Growing Kingdom People – “Just Looking” You Say?

On a recent trip my wife and I stopped along a small road to look at a Gullah cabin. The Gullah people group is composed of descendants of African slaves who live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. They have their own dialect and have retained many traditions from their rich heritage.

The Gullah cabin was small. I have seen children’s playhouses that were almost as large. It had a tin roof, a small front porch, and wooden shutters. I snapped a few pictures as we circled the cabin.

Something I would soon regret.

An older woman with a big glass jar marched across an open field leading to the cabin. “Hey, that’s $50.00 for that picture!” As she came closer I could see the word “Donations” printed on the jar.

I thought she might be serious. So I told her there was an alligator behind her and when she turned to look my wife and I made a run for the car!

Just kidding! But I thought about it.

It turns out the woman was a part of the Gullah community. The cabin once belonged to her uncle. He never married, so his cabin remained small, but she said others with wives and children would continue to add rooms to their homes to accommodate their growing families.

We told her we were just passing by and she encouraged us to set up a time for a tour. The tour cost $20.00 a piece, and to tell the truth I couldn’t imagine it taking more than five seconds to walk through the house.

Therefore, we declined.

And she held out her glass jar.

Because, evidently, if you are ever in the Lowcountry, just looking at a Gullah house is going to cost you something.

Later it occurred to me our quick trip around the cabin really was worth something. Even if we didn’t go in, read a history plaque on a wall, or pick up an artifact. At the time, I was surprised by the donation jar because I have been conditioned to believe “just looking” at something isn’t worth nearly as much as getting to use it.  In fact, it might not be worth anything at all.

Which brings me to the subject of pretty much everything God has made. I wake up and walk outside to a glorious day and often fail to praise the omnipotent Creator who made it. A mountain stream and a rolling ocean are all expressions of His power.  But if I don’t use them, I don’t feel obligated to thank Him.

On the other hand, if the sun comes out when I’ve planned an outdoor activity, then I offer thanks. The same goes for the food I eat, and the circumstances God’s hand moves around in my life to help me along my way.

Yet, praise Him for just looking?

Hey, if I’m not using it, why does it matter?

Well…

It matters because seeing is how I know, by mere observation, there is a God. As Paul wrote in Romans, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Seeing is how I am assured of the faithfulness of God. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

And seeing is what I do with my heart when I approach God humbly. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Perhaps our culture’s conditioning isn’t such a good thing. Maybe there is more value in seeing than we think.

In beholding.

Why do we always have to be doing something?

Maybe “just looking” can even be…priceless!

Incidentally, how much do you think this post is worth?

You’re just looking, you say?

Um. Sure. I understand. Just a moment. I need to go grab my bucket.

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Growing Kingdom People – “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You!”

“I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You!”

 What?

Don’t worry. This is just a title to an old Louis Armstrong song.  In the song a kind husband opened his home to a friend who was down on his luck, only to discover his friend was having an affair with his wife.

Now you understand the title.

Yet, it’s one thing to wish someone dead, and another thing entirely to celebrate a death.

Especially when it’s your own mother!

This week an obituary appeared in the “Redwood Falls Gazette”, Redwood Falls, Minnesota. The obituary was written by two children who harbored intense anger toward their mother for abandoning them as small children and leaving them in the care of her own parents.  It reads, “She abandoned her children, Gina and Jay, who were then raised by her parents…  She passed away on May 31, 2018 and will now face judgement.  She will not be missed by Gina and Jay and her children understand this world is a better place without her.”

Yikes!

Now that’s what I call resentment!

A lot of bad stuff comes out when people die. I once performed a graveside funeral for a man whose wife had remarried another man of whom her children disapproved.  Halfway through the service a stunt plane appeared over the cemetery and started doing spirals and loops over the grave site.  I imagine the owner of the plane thought he had been hired to honor the dead.  He didn’t realize the children were parked up the hill from the grave, celebrating their victory.

I suppose taking our hostility out on dead people (or in Louis Armstrong’s case, people we wish were dead), is one form of catharsis. But is it healthy?

