the answer is yes.
We get caught in a rut of doing the same thing over and over. Not just in our jobs, but in life. We excel in making the same mistakes. And once we’ve hit bottom and swear never to do it again, we get right back in line only to repeat our same behavior. And that truly is tragic.
For others, we’re trapped. We work hard and yet, can’t seem to get out of this rut we’re in. We get behind in our bills, our sleep, our relationships. The more we try, the more we find ourselves in a vicious cycle of unfulfilled work and little to no reward. And that too, is heartbreaking.
For all of us, the escape is the same.
We need to find meaning beyond the immediate. We need to know that there is something beyond this existence of ours. Something that is bigger than our problems, bigger than life.
Bigger than the slide.
When we can see beyond the things of our life, see beyond the borders of this world, we will begin to comprehend that there is more than what this existence has to offer. When that happens hope grows within us. And when we have hope, we are no longer held captive by the boundaries of our lives. The world grows to unimaginable proportions, without limits or understanding, full of possibilities beyond our mere comprehension. And then something truly magical happens.
We become children of creation and the slide becomes fun.
Jesus said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! ~ Luke 12:22-24
Come get in line with me.
Warning: Video in this story contains graphic scenes
I was once posed this question in an ethics class in seminary. If an Olympic swimmer sees a child drowning in a pool and does nothing, is he or she liable of a crime? The answer to that question was no. There was no law (15 years ago) that required us to offer help to another.
Now for a real life example.
In 1964 Kitty Genovese was attacked late at night in front of her building in Queens, New York. She was stabbed repeatedly and raped. She died as a result of her injuries. How people responded has been a dispute since that fateful night. There were multiple witnesses but few people called the police. Some said they thought it was a lovers’ quarrel, others claimed not to hear the attack because it was cold and their windows were closed. Regardless, her death led to psychological studies of human behavior. Those studies resulted in what we call the bystander effect. Put briefly, this phenomena states that the more people there are to help in a situation, the less likely someone will in fact offer assistance. The reasons for this vary. With so many people around, the thought is surely someone else must have called for help. Or perhaps someone else is better qualified than me. Then there’s the ultimate, I don’t want to get involved.
The bystander effect. Bystanders don’t get involved. They watch. They avoid. They wait for someone else to do something. They think, “Why isn’t anyone doing anything?”
Flash forward to 2011. Remove yourself from the streets of New York and place yourself in the small, but active alley in the southern Guyangdong province of China. Instead of a 28 year old woman walking from her car to her apartment, picture a 2 year old toddling in front of a van.
Wang Yue, or Yueyue for short was run over by two vans in an alley and lay dying while 18 bystanders ignored her. Some walked past while others drove by, some on scooters. She was disregarded. People stopped to look or swerved to drive around her. It wasn’t until trash collector Chen Xianmei, 57, an illiterate migrant from the countryside saw her that Yueyue received help. Her rescuer pulled her from the middle of the road and called for the girl’s mother who had been hanging laundry at the time the accident happened.
A security camera filmed the entire incident. The video went viral in China and people are calling the tragedy, “the death that awakened the conscience of China.”
The video of the entire incident is below. Warning, it is violent and disturbing.
Did Yueyue have no neighbors to help? Eighteen people walked by until someone worthy to be called her neighbor lent a hand.
Jesus was once asked, “Who is your neighbor?” The answer came in the form of a parable that is eerily similar to the stories of Kitty Genovese and Yueyue.
A man is beaten and left by the side of a road to die. Travelers who followed kept their distance. Two men walked past the victim. They continued without helping but a third man stopped. He helped the beaten man. He tended to his injuries. He took him to a hotel where he paid for the man’s stay until he healed. The irony of this story is that the first two were men of God and the third a hated enemy of the victim. (Think Israeli and Palestinian.)
What do you do when you see someone in need? Do you walk by and thank God it’s not you? Do you turn around and walk away, afraid of the scene before you?
Is it our duty to put ourselves in harm’s way in order to help a stranger? Or should it be illegal to avoid helping another when we can do so at no risk to our own safety? Those answers will always be debated.
Regardless of the answers, I am convinced of this. A neighbor will provide help to the helpless, regardless of race, religion, background, or anything else.
In response to the toddler’s death in China, government officials, members of the Communist Party, lawyers and social workers met for three days to discuss how to respond. Some lawyers are trying to draft “Good Samaritan” legislation to protect those who attempt to help and penalize others who deny it.
