Holy Day: Black Friday

The holy day or holiday is upon us.  Say all you can about Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving and the rest; the heavy weight American holiday is Black Friday.

To attract worshippers on this holiest of shopping days everyone rolls out the trimmings.  Walmart rolls stock around (you noticed it’s all on rollers, right?) to make lanes where you stand in line longer than for a ride at Six Flags over Botswana to pay for their must-have treasure.

In fact, just as with Christmas where we push the celebration into the day before and name it Christmas Eve, Black Friday deals start at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.  Isn’t it great?  Otherwise those poor sales clerks would be stuck at home eating with family, being thankful, and watching this year’s football version of Everybody Hates Dallas!

And like other religious rites, Black Friday’s millions of devotees have a special designation conferred on them: consumers.  You know, like pigs and other species gobbling up everything without being sated.  “Consumers”.  Our economy would be kaput without them!  This holy day is for you!

Please enjoy places for you to commune with manufactured things in the aisles and end caps!  These cardboard worship spots spring up to enable our most sacred transaction: impulse buying!  Staying home?  Our online, private worship version begs your attention in the page margins you’re viewing, but wait!  Google puts what you looked at online in the past weeks in the margin: that last nudge you need to click “Put in Cart”!

It does not matter your creed, ethnicity, or gender!  We can all fight over that last toy, apparel item equally, all hoping to consume that most wonderful possibility: something new to me!

But wait there is more!  If your consuming can wait a few days, then you can be overcome with the chills of “Winter Clearance” that runs through the twelve days of Christmas!

Enough cynicism.  I have to go put what I want on Amazon for my family to get it right this year.

Incomprehensible thanks

My heart is full.  So thank you.

Those of you who serve our country, thank you.

If you have served and gone to school on the G. I. Bill, then you join generations building an incomprehensibly astonishing country, complete with shortcomings the whole world can see.  Please continue building.

If you returned broken, marred, missing parts of body or soul, then you join a long line bleeding in blues, khaki, and camo: striving to rebuild bodies, minds and lives in countless re-enactments of America’s miracle.  Please don’t give up rebuilding.

If you’re eating turkey, or an MRE, or you’re quietly hungry again tonight, then fall in.  Queues of hungry men and women reach back to Valley Forge’s freezer, doing the impossible in Inchon or sweltering in malarial silence.  Please don’t shirk attempting the impossible with your wearied best.

And if you’re quiet in flag-draped box, ferried home by those who cannot flinch at your final high cost paid.  Come take a place with the mighty and abased, heroes with names on small white crosses and stars in quiet, landscaped hills.  Hallowed by you ransoming my dream.

No less so, Christ lovers, who were not surprised when those fearing your faith ushered you horrifically into eternity.  You, did John certainly see in his Revelation, crying to God at justice delayed to the last chance for those martyring you to come to His grace.

Incomprehensible. Price.  Possibility.

If you served my country or Lord, thank you.  May my courage in these dearly bought days, address my debt to you at a Banquet to which we’ve been invited on death’s other shore.

Words to Live By

I was listening to Craig Groeschel and he shared his exercise to write out his words to live by.  He shared his.  I have done this as a first draft for me.

What are yours?

 

Words to live by

I am a sinner, saved by the astonishing, unrelenting mercies of God extended to me in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: my Lord.

I am Jill’s husband, sharing all I have, all I dream, all of my shortcomings, and my resolute hope that Christ has entwined Himself in our vows and hopes to the end of this life as helpmate, and friend in the next. All I know about oneness with her is God’s kindness to introduce Himself to me and help me understand how astonishing is koinonia in this world and even more so – the next.

I am family: son, grandson, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, great uncle, brother in Christ to the few I know, and the millions I have yet to meet. They are the basis of my understanding that a three stranded chord is not easily broken.

I am entrepreneurial in business, teaching, and ministry. Before I knew the term, I admired those who resonated with this, who embodied it.

I am a failer. I attempt much, succeed at some, hopefully more of what I am striving to bring into existence and impact others with.

I have a profound sense of otherness, thin places, friends across the centuries, sennsucht, and piercing beauty that moves me to tears. I have never met someone with a story God was not still writing.

I have not spent as much time thinking about me as others, ideas, Truth, notions, stories. But about me, I have Someone into whose hands I place my guilt, my frustrations with me, my mute horror at me.

I am succeeding, sometimes one crushing failure at a time..

I am immortal, and that takes faith, but at the same time it fuels my faith.

I am grateful to those who taught me to love learning and in that learning continually be reshaped and stretched. I give to my students in those teachers’ names, on their accounts.

