If we truly learn behavior that is modeled for us, what does that say about all the TV shows that we watch? The songs that we listen to? I'm already a sinful, flawed person, who will have enough trouble in marriage being selfless and serving someone else. Do I really need to be watching and learning how to have even more dysfunctional relationships?
Usually that'd be the last paragraph of a blog, but I guess I just jumped to the good stuff. What do you think, Xanga people?
These famous words from the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, have been ringing in my head for the past few weeks. I think many of us, if asked that question, would have the same response Dorothy had, "I'm not a witch at all!" However, I'd ask you to really think about that question. A good witch, or a bad witch? When we think of the bad witch in Oz, I don't think she was necessarily as BAD as she was selfish. Her personal agenda came before serving the people she was responsible to. She cared more about what SHE wanted to do and not what she was supposed to do. And sometimes in our daily lives we tend to show up to serve with motives that aren't humble or selfless.
Or are you a good witch? When I think of the good witch in Oz, I think of someone who was trying to play the hero, but was a little fake and one-dimensional. It looked like she was TRYING to be the good guy, but in the end, she wasn't effective at all in stopping the forces of evil. And maybe sometimes we try to take on this "Good Witch" persona when we try to do the work of the Lord in our own strength and not His.
When I honestly reflect, I find myself leaning towards one of these flawed personas. I try to do everything by myself in my own strength, being the best Children's Pastor I can be, or I (yes, even I) can be tempted to have a less-than-selfless attitude and want to put my personal needs before those of others. Maybe you can relate. But the good news is you're not a witch at all! You are ________________ from _________, New Jersey (or some other state) - who was once a sinner, but now stand redeemed by Christ! And you don't have to "do life with Jesus" all by yourself. The Holy Spirit is faithful, when we ask him, to rid us of our selfishness, and equip us to effectively minister to others.
"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!...Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life."
(Phil 2:5-8, 14-16)
Lord, empty us of ourselves and fill us with your wisdom, your truth, and your love to reach a lost world. Amen.
I kept thinking it was about the economy. I kept telling myself the social issues weren't as important. But as I've prayed earnestly and reflected throughout the night, I came to the conclusion that though I am pro-freedom, I cannot stomach endorsing a freedom to kill (which, in my opinion, is exactly what partial-birth abortions are). I can't do it. You may agree/disagree, but I challenge you to take time tonight, before you head to the polls, and really ask yourself what issues matter to you. Vote with conviction.
I wondered tonight if I'm afraid of being poor. You might think that's an odd thing to be afraid of. Growing up, my family didn't really have a ton of money, and while I don't even think that we kids thought that our family was "poor," I knew we didn't have enough money to do expensive things. For example, I remember one summer I really wanted to do this summer camp that did an overnight stay on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay, but the cost was like $130 bucks for the whole week (now I'm thinking WOW! What a bargain in this day and age!). I remember, at that time, being embarrassed to even ask for that kind of money from my parents. I think I might have, and they said, "Well, if you really want to, I guess we can work something out." But I don't think I really wanted to - or I felt bad for wasting that kind of money, so I didn't end up going.
Fast forward a few years. I never had a job in high school, but worked my tail off to try and be as well rounded in high school so colleges would give me good scholarships. And I got a full tuition scholarship, which covered about half the cost of my college education. Then, during college, I remember becoming nervous of what would happen if my dad suddenly lost his job. Mid-year, I switched to a cheaper dorm (even though it was only $200 cheaper). I auditioned and made a traveling team for the school, which paid $4,000 for the summer. Thru the rest of college, I worked a part-time job at a church, paying all of my college expenses not covered thru my scholarship or grants out of pocket myself. I never once wanted to inconvene my parents.