Perhaps so within the context of justice, as loved ones find peace in the wake of a horrific crime. Yet, even in the case of capital punishment, once justice is served, is hatred ever a good thing to nurture after someone is dead?

I will refrain from answering this question as I allow you to ponder your answer.

Although I do have an opinion.

I merely don’t want to presume to completely understand someone else’s pain.

I only know unresolved hate is the Devil’s workshop. And the problem with hatred toward those who are dead is, we can only resolve it within.  They can’t help us.  Perhaps we will discover we were wrong and there was no reason to hate.  Then we will have to live with the guilt.

It’s simply hard to win when we hate people all the way to their graves. In fact, if they were truly evil, and we spend one moment of our time on earth resenting them, they have already won.

I don’t know Gina and Jay and I never knew their mother, but I hope they find the peace they are looking for.

Are there “rascals” in the afterlife?

I imagine so.

Which is just one more reason why we need to introduce them to Jesus in this life.

Trust me…Jesus specializes in rascals.

 

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Growing Kingdom People – When a “Moment of Silence” Lasts Too Long

When a “Moment of Silence” Lasts too Long

People are tired of worn out clichés.

After the Parkland, Florida school shooting a student proclaimed, “No more thoughts and prayers!”

At this week’s airing of “Billboard Music Awards” Kelly Clarkson was asked to lead a “Moment of Silence” in honor of those who lost their lives in the recent Santa Fe, Texas shooting. Instead she told her audience she is sick of moments of “silence”. She said it is time for “action.”

Please don’t misunderstand. We need to think about people whose lives have been devastated by evil acts of violence. We need to pray for them. It is also important to collectively take time, even if it is a moment, to recognize tragedies that impact us all.

But as time has passed, and our “thoughts, prayers and moments of silence” have not stopped the carnage, these well-intentioned expressions of sympathy have become more of an irritant than a comfort.

Why?

Because they are not the complete answer to the problem.

They were never intended to be.

Jesus taught us to pray, but he also commanded us to act. In fact, Jesus reserved some of His harshest words for religious leaders in His day who talked a good talk but were “full of dead men’s bones” (in Jesus’ own words – Matthew 23:27).

You won’t find any official “moments of silence” in the Bible, but you will find these words from Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 7:21 NIV)

In other words, “Enough thoughts and prayers! No more ‘moments of silence’.”

At least not until we have put what God has placed on our hearts into action.

Unless, of course, when we say we are thinking and praying we are really blowing smoke.

Thinking about whose going to win the game after the “moment of silence” is over, perhaps.

Or how many “likes” we are going to get on Facebook for our lofty comments.

I am not cynical by nature, but I get it. And I don’t blame people for being suspicious when people toss out spiritual platitudes and do nothing, as if words are all we need to heal our world.

Maybe our “moment of silence” has lasted much too long. One thing is for sure: If it lasts much longer we might as well remain silent.

There is little point in speaking when people stop listening.

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Growing Kingdom People – I’ve Been Invited to the Royal Wedding!

I’ve Been Invited to the Royal Wedding!

Yup!

I’ll be there.

In front of the TV this Saturday morning at 7am that is.

I actually would like to attend a royal wedding.

I realize there is a lot of drama behind the scenes, and what appears to be a “fairy tale” is somewhat of an illusion.  I am not suggesting Harry and Meghan aren’t in love, or that marrying a prince is a bad thing.

I’m just pointing out it’s not the only thing, and that nothing is exactly as it appears.

Unless we are talking about another royal wedding.

In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus told a parable about a king who planned a wedding feast for his son. He sent out the invitations and when the time for the feast came, no one showed up.  In fact, some of his servants were abused and killed as they tried to deliver the invitations.  The king was furious!  He punished the “no-shows” and sent his servants out to invite everyone to come to the feast.  As a result, his hall was filled.

Sadly, one poor guy didn’t wear appropriate attire and was escorted out into “darkness.

Guess he missed the memo.

The standard interpretation of this Parable is that the king represents God and the son Jesus. The “no-shows” are the self-righteous spiritual guides of the day (Pharisees and Teachers of the Law).  They were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and refused to honor Him in any way.  The one guest who was cast out is someone who failed to grasp the significance of God’s grace, thus committing the same self-righteous sin as the Pharisees – just in a different way.

