The Yellow Jacket of Distraction

I was at a stoplight today and a yellow jacket landed on the driver’s side mirror.  Before you panic, I had the window rolled up… and I’m not allergic, although I don’t like to be stung by those little things.  He wouldn’t fly away, and right as the light changed, he crawled from the top of the mirror to the back- shielded from the wind that would knock him off.

I thought nasty thoughts about him.  I used my Jedi mind control powers on him saying, “This is not the car you’re looking for.”  I thought about rigging a MacGuyver-esque contraption to crack the window and shoo him off.  I looked over every 1.3 seconds to see if he’d lost interest or gotten motion sickness and fallen off.  In essence, I did just about everything except pay attention to driving my car.

I know my life is like this sometimes almost all the time.  I have one little thing that gets me sidetracked and I take my eyes off the things that are really important.  Is this how God wants us to live our lives?  I don’t think so.  I think He wants us to be clearheaded and not prone to worrying about little things.  Jesus uses these kinds of words about worrying- “These things (worries) dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you what you need.” (Matthew 6:32-33 NLT)

Ouch.  I was so worried about that little yellow jacket that I’m not even allergic to…with my window rolled up, that I forgot to focus on a pretty major thing.  Like driving.  I became one of the crazies that I always fuss about on US 220.  Another topic for another time.

But really, we worry all the time and get so distracted by things that don’t matter.  As the writer of Hebrews states it in 12:1-2, we can run the race (a Christian life and walk with the Lord) not because of unneeded things, but because we keep our eyes on Christ.  We let Him matter more than the distractions.

So, to finish things up.  I got into the church parking lot, yellow jacket still hanging on for dear life.  I focused on parking the car and, you probably guessed it: the yellow jacket flew away.

Until next time!

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Yardwork and Spiritual Battles

OK, I admit.  I don’t have much time to do a lot of work in my yard.  I have about 8 blades of actual grass, and the rest of the .75 acres that I mow are weeds.  When it is really short it can give an illusion of looking nice, but maybe that’s another devotional thought altogether!  I am actually thinking of my backyard which part of my property is forest.  It’s not a large portion, .05 acres, but it is dense and takes a lot of time to control.  I’ve found that if I don’t actively control it and try to push it back some, it will creep into my yard and take it over.  If I had some awesome power tools, it would be one thing.  Alas, I have a machete.  One little blade against a rainforest.  Well, maybe a little hyperbole, but you get my drift.

Where’s the spiritual analogy?  I was reading today in Acts 6 and the part after the beginning of the deacons caught my attention.  The Apostle Stephen was proclaiming God’s Word and the gospel.  Obviously, there was some opposition.  It came from a group called the “Synagogue of the Freedmen”.  I found out that this group was comprised of former slaves (good) from areas heavily influenced by Hellenism (bad).

Hellenism could easily correspond to our secularization of society today.  In a nutshell, the two cultures are very “go with the flow” and “do what you want” in nature.  This mentality and worldview encroaches on the Christian worldview in much the same way as my backyard forest does to the rest of my lawn.  It tries to take over.  We read in Acts 6 that the Freedmen couldn’t out-do Stephen in his arguments, so they took the low road.  They started to spread lies, twisted truths, get the officials involved, and make a mess of the whole thing.

Isn’t that what those who are opposed to the faith do today?  Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t Christians who add fuel to the fire… but the secular worldview is that Christianity is just plain wrong, just because.  They can’t provide real evidence against it, so they try to twist it to their advantage.  The truth of God’s Word and the message of the cross is worth standing firm against the trickery of the world.  Even if you’re just armed with a little machete, you can help keep the forest at bay.

Until next time!

Going to the Shed

In my life as a musician, which I suppose was at least 100 years ago, I had to “shed” a lot.  Shedding (more so for jazz musicians than our classical counterparts) is a term that means practicing.  Jazz is, in my opinion, a pretty hip music, hence the hip terminology to describe an otherwise bland thing like practicing.  I’ve started playing again- just a bit here and there.  With the playing will definitely come some shedding… if I don’t then I won’t sound that good!

