Getting rid of stuff

I think it started with the remodel. It intensified with the reading of Marie Kondo’s book on “tidying up.” It hit the fan with Josh Becker’s Minimalist Home. We are getting rid of stuff. Here’s a short list:

  • Forty-year old high school and college year books (they’re all online anyway)
  • Plastic storage containers (with lids)
  • The spoon my mom fed me with when I was a baby.
  • Mugs of many shapes and sizes (we use the same two or three every morning)
  • Clothes we don’t wear (some with price tags still attached!)

Kitchen gadgets: apple slicer (we have knives, you know), herb scissors (never used them), angel food cake pan (don’t make angel food cake here), knick-knacks (that have been stored in the attic for years), a portfolio of kids’s art (I took pics of everything), and a whole bunch of picture frames.

This process reminds me of my move from a rented duplex in Austin, TX to the seminary thirty-seven years ago. I didn’t have much, but I left plenty on the curb before I headed off to the seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN. I left behind all my math books (that was my major in college), cheap sofas and chairs, and who knows what else. I sold my bike and trombone. I fit everything I owned into a Volkswagon Rabbit diesel car (remember those?) along with Gabriel, my Labrador Retriever) and headed off to study to be a pastor.

I know. What if I need those books I never read? What if I need that shirt I’ve never worn? What if…

Four years ago we cleaned out my dad’s house. We kept virtually nothing. We got rid of everything. Guess what? You can get rid of a lot of stuff right now!

Taking another bag of idols to the curb

neonbrand-441844-unsplashI think I would do anything for the approval of others.

And I know I’m not alone. We Christians like to say we fear, love and trust God above all things. We think the first commandment “You shall have no other gods” is a piece of cake. The reality is that the god of approval has taken up residence and occupies a large space in our hearts.

Jacob, Joshua and Samuel had to tell God’s people to get rid of all their idols. Their tents were full of them. If they were going to be serious about God, everything has to go. I always imagine it’s bulk trash day, and piles of wood and metallic statues sit on the curb in front of everyone’s home.

I’ve never had anything like that. But the idol in my heart is much harder to extricate. It’s so much a part of who I am. I’m an oldest child, so I’m a follow the rules, color inside the lines, arrive on time, drive the speed limit, think inside the box kind of person. I thrive on being praised for being a good boy. I even like it when I’m teased for being too law-abiding.

Every “good sermon,” “great job,” and “thanks for doing that,” is another push on the bicycle tire pump that inflates my head a little bit more. It’s a shot of emotional adrenaline that I’ve come to crave. I don’t care if you’re just being polite or just telling me what you think I want to hear. I’ll consume whatever your serving. It all tastes delicious, and yes, I’ll have seconds, thank you.

There is a down side to this god that isn’t the true God. They have a way of consuming you. You don’t reveal your struggles. You pretend you can handle everything. You rarely ask for help. You withdraw, lest someone see you not at your best. You exaggerate — not a lot, just a little bit – to get more mileage out of a compliment. “Vulnerable” and “transparent” aren’t part of your vocabulary. Are you nuts?

Like any idol, this god can obscure the approval of God. His approval is so different. His approval has nothing to do with my performance. His approval comes despite my performance. His approval is solely based on his love for me, a love revealed in Christ. No pressure, no pretending, no manipulation. Just the real thing.

Thank goodness God called me to be a preacher. Each week as I prepare to proclaim Christ and him crucified, I am reminded of his love, and I take another bag of idols out to the curb. His approval eclipses anything they promise or give, so why keep them around? It’s my spiritual version of minimalism. I only need one God, the real one.

Every week before I preach, I pray. I kneel during the last verse of the sermon hymn, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and thank God for the opportunity to preach. I ask him to open hearts to hear exactly what he wants to tell them. And I picture two things. First, I imagine a cooler of water dumped on my head, a reminder of my baptism. I’m already a child of God. I don’t have to impress anyone. Second, I imagine having blood spattered on me, just like Moses sprinkled blood on the altar and then on the people, a reminder of God’s covenant with them. His blood covers me, and I don’t have to prove anything. I make the sign of the cross, and I’m ready to go. There’s just one God in the room and I’m not him. And just wait till you hear what he has to say!

