Thanksgiving, gratitude, & Christmas starts on October 28th…

A few days before Halloween, I walked into Costco to pick up some supplies for dinner. I made it 30 feet into the store & was confronted by a huge snowman, who just happened to be fronting a mega-sized Christmas display. Christmas display.

Christmas carols emanated from somewhere in the pile of holiday cheer. Anchoring the display were several large ticket items, each promising to be the core of many present-wish lists. I stood staring for a good minute, soaking in the spectacle. Someone stopped next to me & commented, “Awesome, huh?! I can’t wait for Black Friday!” Me: “Help me Jesus.”

This reminded me that our culture is a consuming, self-indulgent culture – it’s in the DNA of our human-sinful nature. 1John 2:15 speaks of it when John writes: “Don’t love the world, or the things of the world…for all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, & the desires of the eyes, & the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away, along with its desires…”

To me, John is warning us against 3 HUGE temptations: the desires of the flesh (self-indulgence,) the desires of the eyes (a never-fulfilled longing for MORE stuff) & the pride of life (selfish, me-focused ambition.) These things each have the ability to shipwreck us & our faith by pulling our focus (& priority) onto things that are temporary at the expense of the eternal. What are some ways that we can battle this when it is so much a part of our culture it SEEMS normal that stores would open at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day?

One way is by asking the Holy Spirit to sensitize us to values & priorities that are eternal (Think Matthew 6:19-24,) Another is asking Him to reveal areas of our hearts where our priorities have gotten out of whack. If/when we discover something is off, we repent & make a shift in our thoughts/directions/actions.

Ultimately, in this season of thanksgiving, cultivating contentedness & gratitude will help establish priorities centering on the things that really matter.

musings on a Friday…

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Philippians, especially chapter 4. It starts with verse 10 – Paul’s thankfulness that the Philippian church is financially & materially contributing to his care & well-being while he is in prison. What really catches my attention are verses 11 & 12 – where he says that he has ‘learned’ to be content in ‘any & every situation.’ Having everything & nothing. In times of feasting & famine, support & opposition. Learned contentment.

Which gets me thinking about some ‘opponents’ of contentment… ungratefulness. Complaining. Negativity. Critical-ness. A bad case of the “if only’s,” which signify that the only thing between me & contentment is a change in circumstances, environment, etc. (BTW: What are the “if only’s” that mess with you?)

Being content is a choice I make to be thankful for God’s provision, protection, & care. It’s recognizing that I’m responsible for me, my choices, attitudes, & responses. To not look to stuff, other people, places to ‘make’ me content. To not place blame for the unrest, storm, & dryness in my own heart, soul, & relationships on someone or something else. To really live out verse 13 – “I can do all things through Him Who gives me the strength;” meaning that there’s nothing, no one, no circumstance that can take my contentment… because my contentment is resting on the person & provision of Christ.

Wednesday night was Man Night @ Dr. G’s. We had a BBQ & 3 guys, brew-meisters if you will, gave us a lesson in the home-brewing process, from the boiling & mixing of the ingredients, to the filtration of the brew, to bottling. Truly inspiring.

My favorite part was the ‘art’ of the brewing of beer, which emerged as all 3 of the brew-meisters gave a list of their “beer making absolutes” – most of which they disagreed on. Meaning that someone like me could perhaps one day make beer. I’m thinking September-ish.

For the last 3 years, I’ve been attempting to get a DVR through DirecTV, which shouldn’t be that difficult. Except we need a 2nd line run from our dish to a place on the other side of our house (long story.) And the said 2nd line can’t be run. Can’t. Which we established with DirecTV 3 years ago. Which meant that in order to DVR, we had to get a side contract with TiVo. Which strangely only needs 1 line to use. But I digress.

The word in customer service, however, was that they could get around this need for the 2nd line with Advanced Technology. So last week, I confirmed with said customer service that I could, for free, get a DVR through DirecTV. Made the appointment for today, Friday, & waited for the tech.

Tim the Tech arrived within the convenient 4 hour window that he’d promised. I met him at the door & gave him a run-down of our history with DirecTV & told him I wanted to get all the info out there before he got started working. Annnnddd…

It turns out that in order to get a DVR through DirecTV, the dreaded 2nd line is still necessary. Drat. So the appointment had to be canceled.

Except… I got the ‘cancellation call’ from DirecTV customer service… & the person I talked to confirmed the cancellation, & then informed me that there actually WAS some Advanced Technology that would allow us to upgrade for free & to have a DVR. Better than that, the monthly cost would increase by only $7. Nice.

Sounded promising, so he connected me with the Scheduling Wing of DirecTV Customer Service. Who told me that one of the required units was free, but the other required equipment came to a total of $200. Which is more than free. Didn’t do it. Exploring other options, like U-verse. We shall see.

But I’m still content.

Came across an poll/article that discovered that 40% of American evangelical leaders “socially drink alcohol.” (The National Association of Evangelicals defines an evangelical as ‘one who takes the Bible seriously and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.’

Nothing really surprising in the poll/article – though one quote jumped out at me:

“While we understand one cannot defend abstinence from alcohol biblically, we have chosen to raise the standard for leadership in our movement,” said Jeff Farmer of Open Bible Churches.

Which begged the question: Raise the standard for leadership above WHAT?
ANSWER: The Bible.

