Category Archives: blog

let nothing be wasted

{excerpt from a sermon I preached on Feb 28, 2016}

Jesus finds himself surrounded, yet again, by an enormous crowd. They are outside of the cities, in the wilderness. It’s a first century Woodstock, thousands upon thousands all gathered to see the celebrity that was the Carpenter from Nazareth. This guy heals the sick, cures the blind, raises the dead, he turns water into wine, and best of all he sticks it to the man. Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Romans, Tax Collectors – he don’t care – all of them he speaks to as if they were his equal, as if everyone were equal.

But of course it was more than that. There was real need, and people were desperate for change. Their mouths watered for both sustenance and justice, their stomachs growled for both bread and freedom, and their hearts yearned for a King to rise up. So they followed him, no matter how many times he tries to slip out back, dive into the limo, and cruise away atop a mountain. They find him and come begging for one more miracle, one more performance, one more show. And Jesus, incredibly, always comes back down from the mountain. This strange mix of unwanted celebrity and bonafide miracle man always finds himself stopping to embrace a child or heal the sick or show mercy to the forgotten. And despite his clear ability do so, he never treated them poorly. Jesus treats everyone as if they were his dinner guests, old friends come to visit, weary from a long journey.

So Jesus, being who Jesus has already shown himself to be, sees this crowd of people and asks Phillip, “Where are we going to buy bread for all these people to eat?”

I love that question. Where are “WE” going to “BUY” bread for “THEM”?

There is massive need in front of them and Jesus says WE will meet this.

And Phillip doesn’t miss a beat when he answers, “It would take over 6 months wages just for everyone to have a bite of food.” Classic. The old “who’s going to pay for it?” routine.

Somebody always wants to know that answer. And if they’re asking the question, you better believe they’re not going to be the ones volunteering wallet or purse.

Hey, none of us are exempt from this kind of attitude. Sacrificial love is no easy task. It requires a completely different way of viewing your life, and your goals, and success, and wealth, and faith. Sacrificial love, which is the kind of love which Christ calls us, comes with cost. It always has.

A cost, in this instance, paid by a young boy with a sack lunch. But there is a lot more happening here. Jesus is showing them a new way of seeing the world. A way in which one does not run away from great need, but rather finds himself and herself asking, “what am I going to do to help them?”

What do you do when face to face with incredible, seemingly insurmountable, impossible need?

Can we be honest with ourselves for a moment. Let’s be honest. What do we do? We change the channel. We look away. We buy a new shirt. We move to the suburbs. We go on vacation. We fill our minds with something else, our hearts with another drama, our souls with a new passion. We do anything possible to avoid the glaring need before us.

But what if we didn’t?

What if we faced it?

Refused to look away?

Allowed its image and need and wounded-ness to soak in?

What if we chose to look directly at those in need and decided to try?

 

I know that it can seem overwhelming. I know how hard it is to NOT change the channel. I know how difficult it is to try and take in the incredible need of our world. But are we not called to love abundantly? Are we not required to love our neighbor? Are we not able to do more? To be more? To demand more from this life than a two car garage and a week at disney world.

That’s the problem with walking around with Jesus. Sometimes you find yourself face to face with thousands of hungry people and no food in sight and Jesus looks at you and says, “let’s feed them.”

Matthew 6:11-12 says

“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and hand them out to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. And When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

Let nothing be wasted my brothers and sisters. Let not your skills or influence or wealth or time or energy or life be wasted. Let not the mercy and grace of our God be wasted. Let not the abundance of food and resources and advantage that we have be wasted. Let not an opportunity to meet the need of another be wasted. Let nothing be wasted.

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a new year, a new beginning

Across the inter-webs people are talking about the new year. Some are thankful for a wonderful year while others cannot wait to put 2014 behind them. I can understand both. Some had children, some lost children. Two passersby could be unknowingly facing the same dilemma, both have lost their jobs. One of them finds a new job in days, the other still searches. It is a strange world, filled with both light and darkness at seemingly exact moments.

A year ago I wrote about my year in 2013, a blog called Noes and Toes. Suffice it to say that it was a difficult year. And I don’t want to be cliché when I say that 2014 was much better. Casey and I served in Guatemala, traveled to Paris, got pregnant, she finished her masters, another nephew born. A great year. But does it really work that way? Do the years seriously flow from good to bad and back again? Is there something magical or mystical about the moments between December 31 and January 1? Surely not! Right?

Perhaps it’s all about perspective or mood or attitude; I don’t know. I will admit that there is something powerful and intriguing about the chance to start over. A fresh start, a new beginning, a new creation that inspires and fosters hope. So claim this year. We all have someone that isn’t here anymore to claim the year, likely someone you love that won’t be here very long. Claim the year. Admit your hurts, apologize when you’re hateful, and stand up for the weak. Speak kind words, take long walks. So whether 2014 was a nightmare or a dream, Happy New Year. A new year and a new beginning for all of us.

worry wheel

My father makes ferris wheels. Not the big kind used at county fairs and carnivals, but small ones. It started years ago with a bicycle wheel and some pans. Dad, an iron worker by trade, welded old pans to the axle of the wheel and mounted it to the top of a pole in the back yard. A strong gust of wind sent it spinning. He called it the “pan fan.” He was, and still is, proud of his pan fan. That led to him making his first miniature ferris wheel. Today, if you visit our house, you can see a scrap metal ferris wheel standing 4 1/2 feet tall in the front yard. It has railroad spikes for cars and a rebar, Texas star at its base. Each morning, as I leave for work, I spin it. For luck I guess, I’m not really sure. But it is a daily ritual.

At church on Sunday, Bro. Robby White told the familiar story about the worry tree. The story goes that a man having a terribly unlucky day stops at a tree in his yard. He stands there and grabs its leaves with both hands. After a minute he walks through the front door and embraces his family. When a friend asks him, “what’s the deal with the tree? Why’d you do that?” The man tells him, “that’s my worry tree. Before I see my wife and kids, I walk over to it and leave my worries there on that tree.”

I came home that night, after a long day of multiple church services, small group studies, meetings, and planning. Not a stressful day, not really; but there was plenty on my mind. I sat in my truck looking at the tree in my front yard. I tend to struggle with letting go of work before I get home. It isn’t always a bad thing, but at times, it is the cause of anxiety and worry. I decided to try the worry tree. There, in the night, I stood in my own front yard holding the leaves a tree. I felt ridiculous. I’m sure that I looked ridiculous. And it didn’t work. I dropped my hands in frustration and said to the night sky, “I’m not a tree guy.” My eyes drifted to the ferris wheel.

Hands on the ferris wheel, I closed my eyes and cast my worries. Anything that could wait till tomorrow, I tried to lay there. I opened my eyes, spun the wheel, and went inside. The next morning I passed by the ferris wheel and spun it as I walked to my truck, like every morning. While I backed out of the drive way I noticed the wheel still spinning and all of the sudden remembered that I had laid my worries there. I had forgotten.