How, you may ask, does this have anything to do with the Christian life?  I’m glad you asked.  I… well, I’ll just go ahead and say it.  I am NOT perfect. Shocking, I know. So, even though I am a follower of Jesus Christ I still mess up sometimes.  Sometimes is a broad term.  Maybe to narrow it down, I could say I mess up anywhere from daily on down to every 5 minutes!  In our lives we will have to face the obvious fact that we are human beings and that we do still sin.  I think this idea of getting into a practice routine, “shedding”, working out the kinks in our lives is what Jesus was trying to say.  In Luke 9:23 we read, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” (NLT)

This whole concept of intentionally taking up/shouldering our cross, making a concerted effort to deny ourselves and push our desires back while pushing Christ’s to the forefront is tough.  But it is necessary.  If, like I have done for a few years now, I were to lay off the trumpet then I’d sound like… well, like it had been several years since I’d really played my horn!  What about in our lives as followers of Christ?  If it appears that it’s been a while since we’ve done anything that resembles a Christ-led life, maybe we need to “shed” a little.

Until next time!

Serving For A Conviction

This is going to be a controversial post.  (Ooh, I can just feel the traffic coming to my blog- Bwaa Haa Haaaaa!)  No, I’m going to unveil the spiritual content now, give my little illustration, then get back into the application.  It’s different than most of my posts, so my readership will have to get out of the routine.  This won’t be too earth-shattering, since it’s like, one person!  I’m going to talk about how the Holy Spirit has the power to convict us of things and how we respond- even when it’s an unpopular thing to do or when it’s one of those, “Well, I guess it’s not ALL bad, but not ALL good,” kinds of things.  You know, the percieved gray areas?

OK, burning a CD without paying for it is against the law.  I’m not talking about you bought an album on iTunes so you make a CD copy for yourself.  I’m talking about, “Hey, so-and-so has the new Flibberty Giblets CD… I’m so going to burn that.”  It seems like no one, youth or adult agrees with me that this is stealing.  I didn’t think so either for a long time.  I had literally hundreds of burned jazz, classical, blues, rock, bluegrass and other CDs in my collection.  It wasn’t until I came across a forum for youth pastors where I first felt a little tug from the Holy Spirit telling me that burning CDs that I didn’t own and then calling them mine was… wrong.  If you don’t like it, then imagine what I was feeling at the time!  I, the youth pastor, had even burned a few Christian artists’ CDs.  I got rid of them, either through the trash or by deleting them from my iTunes.  It stunk at first, but then I realized I had done the right thing.  That was about three years ago.  I just did the same thing this week when I realized I’d let myself get complacent with it again.

So, it begs some of the following questions:  What is conviction?  What about things that are commonly accepted in the world around us?  How do I respond to conviction?  It is a tough thing to deal with.

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul was addressing the food sacrificed to idols.  It, since the idols weren’t real, was just food.  But there were some people that could get spiritually tripped up by this and sin.  So, he tells us, that if we partake of it, we could cause them to sin.  I think of my conviction by the Holy Spirit (whom Jesus calls “Counselor” in John 14:26) as a way of letting me see that there are things that I need to avoid.  Maybe it’s to abstain from an appearance of wrongdoing.  Maybe it’s to let me see that I can trust in Him through trials- and dumping a lot of great music is a trial for me!  I don’t totally understand this topic, but have to be willing to let the Counselor counsel.

What are some ways that you have been under conviction and had to respond?

Until next time!

Accepting Corn Chowder By Faith

I’m not usually one to be tied down by food squeamishness.  I’m just at 6 feet tall, and I reside in the upper 230s to lower 240s.  I like me some food.  When Jenn and I were getting to know each other, it didn’t take her long to figure out that I would pretty much eat a food–granted it was not still moving.  That being said, I raised my eyebrows to a recent food purchase she made: corn chowder.   Now, I’m a big supporter of the clam chowder hailing from the place where they paahhk the caahh by the haahbaah.  Corn chowder?  Well, it may be an area of expertise to some but I’d never ventured into that “field”… until today.