And just when you thought every iPhone app you could think of was already in the App Store, there is now a free vuvuzela application. Which I have downloaded. And while I’m watching the World Cup, I’m playing the vuvuzela to my hearts content. Ahh.

wandering in Ecclesiastes on a slippery Tuesday…

Took theWeez to school this morning & slipped & slid all over the road, which had been deceptively hiding its icy-ness from me, causing me to think all was good, right, & safe in the world of driving this a.m. Thankful for AWD Subaru, & for no one in my way when the ‘slipperies’ attacked my tires. Goodness. Tricksy road.

Home again, looking at my 18 year old son this morning, watching him wrestle with the weight of the day – preparing to go to school while not feeling up to par… but pushing through just the same. For some reason, it inspired me to ponder the “meaning of life” stuff… which of course ends up sooner or later in Ecclesiastes. Read through. Tried to pretend it was my first time through it, to read & receive it fresh. Without the years of familiarity coloring the words, categorizing the ‘writings’ as that “bitter & negative” book in the Old Testament that says life sucks & most of it is a waste of time, energy, & resource.

And so I prayed for new eyes. And read. And noted what stood out to me.

The writer, “The Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem,” writes that “everything is vanity.” Some translations say, “everything is meaningless.”

And by everything, he means EVERYTHING. And then he tells us about it, as though we are supposed to learn from him & his experience, his attempts to find something, anything of substance in the world that we live in.

So he sought after wisdom & knowledge, only to observe:

For in much wisdom, there is vexation, & those who increase knowledge, increase sorrow. 1:18

Then he pursued pleasure & the accumulation of stuff.

Whatever my eyes desired, I didn’t not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, & this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done & the toil I had spent in doing it, & again, all was vanity, & a chasing after wind, & there was nothing to be gained under the sun… the lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth with gain. This also is vanity. 2:10,11 & 5:10

Makes me think of different things that people live for, focus upon, chase, even. Education. Wealth. Status (or even the appearance of it.) A title (or 10.) The perception of respect. Entertainment. Pleasure. Accumulation of stuff. .

Might be just that I’m feeling incredibly rich these days, the George Bailey, “no man is a failure who has friends,” kind of rich. Watching some crashing & burning of people who’ve been living the Ecclesiastes-life… looking for something MORE than they have, pursuing it as hard & fast as they can… finding vanity. Emptiness. Discontent. Pain.

Makes me want to wrap both hands around contentedness. Thankfulness. Check, & double-check to make sure that I’m chasing, looking, & paying attention to the important stuff – the stuff that lasts.

Knowing Christ. Deep & real relationships with the people in my life.

Not comparing myself to others – what they have accomplished. The stuff they have. Or bemoaning difficult, negative, or confusing life circumstances.

Embracing a life-focus & life-investment that is worth every penny.

Last week in LA, we opened our meetings with worship. Simple, 1 guitar & 1 keyboard, with familiar songs. One of them, a blast from 1980, was O Lord, You’re Beautiful from Keith Green. I’ve been singing it over & over, as a prayer… which is how I think it was written.

Thanks Keith.

Rain goes with coffee.

So say we all.

What was THAT? & other musings on a Tuesday…

Left the office a little early today to run some errands only to find… snow. Flakes the size of KAN-tuck-ee. I did what anyone else would do in that situation: I checked my Weather Channel app on my iPhone. It confirmed what I already knew; there was no snow. Except that there was. Checked the hourly forecast. No snow. The weekly forecast. No snow. Actually said 0% chance of snow.

Except that there was. Sigh.

Made it home, only to find… blue skies. Silly skies. Goodness. What WAS that?

I’m hungry. Looking back, I forgot to eat breakfast & lunch. Oops. Sort of missed them, probably due to the filling affect that coffee brings with it. Only had 2 cups today, but they were very well placed cups.

What to eat? I can visualize dinner right now – chili, topped with processed Con Queso… using salami as a spoon to scoop it out. Ah, yes. I think that would be great. Now only if I had a personal chef to make it for me. Because cooking chili would take at LEAST 3 minutes. Then a thought hits me. Con Queso. Spanish for “With Cheese.” With cheese? As opposed to… what? I don’t even want to read the ingredients. Bet its not organic. :)

Reading a fictional book a friend lent me, based upon another non-fiction book. So far, so good.

My theBean is at work. Tuesday & Wednesday are Doubles: a lunch & a dinner shift. That means they’re the longest days of the week for me. She works hard. Sometimes I like to go in to her restaurant, sit in the lounge & watch her do her thing. So gifted, such an eye for detail. Very pleasant in all of her interactions with others, something I’m still trying to learn. Love that girl.

Listening to PFR. I could listen to Great Lengths over & over. As a matter of fact, I AM listening to it over & over. Feels a little like a binge.

Of all the emotions that, when unleashed & given full vent, are most destructive, jealousy, born from discontent, has to be at/near the top. Man, it’s ugly & doesn’t play well with others. It undermines, whines, cries out in immaturity for self-fulfillment, but ironically is never satisfied.

Teach me LORD to be content in any & every situation.

Went to the gym to show a couple of buddies the way of the Kettlebell. Pretty soon, the gym is going to have to get another set to keep up with the demand. They can thank me later. :)

Prepping for Christmas Eve service & a Christmas Eve message used to be something I dreaded – mostly because I felt like I needed to come up with something Clever. Unique. Special. Different. And the longer I’d been around & attended church Christmas services, the more daunting ‘my Task’ became.

Then a couple Eve’s back, it hit me. Christmas isn’t about me. Being Clever. Unique. Special. Different. Christmas is about Christ, & the Good News of Great Joy for EVERYONE. And I get to be a part of telling that news. Silly me, making it so hard, when in reality its the easiest & best story ever.

Verdict is in: Chili. With Con Queso. Yes.