 

 

 

 

“Will you do my daughter’s wedding?”

Paster-Orr-CeremonyI will probably get in big trouble for this post. But you know what? It just might be worth it. I’m pretty sure that the parties involved will not see this post. So here goes…

A few weeks ago I got one of those anonymous emails asking, “Would you do our daughter’s wedding in Saint Augustine? We are Lutheran, but we live out of the area.”

Sometimes I simply ignore these requests. But for some reason I was intrigued and replied, “What church do you belong to?”

I heard back from the mother quickly,  “We aren’t actually members right now, but we have attended (she went on to name some South Florida churches)”. Hmm. Interesting. Should I keep the discussion going? What the heck. Let’s see where this goes.

OK. I am available. When and where is the wedding? They replied with a date and a time. OK, I can do it. Let’s set up a phone conversation.

The phone conversation went surprisingly well. Nice folks. We’re three weeks out from the wedding, so we better get to work. I sent a copy of a typical wedding ceremony, asking for their input as to what scripture they would like me to read. I also gave them some suggestions.

About a week later, I hear from the bride-to-be. “I looked at the service. Can you make it less biblical?” Hmm. I replied, “I’m not sure what you mean. I am a Lutheran pastor. Just about everything I do is bible-based and Christ-centered.” She replies, “Some bible is OK. But you didn’t say much about things like the relationship and love and life.”

Here is what I emailed in reply:

I’ve give some thought to your request, but I’m struggling to come up with anything.

I could talk about how love is patient, kind, and enduring. I could say something about how you were created for a relationship like you and your fiancé have. I could explain how we actually find what life is all about when we give it away to someone else. Unfortunately, all those truths are biblical (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Genesis 2:18-24; Luke 9:24).

I’m a pastor. I’ve been charged with preaching the word (the bible) — that’s from 2 Timothy 4:2. Rather than myself, I talk about Jesus (2 Cor. 4:5). I have no doubt that the only way my own marriage has lasted over 33 years is because of God’s gifts of mercy, grace and forgiveness (Eph. 2:8-9). All the things that make my relationship with my wife possible — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — are all the gifts of God’s Spirit for us. This too is biblical (Galatians 5:25-26).

So you see, that’s all I’ve got. I will not offended if you and your fiancé decide to find someone else to officiate at your wedding. However, I will do my best if you would still like me to perform the ceremony. Either way, I pray that you and your future husband will experience the joy and blessing of being husband and wife for many, many years.

So what do you think? Did I reply appropriately? I really believe that mom wanted a pastor to officiate the wedding, but the kids weren’t really into the church thing. It’s been a few days and I haven’t heard back. I’ll let you know what happens…

Coming around the backstretch: This and that (for March 7, 2015)

We’re halfway through the season of Lent on our way to Easter Sunday. Hopefully I’ll remember to set my clocks ahead tonight so I’m not late for church tomorrow morning. I discovered a bunch of interesting stuff to share this past week.

Amy Carmichael wrote, ““Let nothing be said about anyone unless it passes through the three sieves: Is it true? Is it kind?sieves Is it necessary?” (aka, The Three Sieves of Socrates). Tim Challies reflects on the importance of that wisdom in The 3 Sieves.

Aaron Armstrong recommends these books to Christians who would like to read about Islam. A few more are added in the comments.

Walter Fretz is the name of a baby who survived just a few moments after being born at just 19 weeks’ gestation. He was tiny, but had a powerful message to send about preborn human life in this story from lifenews.com. According to this article from Christianity today, the Guttmacher Institute’s research has 54331found twenty percent of women who have an abortion identify themselves a born-again, evangelical, charismatic, or fundamentalist Christians. That’s reason enough to make sure we (Christians and the Church) frequently and stubbornly speak of God’s mercy and forgiveness as well as His gift of life.