The point of the Parable of the Wedding Feast, is that we are all saved by grace when we accept the invitation of the King. None of us are righteous, but we are made righteous by the Son through His sacrifice on the cross.  Through Jesus, we all receive an invitation to the party!

If my wife and I were invited to the royal wedding, we would find a way to go. I’m thinking it isn’t going to happen because it is already Tuesday and the invitation hasn’t arrive yet.

It’s just an honest oversight, I am sure. It’s ok.  We’ll catch up with Harry and Meghan later when things settle down.

Besides, we have been invited to the other royal wedding Jesus described in Matthew 22. And we plan on attending!  We are already clothed with the grace of Jesus, and we have discarded all of our self-righteous rags.  They were a gift from our Creator King, and we wear them every day in preparation.

You might say we are walking around in Designer clothes, waiting for the feast to begin.

I wonder if there will be any shrimp at Jesus’ wedding feast.

Maybe some farmed freshwater seafood from the River of Life.

Top that Queen Liz!

 

 

 

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Growing Kingdom People – A Thought about Graduation Cheering

A Thought about Graduation Cheering

So, it seems cheering at graduation ceremonies has entered the sphere of common conversation. First, there was the removal of students celebrating their Greek fraternity dances at a University of Florida graduation and now a South Carolina High School has warned parents of graduates they could be fined $1030.00 for breaking a  “no-cheering” rule.

I personally don’t know enough about either of these situations to speak authoritatively. When I graduated from High School a security guard had to physically restrain my parents during their celebration!

Not really.

But I am sure they were glad to see me walk.  I was happy too since school administrators, challenged with overcrowding, had given our class the option of graduating a semester early.

Best Christmas present I ever received!

I do remember, when our children graduated from High School, on both occasions there were families around us who cheered for their students. Some talked loudly during the ceremony until it was time for their students to walk across the stage.  Then, after their moment of celebration, they continued their conversations as they exited early.

I thought that was rude and thoughtless.

Not the cheering (even though they had been asked not to by the administration), but the disregard for the accomplishments of others.

However, with this said, I would like to suggest there could actually be some troublesome reasons behind our silence at graduations.

For us rule-keepers, that is. In other words, if we are going to keep the rules and restrict our celebrations to the time appointed by those in charge, we need to make sure our hearts are pure in doing so.  Here are some possible flaws in our thinking to guard against:

We are not going to cheer because we want to demonstrate we are better at keeping the rules. It is easy to fall into this trap if we focus too much on the rule breakers.  When we do, our non-celebration becomes just as much a cry for attention as those celebrating.

We are not going to cheer because we always knew our student would graduate. Maybe we did!  But we need to realize a lot of things could have happened along the way.  If our child was blessed with a good mind, and was fortunate enough to avoid sickness and tragedy, we should be thankful.  Milestones in life should never be assumed.  They should be cause for thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not we cheer at a graduation.

We are not going to cheer because we wouldn’t even if there was no rule against it. We just aren’t that kind of family.  If this is the case, I would like to recommend you rethink your practice.  Sure, every family has its own personality, but kids today need to be cheered on, especially when they achieve something important.

I think it’s alright not to cheer if you are attempting to follow the wishes of the school administration and you are concerned students who have no one there to cheer for them will feel left out.

If you are sitting on your hands and biting your tongue because you are so proud of your student you can’t stand it!

This was my style.

And for those of you who refuse to keep the rules and insist on cheering, I have a request: Stay for the whole ceremony and cheer for everyone. If it’s important for your student, it’s important for every student.   Use your cheering skills to bless others.

Maybe that’s the answer!

We insist that everyone “must” cheer, for “everyone!”

I thought since we now have one more thing to pull us apart as a community we might as well try it.

“Whoop!  Whoop!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing Kingdom People – Little Stuff Matters

Little Stuff Matters

This week a plumber fixed our outside spigots. At 35 years of age, the washers inside were worn and one had been leaking for longer than I want to admit.

The plumber’s fee?

$95.00.

Parts?

Gratis.