I am an amalgam of all of this, all of these. Whether I am original or not is not as intriguing to me as whether I am building His uniqueness in those He puts in my way.

Thank you

Jill and I watched Band of Brothers last week.  Two a night.

It is one thing to think, “I have many, many people to thank so I could rest at ease today with my family.”  It is another thing to see their story told by Ambrose, Speilberg, and Hanks so poignantly — and then see the old men speak before each installment, who lived, fought and endured so much in battle, and in so many nightmares since.

Thank you.

To my wounded friends, who served in a war you may or may not have agreed with in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Your wounds, visible and not, make getting out of bed every morning a matter of courage.

Thank you.

To  you who minister, fight hunger and hopelessness for kids and people we feel hopeful for on Thanksgiving — and forget on Black Friday.

Thank you.

For you sweating the launch of your little business.  Your faith is stunning.  If people buy, you eat.  If not, you worry.

Thank you.

To you first responders who spend some time bored and the rest on the abyss of terror.  The EMTs, docs, and nurses as well who reach the end of technology and bite your lips in hope on any given night in the ER.

Thank you.

I can go on like this for a while.  And I should.  And so should you.

Thank you is not an emotion.  It is something we invent a way to say to people who don’t do it for the praise, but will fight back tears on the day we demonstrate ours.

Many heroes need one of us to say, “Thank you, hero.”

Hebrews’ writer said: Invent ways to encourage one another to good works.  You know what is so cool about the book of Hebrews in the bible?  The writer is faceless, nameless, the object of much conjecture: just like the people I have to invent ways to thank.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me is one of the best hours on radio.  Paula and company keep it fresh and crazy funny, and I love it.

But we have a spectrum of places where we don’t want people to tell us or spoil it for us.  Just before a punch line, just before the big plot reveal — don’t tell me for all the right reasons, thank you.

That some child made my polo shirt, or that someone was poisoned making my smartphone, or that someone is dying of cancer thirty years early for working in a factory without safeguards for air and has cancer — wait.  Wait.  Don’t tell me.

A hundred years ago, courageous journalists exploded the layers of horror/guano surrounding beef in the stockyards, steel making, and even later migrant farm workers sipping water from puddles and running to bushes with a five year old child to the bathroom — as both were working.

And a lot of people said, “Wait”.  Never tell me.

Here is the inversion.

Some students thought about people needing to get investment money to change their tiny portion of the world, and started Kiva.  It has exploded.

Never before has the world had more tools at your disposal to make a profound impact — anywhere.

So, rather than bury your head in the sand and cry, “Wait” as in “Don’t tell me ever”: hold your breath and while you are conjuring an astonishing response to something that needs to be quashed, changed or obliterated whisper, “Wait.  Wait”  I am coming up with a life changing response, not just a funny line.  “Don’t mess up my innovating.   Please.”innovating

 

My Appointment with Me

When I was a kid, I was taught to have a daily quiet time with God.  It had two benefits.  One, I read scripture, so what I was reading was independent of my day, my fears, my priorities.  It had a leveling effect.  Other things were important, besides what I was freaking out about.  Two, I was talking to God. BSing God seemed an inherently terrible idea.  I moved it sideways, so that BSing me was not a good idea, had zero or worse return on time invested.

I still work to keep that appointment.

I have added other people for appointments: wife and first love, Jill.  Partners in business, students, faculty, extended family, CPA, all require time and conversation.

But every once in a while, I need to remind myself to make an appointment with me.

I noticed something when Jill and I were newlyweds.  I was working/serving at a church and I noticed that if I told people and staff that I had a lunch with Jill, they were happy to keep talking and taking my time for another fifteen minutes.  Or more.

My time with my wife was no one else’s priority.

It had to be mine.

I started telling everyone that “I have an appointment” and they would let me walk out the door, to be on time for my time with my wife!

It is the same for time with me.  If I tell people I have an appointment, they nod and defer.  I If I say it is a bike ride, or mowing with earphones, or reading National Geographic, or sitting in my office and without any noise or distractions — thinking.  They blow right by that and keep talking.

So I say I have an appointment.

And occasionally, those turn into appointments with God, to come back full circle to my quiet times as a kid in college.

Failure

When I was young, I wanted to avoid failure.  I was smart, failure is for losers.

It turns out that failure is for generals who win wars, scientists who forge new answers, all overcomers, athletes who set records, and entrepreneurs who build new ventures.

Failure is no less distasteful, hateful, or a bummer; but my stance toward it is different.  It is my tutor, but only if I am trying something new and unheralded.

No great success has any other mother than failure.