My hesitation was rooted in some pre-conceived notions I had regarding some less-than-stellar corn puddings I’ve partaken of in the past.  It was an unfair comparison, but one that had me thinking that I was taking a big step of faith.  Then I saw it.  It was like a beacon to me.  A lighthouse shining its light, showing me the way to safety.  “Flavored with bacon”.  I abandoned any faith-stepping, and went out on sight there.  If it’s flavored with bacon, then I’ve just been armed with all the info I need pertaining to its eligibility for edibility.

In our daily walks with the Lord, isn’t that what we do a lot of the time?  Don’t we abandon our faith and trust in God and give in to making sure we “see” what we’re doing?  It requires a great deal of faith to accept Christ as your Savior.  The world at large doesn’t understand this commitment we make to Him, which is unfortunate, but true.  We have to go out on a limb, spiritually speaking, when we ask Him to save us from our sins.  That’s just where the faith journey begins, though!

Go back to the eating analogy (which I’m entitled to do as a Baptist!)  we don’t just eat once in our lives, and then abandon it do we?  I hope not!  We keep on eating… and eating… and- you get the point.  In our Christian lives, we don’t just accept Him in a bold move of faith and leave it at that.  We keep on practicing (or should) that same boldness and that same faith day in and day out.  If we have to test out our spiritual faith food by giving it the visual OK first, we’re missing the point.  2 Corinthians 5:7 tell us that we are to “live by faith, not by sight.”  In those things that God is trying to get us to do, we shouldn’t wait to see the label and see that it’s “flavored in bacon”.  It could be, and it could not be– but if it’s God’s will for us, then we’re a lot better off accepting it!

Oh, by the way- the corn chowder was delicious (and I could hardly taste the bacon–see where that got me?!)

Until next time.

Shedding Light

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I should attempt to do with this blog.  Hopefully you’ve noticed some things have changed as you entered the site just now.  Yeah, that’s the whole “attempting to do” aspect!  I’ve called it “Dave’s Blog” for a while now.  While it may be true that it is my blog, I wanted to do something to make it something a little better than that.  I know, it was a lame title– I’m sensing that you are relieved because I came to this realization and you didn’t have to tell me!

When I started thinking about what I’ve been using the blog to do over the last several months, it became apparent to me that I needed to make it some tie in to the devotional quality I’ve aimed for.  The “light” of course is the light of Christ, who is the light of the world. (John 8:12)  But it’s also a play on words in that, hopefully, the posts are shedding some light.  See what I did there?  I also thought the graphic at the top of the page with the sunshine was snazzy as it was juxtaposed with the darkness below.  This is symbolic of our world walking around in the dark without Jesus.  I take no credit for the theme of the blog– I just found it and applied it.  But it’s cool, though.  Tell me it’s cool.  Or at least it’s better than the awe-inspiring “Dave’s Blog”!

I’m 100% on the devotionals being the focus of the blog.  They may or may not remain titled “Dave-otionals” as they have been.  I like the name because it’s pretty slick, but I want to make very sure that 0% of the glory is for me so I’m in prayer over that at the moment with that name.  I’m open to some suggestions, all of you loyal readers.  As far as other posts, I’m going to limit the content to that which points towards Christ.  My personal life is boring.  It definitely doesn’t merit entire blog posts.  I think Facebook and Twitter might be the better mediums for personal stuff.  I’ve still retained the links to those places, and the Twitter feed is still up on the blog.

Hope you enjoy the new look!  (And let me hear some feedback!)

We’ve Got It Good, And That Ain’t Bad… Or Is It?

