Posts Tagged ‘life’

Kosher Shoes

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

I heard a really interesting interview on NPR this weekend. In their money segment on Sunday mornings they’re running a series on faith and money. This weekend they talked to a young Jewish couple who run a kosher food truck in LA and their Rabbi.

What stood out to me was the practical ways in which the young couple being interviewed applied their religious principles to their lives. These principles, by the way, are the same principles that Christ-followers should apply as well. We are all reading the same book after all.

A comment they made early in the interview was that as practicing Jews it was easy for them to determine what to buy at the grocery. Yet, it wasn’t so easy at Best Buy. That struck me as kind of funny. I had never thought about whether a TV could be kosher or not. I’m still not sure if it can, but that’s not the point. The point is that for them shopping involves intentionality. Shopping is and exercise in mindfulness. That’s the first lesson I drew from the interview.

Are you mindful when you shop? Do you consider the full implications of the purchase you’re making? Do you consider how this purchase affects other people? I wish I could say I do. But I don’t. You see, it’s not just about getting the best deal on the product you want to enhance your life. Every purchase we make is a moral choice.

There was a second point that they made. It has to do with the value of the service provided by the people selling the product. The young woman talked about making a shoe purchase. Very stereotypical I know, but it’s true. Anyway, virtually any shoe you can find in a shoe store can be found online.

If getting the best price on a pair of shoes were the only goal, then it would make sense to buy shoes online. Yet, shoes are very personal. You have to try them on before you buy them. There’s a simple solution of course. Go to the shoe store. Find the shoes you like. Try them on. Then go home and shop online to get the best deal.

Yet, what does that strategy communicate about the value of the person trying to sell you the shoes in the store? Do you see how dehumanizing that strategy is? You would be making that person work for free (shoe salespeople generally work on commission). That strategy communicates that the service of the salesperson is of know value. That strategy, moreover, violates God’s principles of caring for people. The service that people provides has value and they should be paid appropriately.

Every dollar we spend communicates something about the person we are and the person we are becoming. We need to shop intentionally and, to the best of our ability, spend our money in the most morally responsible way. We also must remember that every person is valuable and they deserve to be compensated for the work that they do. These two principles should affect how we spend money every day.

Do you have any stories of how you have shopped mindfully or made a point to value the work that someone has done for you?

I want to see the wonders of God’s great love.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

During my regular quiet time today I read the first half of Psalm 17. In this prayer David comes to the Lord and asks to see the “wonders of his great love” (Psalm 17:7a NIV). Isn’t that what we all want? Don’t all of us that believe there is a God want to see the “wonders of his great love?” I know I do. That’s why I moved my family to Ann Arbor to launch Agape Ann Arbor. I want to see God’s love manifested in this city. I want to see my friends, and neighbors experience God’s love. I want to have a deeper, fuller experience of God’s love. I want to experience God like Jesus did when he was here.

If we all want to see the wonders of God’s great love, why don’t we here more stories of people seeing it? Is God hiding it from us? Is life some cosmic game of hot and cold with the prize an experience of God’s love?

No. God’s not hiding his love. I think we’re just looking for it in the wrong places and the wrong way. I think a clue to seeing the wonders of God’s great love can be found in Matthew 9:35-38:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus experienced the wonders of the Father’s great love because he loved the same things the Father loved. When’s the last time you looked at the people walking down the streets of your town and felt compassion for the ones who don’t know Jesus? When’s the last time you tried to show someone the Jesus’ love them? If we want to see the wonders of God’s great love, we will see it when we express it to those he loves around us. As we express God’s love to the people he loves we will experience the wonder’s of his great love.

What’s one thing you can do today to express God’s love to someone you live near or work with?

Christian’s in a Zoo

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

A couple of months ago on one of our trips to the zoo we had the opportunity to pet a learn about an opossum (which we found out is different than a possum). We see opossums all over the Midwest. In particular, the little critters love to dig through our garbage and make a mess of things. An interesting fact I learned about opossums is that they’re not originally from the Midwest. They migrated here from Central America. As immigrants to our region of the world they’re not well adapted to our climate. Opossums in the Midwest are often very thin compared to their relatives to the south and the damaging effects of frostbite can be seen on many of them.

We’re a lot like the opossums in the midwest. We weren’t created to live in a fallen world. We were created to live in a sin-free world in a close relationship with God. We’re, therefore, not well adapted to live in this environment and the damaging effects of sin affect our lives. They can be seen in the anxiety we experience, or in our struggles to maintain healthy relationships. We all carry the scars of sin like midwestern opossums cary the scars of frostbite.

In the zoo, opossums are protected from the dangers of the Midwestern climate by zookeepers who love and care for them. In Christ, we have access to a similar kind of protection. God loves and cares for us. By sending Jesus God created a zoo for people. In the zoo, we are free from the power of sin. We can live in a close relationship with God. Jesus’s death on the cross opens the gates to the zoo and allows us in. To enter the zoo we walk through the gate by trusting that Jesus’s sacrifice paid for our admission. We stay in the zoo by choosing to live our lives the way Jesus lived his.