The parts involved small, rubber washers. The total cost being somewhere between $1.50 and $2.00.  Maybe less at wholesale prices.

I mentioned one of the spigots was leaking. It was nothing more than a drip.  But the drip lasted about four years.

Yup. I know I should be ashamed of myself.  But the leak was so small I suspect it barely showed up on my monthly bill.  But four years times twelve months is forty-eight bills.  If it was added up, it might amount to something.  Nothing incredible, but something.

Little stuff matters.

The store where I buy my morning caffeine has a reward system that adds up too. Every 7th drink is free.  And I get points that can be used for more good things!

But there is more.

The reward system has my name attached to it. Every day when I go in the store and scan my card the phrase “Mr. Larry” comes up on the computer screen.  So that’s how they know me.  When I walk into the store in the morning one of the clerks yells, “Good morning Mr. Larry!”

Come to think of it, that’s the same thing my neighbor says when I leave the house.

It feels good to know other people know my name.

Little stuff matters.

As I pondered these little things today, I realized they are big things after all. It is no small thing to be known.  In fact, did you know the Lord of creation knows our names?  As the Good Shepherd, He calls our names out and leads us (John 10:3).

It is huge to be known by God!

Like the clerk at the store, He calls out to me. For six days He calls out to me.

Then He offers the seventh day for free. That’s when I take time to call out His name…

…in worship.

I realize we should live a life of worship and call out to God in our daily devotional life. But the free day He gave us is an opportunity to put everything back in perspective.

It’s a small thing God asks.

This free day to focus on Him.

But it’s a big day for us.

At least for Mr. Larry.

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Growing Kingdom People – Huge Book Deal!

Huge Book Deal!

Everyone wants to write a book!

Well, perhaps not everyone. But people in the public eye frequently leverage their image with a book deal.  And publishers know even an unpopular celebrity can help them turn a profit.

Why do books about famous (or infamous) people sell?

They reinforce our feelings of love or hate towards the books’ subjects.

They contain juicy morsels of gossip we might not hear anywhere else.

They connect with our own challenges and aspirations and help us feel empowered and hopeful.

Of all of the book deals in history, one book remains supreme:

The Bible.

I was reading a list of facts about the Bible the other day and noted these: 1) Over 100,000,000 copies of the Bible are sold each year, 2) The Bible is the most commonly stolen book in the world (mostly from hotels and churches), 3) The Bible is the best-selling book in history with over 5 billion sold, and 4) Bob Marley was buried with a stalk of marijuana, his red Gibson Les Paul guitar and a Bible.

You think you know someone.

Oh, well, needless to say, the Bible is the biggest book deal in history. No, God didn’t sign a contract with a publishing house to write His book.  In fact, if we consider the money churches have spent to buy Bibles for their members or to give away, God is probably well in the red.

What’s worse (for God) is the fact human publishers have claimed rights to various translations of the Bible and restrict the amount of text others can reproduce without permission. Even the King James Version, first published in 1611, is covered by something called a “crown copyright”.

Translating the Bible is expensive, so I guess it’s only right for people to protect their work so they can recoup their expenses and maintain the integrity of their product.

So why do I say the Bible is the biggest book deal in history? Because it’s author is the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator of the universe who has revealed Himself freely to us for the purpose of redeeming our souls for eternity.

The Bible is the ultimate book deal.

Not for God, its author.

But for us.

It has more wisdom than all other books combined.

It contains the story of redemption which has the power to save us.

It is our “how to”, “why?” and “what to expect” manual all rolled into one.

And, unless we want a fancy version, we can download a copy of the Bible for free or take a copy from the next hotel we visit (It really isn’t stealing. They are put there for people to take if they need one).

I don’t want to discourage you from buying the latest book about some well-known personality. But I will warn you.  Outside of a few interesting tidbits of information, your book won’t come close to the Bible.  Actually, it will probably parallel the stories of people in the Bible in many ways.

Here’s the good news. If you have always dreamed of a big book deal that makes your rich beyond measure, wait no more!  The deal has already been made and you are guaranteed to receive a profit.

For, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  That’s the King James Version translation.  I need to make sure you know so I don’t get in trouble with the crown.

 

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