If nothing else,it seems like my aim is just to confound people with my off-center blog post titles.  This is going to be a tough one to write, though.  I don’t think that much of my topic fits into my humorous nature.  I’m talking about the subject of the global persecution of Christians.  Some of you probably started guffawing as you read that.  That’s fine.  As 1 Corinthians 1:18 states, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (NIV)  So, as opposers of the one, true God tend to do- let me have what you think are the “facts”.  Here’s what I know…

As I started doing some research, finding some videos, etc. for our youth group lesson I was more astonished than I had ever been.  The physical, brutal torture of professing Christians in much of the world today is of epic proportions.  I saw one video that showed three Christians being beaten, kicked, spat upon, and otherwise left for dead in India by Hindus.  In another, Iraqi Christians had to meet in an armed compound for fear of open violence against them.  In another account, a boy was forced by Muslims to gather the firewood that would fuel the fire he was to be thrown into.  I knew things were bad, I just didn’t realize how bad it was.  The one verse that got me was in 1 Corinthians 12:26 where it says, “If one part [of the body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it…” (NIV)  This was a huge reality check for me in that I never have truly been aware of the atrocities which are being perpetrated on Christians.  I had, I suppose, a “head” knowledge of them, but they sank down to my heart this time.

Ladies and gentlemen, America is not like these places.  In many parts of the world, there is no religious freedom.  You are either a Muslim, Hindu, or whatever the case may be- or you are, at best, ostracized.  That’s the best case scenario.  In the United States, and other countries with religious freedom, it is different.  There are no, or very few, physical atrocities such as these.  We have it good in that sense.  All we have to encounter may be some snickering and jeering now and then.  We may have to endure the occasional belligerent non- Christian attitude once in a while.  Someone may even talk about us behind our backs!  The bad thing, and I want to be careful here, is that we have no clue what true faith under fire is.  Of course, we all have trials and problems- each person’s are unique to them.  They need to be seen in light of James 1 and Romans 5:3-4.  These things need to be undergone so that perseverance and spiritual maturity can abound.  My only concern is: are we in danger of losing sight of what’s really going on in our world?  Has American Christianity become too lax in its approach to understanding the suffering of the global body of Christ?

Again, not my normal blog post… and at 520+ words, not the normal length for me either.  I hope this has given us some things to think about.  I hope, more importantly, this has given us some things to pray about.

Until next time!

Camp Neck

There’s a condition that I’ve become aware of this summer.  It is called “Camp Neck”.  It is the direct result of wearing a lanyard with a name tag attached to it for about 17 hours per day, and doing that for 5 days.  Ironically, it is not for the duration of the camp that this becomes a problem- it is actually after the camp is over that one experiences the condition.  What are the symptoms of Camp Neck?  Are they serious?  Life threatening? 

Camp Neck (hereafter CN) is a phenomenon wherein, the affected person(s) will actually feel the lanyard even though it’s not there.  (I italicized that for extra dramatic effect… did it give you the heebie-jeebies?)  I was saved from CN in our children’s camp because I got one of the little clippy-type name tags, but after our youth camp… I was feeling the effects of CN for a week!  It should serve as a warning to us all.

And why is that, you might ask?  Well, I’m sure that any camp has some kind of message/information/skill that is intended for the campers to retain- to keep with them for more than just the camp itself.  As this is pertaining to ministry stuff, I place a great deal of importance on the aspect of keeping the messages, devotionals, and time spent with God with me afterwards.  In other words, CN should get into our spiritual lives (and for more than a week, too!)  It is my prayer for the children and youth at my church and all the other churches represented at our camps this year to keep what they learned and apply it. 

I want to have CN all year and all my life, as a matter of fact.  I don’t want it to happen just at a camp, or a conference, either.  I want it to extend to messages I hear throughout the year, to my daily quiet time, and to my all-around worship of Jesus.  I really am hoping that I feel, not a lanyard’s presence, but God’s presence with me wherever I am.  This isn’t just for the under 18 crowd either, folks.  We can all acquire CN… we should all acquire CN!  Think about what these two Psalms talk about in regards to the presence of the Lord:

Psalm 16:11 says, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”  Wow!  The path of life, and an abundant one at that.  Eternal pleasures.  Those are some good side effects.