We all belong in a zoo. Are you in the zoo?


Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Most of my readers have probably never heard of Tyler Perry or Madea. You’ve probably never seen any of Tyler Perry’s movies or stage performances. If you haven’t seen anything by Tyler Perry, you don’t know what you’re missing. In my opinion he is one of the best artists of our time able to seamlessly move from stage to screen. He is both an amazing playwright and screenwriter along with a wonderful director and producer. Mr. Perry can do it all.

Last Thursday my wife and I went to see Madea’s Big Happy Family, the latest offering of Tyler Perry on stage. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The tears weren’t from sadness. The tears were rolling because we were laughing so hard. I laughed so hard my face hurt. The writing was incredible. Tyler Perry’s whit and way with words make his comedies a laugh riot. I haven’t had that much fun watching a show in a long time.

While Mr. Perry is a phenomenal comedic artist that’s not the thing I like most about his work. The thing I like most is how he seamlessly weaves his faith into his work without it sounding forced or trite. Madea’s Big Happy Family was written by Tyler Perry, in large part, to help him process his grief after his mother passed away. The theme of the show was the influence that mothers have on their families.

The show opens with the lead character learning that her cancer has returned and she doesn’t have long to live. The hi-jinks begin when she invites her family including her kleptomaniac brother and family friend Madea, a 6’ tall 60 year old pistol packin’, ex-stripper, ex-con over to tell them the news. The entire first act is a laugh riot as we watch many failed attempts to get the family to slow down long enough to learn what’s going on. Yet, the comedy is light-hearted. This is not a dark comedy and you forget the morbidity of the situation as you enjoy watching the dysfunction of the family and laugh as you see elements of yourself and your own family in the hysterical situation.

The true theme of the show develops in Act 2. By now the family has learned the fate of their matriarch and they are working through the grieving process. The tears of joy turned to tears of sadness as we all grieved with the family at the loss of their saintly mother. (Even as I write this, I’m starting to feel the emotion all over again.) But the roller-coaster ride of emotion wasn’t over at this point. Our sadness turned to joy as we saw Tyler Perry’s vision of the death of his mother. We saw her weep for her children that were losing their mom and rejoice as she was raised to be with Jesus whom she had served faithfully.
The show culminated with the family sharing the influence their mom had on them and how through her life she pointed them to Jesus.

Madea’s Big Happy Family is one of the best stage performances I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen anything by Tyler Perry you need to check him out. Go out today and rent Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Daddies Little Girls. After you watch them, come back here and tell us what you think. I guarantee you’ll enjoy them. And if you get the chance, go see Madea’s Big Happy Family.

Today is a Great Day

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Today is a major milestone for me. I mailed in my dissertation proposal. Not as exciting as a wedding anniversary or my daughter’s birthday and it’s not an event that I will celebrate for years to come. But, I’ve worked hard to get to this point and it feels really good to have this part done.

Yet, as I think about how much I’ve done I’m also forced to think about the work I still have ahead of me. As I think about that I can’t help but ask, why am I doing this? Why am I working so hard to get a PhD. I’m not planning on becoming a seminary professor. I don’t need the degree for my job. Why am I doing this.
It’s a tougher question than you might think. Here are my reasons. (1) I want to finish what I’ve started. I’ve put several years of work into this project. It would be foolish of me to quit when I’m so close now. (2) My family has sacrificed a lot for me to do this. It would be horribly disrespectful of me to dishonor that sacrifice by quitting now. (3) This degree will help me make a difference. My path to God has always been the intellectual path. I am most in tune with who I am and most connected with God when I’m learning or teaching. I believe, through the research I’m doing now, God will make a real impact on His Kingdom. I believe that the work I’m doing will change people’s lives. Moreover, this is just the beginning. There are a lot of things I want to research and write. I believe they will all have some impact. I don’t know how big. I don’t really care. This is my “talent.” I can either invest it and see God do great things with it or bury it. I want to invest it. I want to be a part of what God’s doing.

I’m writing this dissertation and getting a PhD because it’s part of the ministry to which God has called me, and I believe God will use it to make a difference in people’s lives.

Whatever God has called you to do, don’t give up. God will use you and what you’re doing to make an eternal difference. I look forward to hearing the stories of how God is using you.

The Most Christian Thing You Can Do is Go to a Party.

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Yesterday I attended a birthday party with my 4-year-old daughter for one of her friends. Now, anyone who knows me knows that parties are not my thing. I’m naturally an introvert so even the idea of a bunch people crammed into a small space is exhausting. In fact while I consider the birthday-boy’s mom a friend and I like being Uncle Bryon to the young man, the main reason I attended was because my wife was feeling under the weather and not up to taking our daughter to the party.