According to a quote in the LA Times, Zhu Yongping, one lawyer who attended the meetings said, "People are really shocked. Some were crying. We couldn't imagine that moral values have declined so much.”
That’s because of the first 18 people who walked by, none were neighbors, they were mere bystanders. Bystanders do nothing. Bystanders don’t need morals. Morality requires action.
I have one thought, "What about leap year?"
What do you think? Please comment below.
Found at lipscombbiketour.blogspot.com
Last summer I did a few projects in my back yard which killed the grass. I didn’t just have dead grass, I had bare spots. Just plain dirt
This summer I promised my wife a garden box. I planned on putting it in the corner of the yard where the grass was really nice.
So I transplanted the grass to the dirt spots.
I had to water it constantly because it was turning brown.But it lived.It wasn’t going to die as long as it was watered.
For a while, the grass looked like it would have been better off if I left it where it was. But if it stayed there it would have died. A garden box and a pile of dirt was going on top. It was only going to live if it was transplanted.
It wasn’t just moved. It was moved with a purpose. The grass no longer filled a purpose where it was. It now filled a spot. But it needed extra water when it got there. At least until it took root
If grass could speak it would have had some choice words for me!
I took a shovel to it
I poked it
I ripped it
I tore it
I ripped out the roots
Some of it died
I knew some of it would die
It got weak
I knew it would get weak
But I knew I would take care of it
I would water it
I would tend to it
I would fertilize it
I had a plan for it
It would have died if I didn’t do any of those things
There are times when we are that grass aren’t we?
God takes us and moves us
A part of us dies
But what we forget sometimes is that if we stay where we are we will die
Moving is hard
We will need extra care
But God, the One who moves us, will provide what we need so we can take root in our new place
Jesus said, “whoever drinks water from a well will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.”
The world will offer you something to eat. I’m not talking about pizza and beer. I mean meaning and purpose. The world has a lot to offer. It’s hard to keep up. But whatever the world offers you, it’s not permanent
Wherever you go to be fed, it will not be enough.
You will get hungry again.
You will get thirsty again.
I’m talking hunger of the heart
A thirst down in your soul
You know what I mean
You’ve tried different things to make yourself feel good. To feel full. To feel satisfied.
The thirst we have in our soul can’t be quenched by just anything
It can only be quenched by Living Water
Jesus said, “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again.”
Are you ready to be fed by Jesus Christ, Living Water?
If you are ready to drink, drink with me.
A few months back I test drove a pickup from a private seller. It was a great truck and the seller, the first and only owner, took excellent care of it. There was one issue though. One little bulb in the dashboard wouldn’t light up leaving a dark spot in the speedometer. The seller said it had always been like that. After driving the truck for about 7 years, he learned to get used to it and assured me I would too. I believed him and bought it.
After driving the truck for about 7 months I decided to look into fixing that little bulb. I went online and found detailed, step by step instructions on how to take the dashboard apart. It involved wrenches of various sizes, several screws and bolts, electrical wiring and even more patience. I went out to the garage and took a closer look at all the parts I’d have to remove. With the driver’s door opened and while down on one knee, I took my index finger to the spot that wouldn’t light up and…bap! I tapped the screen a few times.
And then it happened.
A tiny little burst of light.
The dark spot was gone!
I stared in amazement. I was going to take the whole thing apart. I couldn’t believe it.. but there it was. The entire screen was lit up like a brand new truck.
And all I did was “bap” it.
Do you have a dark spot in your life? Not a big spot. Just a little one. Enough that you notice but not enough that you feel too urgent about fixing. Maybe you just got used to living with it. That little dark spot in your life.
Perhaps you think it’s not worth the effort of tackling. There are so many little layers to who we are. Fixing that one little spot would mean taking other things apart. It’s just a spot. Learn to live with it.
Have you been living with a dark spot inside of you simply because you allow it or have gotten used to it? Sometimes, we allow something to linger because we don’t face it. Those little dark spots become a blemish that we learn to live with.
Maybe what you need is a “bap.”
Take a close look at that spot in your life and “bap” it.
Pay that lingering bill. BAP!
Make that phone call… BAP! BAP!
Apologize for the pain you caused. BAP! BAP! BAP!
See the light come on.
See what the darkness was hiding.
See everything lit up as it should be.
And you’ll feel brand new.