Ok, so fast forward, now I have a job and live alone. I work for a church (a non prof organization) and I'm just out of college, so you can imagine that I don't make a lot of money. So I live very frugally and have money in the bank in case anything would happen to me and I'd be unable to work for a while. And this is the kicker: I get really, really annoyed at people who say they are poor. Let me elaborate. Because I know that not everyone can make as much as Candidates Obama and Romney do (oooh, political dig). But I just offended both of them so get over it and let's keep moving. People who say they are poor and do not live within that means. Granted, there are people who are forced to live paycheck to paycheck - I understand that. But more often than not, multiple friends of mine will complain of how they don't make enough, or they don't know how they're going to get through - and then, through my observations, they make ridiculous purchases. And it makes me want to scream. Here is a list of things you should never do if you are short on money (in my cheapo opinion):
1) Order beverages at a restaurant, especially alcohol. And no, I am not judging you, but I just ordered water and my bill is $5 less than yours, and that's before tip.
2) Buy any kind of pet. I don't know if these people realize, but certain pets can cost up to $1000+ a year!
Ok the list is over. Those are pretty simple things. Other things that just make me shake is when people assume their kids need new toys or clothes all the time. Growing up (maybe we were like super poor and amish-like, but we wore a lot of hand-me-downs, and I didn't know any better to say that that was wrong). I wore Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirts and Chicago Bulls shirts to school and I didn't even like either team - but they were clothes! We got a new outfit and new shoes for the first day of school, a new outfit for Christmas, and a new outfit for Easter, and that was it! (Maybe birthday too, but if I did, I don't remember. What 8 year old boy wants CLOTHES for his birthday?)
Another thing. And this will get kind of personal. I believe in marriage. I believe in date nights. But if you can't afford to go out to dinner every week, DON'T GO! Get creative and do something for a date that doesn't cost as much money! Take a walk! Take a picnic! Build a fort out of blankets and get a Redbox! Not every date has to cost a fortune at an expensive restaurant! Seriously though...
It's not that I hate my friends, or that I "judge" them...well, maybe I am? I don't think they're bad people. I just can't help but get frustrated when they talk about their money problems because I know they could easily settle for the cheap "dumb" phone without data and save themselves $50 a month...etc. We're so spoiled in America - you could easily cut out HALF the things you think you NEED and still live in plenty.
The reality is, for most of my friends, and probably for most of you who are reading this...you're not poor. Not even close. If money is tight, you probably need to examine your budget. And if you really feel like it's tight, you'll realize things that you COULD cut out that would free up extra money for you. You could live easily within, or below, your means. And when you do that, you have more money for God to use - more money available for you to bless others with.
Looking back on my childhood, I never knew then that we technically lived below the poverty line. And I never would have known. Because my parents raised me to be grateful. We hardly ever went out to eat. We didn't have cable. My parents didn't use credit cards. Most of our toys were bought at yard sales. We ate off-brand food. And while we didn't have a lot, but we were happy with what we had. I don't think I'm scarred now because of how I was raised with less than everyone else. And if anything, I think it may have been a positive thing in my life. So, I don't know that I'm afraid of being poor as much as I am very conscientious about what to do with it. I want to steward what God's given to me. I don't want to ever complain because I know I still don't deserve what the Lord's blessed me with. He truly does provide for all my NEEDS.
I guess I just wish other people had the same attitude.
"I personally do not think that the church should put on a Children's Christmas Play if the Children's Pastor himself is not leading it."
Hidden somewhere in there was a compliment for the pastor, I guess. Underneath unrealistic expectations. I grow more and more intrigued on when the body of Christ came to rely on others for their spiritual growth (or for their kids spiritual growth). Paul got frustrated with people when he came back to visit them and they were still "spiritual infants," not feeding themselves or owning their spiritual walks. I wonder what he would say to those who "expect" ministries to be available and run by someone "credible."
Do we expect too much from our pastors? Have staff pastors now assumed the role of being all things to all people, including educators, event coordinators, web designers, and social planners? But not even that - where has the image of the "Body of Christ" gone? Even if God gives us multi-talented pastors, they can't be all things. And even if they have 20 different talents, I don't think God intended for church to be so dependent on one person.
Even more than that, have we become so accustomed to all this "stuff" that we've seriously lost sight of our original priorities? Do we even know what those are?
I don't have the answers. That's why I'm asking you.