Food updates:

  • I made a batch of Pinot Noir Brownies. They are even more  chocolately and delicious as I had hoped!
  • I like Peeps as much as anyone, but I’m dubious about Peeps flavored milk from Prairie Farms. I’ll let you try it and tell me what you think.
  • Do you like the Lemon Cake at Starbucks? Here’s the recipe you can make at home. They claim it’s even better.
  • Be sure to make the Brownies and Lemon Cake before you read this article from the World Health Organization, which states that we are getting way too many calories from sugar.
  • I have to make one of these for next week’s baby shower. I hope I can find a nice watermelon at this time of the year.

watermelon baby

Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby have been in the news as companies begun by Christians. Here are a few more companies I’ll bet you didn’t know were also started by believers. BTW, the Chick-fil-A in Palm Coast opens March 19!

Picture1

Brownies, beagles and badmouthing: This and That (for February 28, 2015)

Here are a few things I’ve run across this week.

This is a tough one (but a good one) to read for those who are of a different political persuasion: Why you should think twice before badmouthing Obama.

browniesFood news! (My weekly this and that apparently now needs a “food” section.) From the UK, a grandmother finds a Monopoly piece in her cole slaw. You’ll soon be able to get edible coffee cups in Great Britain and butter-flavored Kit Kats in Japan. And I’ll let you know when I’ve whipped up a batch of Pinot Noir Brownies.

BeagleBayleePurebredDogs8Months1Now that a beagle has won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, some may be thinking about getting a beagle of their own. My family had a beagle when I was growing up in Ridley Park, PA. His registered name was Sir Richard of Hastings, my dad called him Schnitz (short for Schnitzle),  but we mostly called him Bo. (Why? It’s a long story for another post.) Anyway, he had all the characteristics of the breed mentioned in Beware the Beagle. Before he fattened up, he would bolt the minute the front door was open a millimeter too wide or a millisecond too long. He would search out the most minute crumbs of food throughout the house. And he never tired of guarding the yard from squirrels.

This and that (February 21, 2015)

Just a few things from this past week that caught my attention:

persecuteErik Raymond is just an ordinary pastor who has some interesting thoughts about “How to think about persecution when you’re not very persecuted.” 

It’s long, but I found Graeme Wood’s article about “What ISIS really wants”  in The Atlantic helpful in understanding the current situation.

I’d like to get a Playmobile Martin Luther, but they sold out in like three days, and are now fetching over $100 on Ebay. playmobile luther

 

This and that (February 14, 2015)

David Murray ‘s post Why do you hate me so much? has some interesting points about the unfair opposition Christianity often experiences in American culture.

John Dickson has some interesting thoughts on violence in the Bible.

This clip from “Friends”, where Ross whitens his teeth, came to mind while I was preparing for Transfiguration tomorrow.

 It is Finished by Tullian Tchividjian and New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp are two daily devotional books definitely worth checking out.

IIF      NMM

 

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

Here are a few interesting things I stumbled across this week, from a variety of sources. nice people

There’s certainly nothing wrong with kindness, but Christianity is more than just being a good person.

booksWhat should I read next is a website to check out when you are searching for a book to read. Enter a book you like and the site will analyse a huge database of real readers’ favorite books to provide book recommendations and suggestions for what to read next.

groundhog

Last Monday was Groundhog Day. Punxsatawny Phil saw his shadow, so plenty more winter ahead (at least up north). Did you know that Half of Pennsylvanians would rather be represented by a groundhog in congress?

outhouseShort on cash? You can make $13,000 a year by selling your poop.

 

 

Finally, what do you think of one pastor’s thoughts on the benefits of membership? I’ve never been as hard-line as him, but he’s got some interesting points.