I’ve been watching the Star Trek: Enterprise series on Netflix. It’s campy and totally fun to watch. It made me wonder. There are a lot of trekkies out there. What if a pastor was a trekkie? Here’s list of things to look for to know if your pastor has gone overboard as a trekkie:
1. The pastor’s office is called the “ready room”
2. We are told we should no longer “Klingon” to sin
3. The church is renamed the Enterprise
4. Missionaries are encouraged to, “Go where no one has gone before.”
5. There is a giant view screen in front of the sanctuary
6. The pulpit is referred to as the Bridge
7. The “Alleluia” chorus at Christmas is replaced with the “aaaaAAAAAaaaaaaaaAAAAAAA” from the original series
8. The benediction consists of him/her holding his hand up, splitting his fingers apart to form a “V” and saying, “Live long and prosper”
9. The mission team goes on an “away mission”
10. All Sunday morning programs have the “Star Date” on them
11. We’re taught that carrying out the Great Commission is the “Prime Directive”
12. The Fellowship Hall is now “Ten Forward” (For you Next Generation fans)
13. For Catholics: Confessions consists of a mind meld
I’m sure you can think of some more. What can you come up with? Leave your comments please.
A few years ago I went to the Catalyst conference in Atlanta. It was awesome. Thousands of people gathered together to worship God and hear from some of the best that the Christian world has to offer. I listened to messages from the likes of Andy Stanley and Dave Ramsey. I took copious notes and sang along with everyone to fabulous music. I loved it.
While I was there I had a cup of coffee from the folks at Land of a Thousand Hills. I came home inspired and reinvigorated to do even more for my congregation. I also came home with information on Land of a Thousand Hills to present to my board of Deacons who serve coffee every Sunday after our single serving of worship. (Silly me, I made a coffee reference.) My thought was serving coffee in and of itself could be an outreach. Plus it’s a darn good cup of joe.
I came home and brought my excitement with me. I proudly presented Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to my board of elders and the new coffee to my deacons.
Financial Peace went pretty well. It was hard at first. Some people didn’t think they needed to get out of debt. One person told me paying $100 to get out of debt didn’t seem like a sound financial investment. I think this is the same person who won’t pay for a lottery ticket unless the pot is up to $30 million because anything less just isn’t worth his buck. But I pushed forward. Several people attended and it was, in my opinion, a success. Every person or couple who attended said their financial standing improved. One couple reported at the end of the course that their marriage was stronger as a result of attending. Praise God.
Meanwhile, the deacons worried about the new brand of coffee. It was more expensive than what they were currently serving. We were serving a “cost effective” brand of coffee. (By cost effective I mean cheap and bad tasting.) I encouraged them to trust God; to risk spending an extra $30 one month and see what happens. After discussing the coffee they gave it a shot. Oh, did I mention, the discussion lasted for about a year and a half? By the time we served our first cup of LOTH coffee, Catalyst had already met again and was gearing up for the next conference. We served the coffee and the money came in. We asked the members of the church to give to the coffee mission and about $300 came in. Then another gift of $400 came in for a grand total of $700 in coffee money! Still, there was concern that it wouldn’t work. sigh.
These two ministries have in many ways been successful and I continue to encourage. But, I have to admit, it wore me down.
When I go to a place like Catalyst, I have to confess that I’m afraid of feeling motivated. Because I know when I get back my new found inspiration will be challenged. Why do we have to do this? We’ve never done this before. You think we don’t know what we’re doing. We don’t need to do this. Why do you want new people in the church? You want to get rid of us. You don’t like what we’re doing. sigh.
When I go to a place like Catalyst I feel like I’m looking at other people who won the ministry lottery. They’re successful. They have big churches and big ministries. People come from all over to hear them. The more I go to seminars like this, the more I feel disillusioned about my role in the church.
I didn’t go to Catalyst in Atlanta this year because I did not want to come home and place my inspiration on a shelf. I know that is wrong. I know that is sad. I know being “big” does not mean being successful and God has done great things where I’m at. And I would like to go back. But I couldn’t go this year.
When I was a kid I remember a poster in the fellowship hall at my church. It had a number of objects on it, all identical in shape and all the same color. Except one. One object was a different color. The caption on the bottom of the poster read, “I don’t’ want to change the world, I want to change the world for one person.”
Sometimes I think we pastors feel like we are the only ones that are being changed. Then again I am reminded of that couple who said their marriage was better as a result of attending the FPU class that I stood for. I felt as much a pastor in that moment than I do when I perform a baptism or a wedding. And if I am doing my math correctly, that is two people.
And, now that I think about it, I did stumble across FPU at Catalyst. And we are still serving that good coffee. I’ll have to clear my calendar for Catalyst next year.