Today as I look back on the events of yesterday and my response to the party, I’ve got to confess I’m a little ashamed. All the people at that party are people of infinite value to God but for the most part I didn’t see that. They were just people sharing the same space with me. My focus was 100% on my daughter and I didn’t even attempt to engage anyone in a real conversation. I didn’t treat them with the dignity that they deserve as people created in the image of God.

To be a Christian isn’t merely intellectual assent to a set of propositions (although those propositions and assent to them both have value). A Christian is one who follows Christ; one who longs to be closer to him and be more like him. A cursory reading of the gospels will show that Jesus loved a good party. He never missed a chance to spend time with people, because he saw their infinite value.

Now, I’ll always be an introvert. That is who God created me to be. I’ll never be the life of the party. Those are things that I cannot control. However, I can control how I interact with people at parties. I can control whether or not I show them God’s love or not. The next time I attend a party, I pray that people see someone who values them for who they are rather than someone in a hurry to leave.

Letting Go is Hard to Do Part 2

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Prayer is vital to letting go of control and giving it to God. Prayer is a physical activity that reminds us of our dependence on God and opens us to hear from him.

For many people prayer comes naturally. They pray all the time. I’m not one of those people. Prayer, for me, is a discipline. I have to schedule it or I won’t do it. I’ve scheduled in my day three times of consistent prayer. They’re not marathon prayer sessions. Just specific times that I consciously acknowledge God and talk to him. I’ve found that since I’ve been disciplining myself pray regularly spontaneous prayer has become more natural and I pray more often. When I get out of my routine, the spontaneous prayer becomes less common as well.

As I pray more consistently, my attitude shifts and I rely on God more consistently and work harder at being connected to him and less hard at being in control.

Letting Go is Hard to Do

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

If you’ve spent any time in church or around Christ-followers, you’ve heard that we need to give God control of our lives. “Let go and let God.” I’ve heard that over and over again and often wondered, what does that mean and how do I do it? I’m certainly no expert but I’ll share a few thoughts.

Letting go is more of an attitude than an action. God does not call us to be passive, to sit back and wait. God provides us everything we need to become the tool he is going to use. We, however, need to have an attitude of submission and obedience. We need to allow God to guide our actions rather than act and ask God to bless our actions.
Here are a couple of tips that help me submit to God’s control:

1. Pray. I know it’s the obvious answer, but it’s vital. Prayer is a physical activity that helps remind us of our dependence on God.

2. Read Scripture. Another, obvious answer. Yet, God has given us his Word to guide us.

3. Act. God isn’t looking for people to warm the bench. He’s looking for people to get in the game.

Letting go is hard. Trying to control things you can’t is harder. Listen to God. Take that next step. He’ll guide you to where you need to be.

what do you think about your wife/husband

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

In my last post I talked about the effects that thoughts have on experience. Today I want to apply that specifically to marriage. It’s an incredibly disturbing trend to me to see the number of marriages failing today. It’s a shame that the relationship that God designed to, in my opinion, most reflect Him often reflects Him the least. I think that the way we think about our spouses has a huge part to play in that. Take a moment and think about the thoughts you’ve had recently about your husband or wife. What have those thoughts been? Have you thought intentionally about them or have you let your mind wander? Have you thought about them at all when they weren’t present with you? A couple days ago I took some time to intentionally think about how much I love my wife and the things I love about her. It was incredibly fulfilling. It was almost like I fell in love with her all over again. Sadly, I don’t intentionally think about her or anything enough. Far too often I allow my mind to wander. I have a challenge for you. Take some time in the next 24 hours and think intentionaly about the person that means most to you. If your married I hope that person is you spouse. If not, think about your spouse anyway. It will be good for your marriage. Think about how they enrich your life. Spend some time intentionally reflecting on the importance your spouse, or if you’re not married the most important person in your life. After that 24 hour period journal or post here your thoughts and experiences. I think you’ll be pleased in the way such an action improves your relationship.

Husband in Chief

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Have you noticed the media coverage regarding the Obamas’ public displays of affection? Right now with the media frenzy around the first family everything ends up in the news. I have, however, found it interesting that the public displays of affection between Barack and Michelle Obama have gotten so much air time. I’m glad it has though. It’s great to see a married couple that love each other and aren’t afraid to show it. I’m incredibly frustrated with the way marriage is so often portrayed in our culture. It’s not a “ball and chain.” It is the most fulfilling human experience in the world. Yes, I understand it doesn’t always work out that way. People marry the wrong people for the wrong reasons. But, whose fault is that? It’s refreshing to see the most influential couple in the world show what marriage could and should be. I hope that one of the legacies of President Obama’s time in office is a reminder of what marriage is intended to be and a strengthening of the marriages in America.