Psalm 89:15 says, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.”  We are blessed when we walk with Him.  When we are remembering, serving, following, worshiping, and glorifying God we are blessed.

Until next time!

Read the Fine Print

I ran across a website with some tips on blogging/writing the other day- www.jonacuff.com  He is the blogger of “Stuff Christians Like”, a very funny parody/satire of modern Christianity.  His tips were interesting, and I’ve been thinking about them and how to implement them into this blog.  One thought in particular was that there is an unwritten contract between the blogger and reader. 

To take it a little further (and paraphrased a bit) he mentions that in randomly blogging about whatever on whichever days, the blogger breaks the contract that the reader understands, which is “this is what I expect from your blog”.  If that’s the case, then I’m in for some major lawsuits!  I’ve been in a state of wondering lately about exactly what my blog should be.  I’ve noticed that I have my own little style of devotionals, quirky and weird sometimes, but still applicable for Scripture guiding our lives.  I am going to call them “Dave-otionals”.  Not to bring any focus towards myself, mind you.  I just think the name works.  If you can come up with a better one, I welcome your suggestions!  The next idea I have is the whole running/diabetes/dieting thing.  I am seeing in my life that I am becoming passionate about fighting this thing for real.  I really do need some help with a name for that one, though. 

I guess, then, here’s the official (but not legally binding in a court of law) contract for my blog:  I will post an aforementioned “Dave-otional” each week.  I will post an entry into the not-yet-named running/diabetes/dieting category each week as well.  If, by some chance, there is a random thing that just has to be shared it will be done… most likely by Twitter or Facebook, but it could be blogged.  Maybe.

So there it is.  Did you read the fine print?  Made sure that you knew what you were getting into?  I did… I think.  Better get cracking on the next post soon!

Comfort Food

You always hear about the basic food groups and what you should and shouldn’t eat, etc etc, yada-yada.  I found out that not too long ago, the old food pyramid changed to some kind of plate- thingy.  That’s different!  Whatever system/regimen/diet you choose some foods prove to be essential and others not so much.  I understand the importance of nutrition, and of course, wouldn’t want to downplay it.  My thought, though, is that there is another food item that is essential in our lives:  the comfort food!

My favorite comfort food (dentists, avert your eyes) is popcorn.  I love popcorn.  One of the greatest inventions, almost as good as the microwave, is microwaveable popcorn.  The Orville kind that has the butter packet that you pour onto it… oh, man.  It may actually be illegal it’s so good!  If someone were to tell me that I am being shipped to a deserted island and I am not allowed one favorite food as a punishment, then it would be popcorn.  Actually, I may have to lie and say it was peas, just so they wouldn’t take the popcorn.  Don’t you rat on me, now!

A comfort food is something that we can cling to.  It makes us feel good.  It’s like a go-to item when we need or want it.  It could be peanut butter, or pizza, or (heaven forbid) peas.  Maybe you’re offended because it actually is peas for you.  We don’t want that comfort food taken away from us.  The one thing that we can have that we can just zone out with, or the reward for a long, tough day at work or school.  It almost goes without saying that it is a food that we enjoy very, very much.

Another thing we should be getting enjoyment from, and nourishment from is God’s Word.  Now, there is one flaw in my comfort food analogy:  most of the comfort foods (peas being the exception) would be less than nutritional and nourishing at best.  Not so with Scripture.  Just think about the many aspects that relate it to being as essential to us as food.  We are told to feast on the Word, to crave it as babies crave milk, to progress on into the meat, Jesus (the Word made flesh) is the bread of life, and so on.  The Bible should be a source of comfort to us then.  It should be our default and our go-to item.  We can get more reward and satisfaction from reading God’s Word than from all the popcorn, pizza, candy, ice cream, and yes, even peas in the whole world.

Don’t fret Orville, Pop Weaver, the nice Act III people- I’ll still enjoy your wares.  I know that I need to do some munching on another kind of comfort food, though. 

Until next time!