Saturday, July 12, 2008

the never-ending invitation

As we entered Wyoming on our cross-country drive, we saw our first billboard advertisement for Wall Drug. Over the next 325 miles we counted a total of 76 billboards (yes, 76). Of course, when we reached Wall, SD, we just had to see what all the fuss was about. After all, they put a lot of effort into inviting us! And yes, with 5 ice creams, several nick nacks plus a digital camera for my brother, we definitely paid for another sign.
The lesson for me: next time I hesitate about asking a friend to join me at church or come to a community service because they said no last time, I'll think about Wall Drug and the power of high-frequency advertising.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

the bus, the boat and the body bag

This is the first in a series of posts reflecting on Grace Walk, a book written by Steve McVey.

A memory popped into my head this morning. Twenty years ago, I was just transferred to a new department at Citibank—and after a few days on the job I was called into the big boss’ office for a staff meeting. He asked about my first week, and I replied by listing all the processes I thought we could improve in the months ahead.

Someone who was at the meeting later ran into the person who previously ran my department and said “Ed threw you under a bus.”

The wheels on the bus go round and round…

My nature—whether driven by ambition or a desire to improve the world—is to go into situations, identify what’s wrong and look for ways to fix it.

I do that with myself, too, especially when it comes to examining my walk with Christ. In Grace Walk, Steve McVey calls this the motivation-condemnation-rededication cycle.

You can see how that plays out in my blog simply by looking at the number of posts in a given month (yes, April and May were condemnation months!). McVey adds: When we transfer a worldly approach to success in the Christian life, we are in for a disappointment.

This resonated with me, a person who comes to work every day, writes a list, then measures success by how many items I can cross off before heading home. So this past week I’ve been trying to be more Mary, and less Martha. For instead of spending time with Christ, Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

McVey concludes: I experienced peace only after I learned to focus on the person of Christ, instead of what I should be doing for him. Sounds like good advice to me.

Who’s driving that boat, anyway?

I also reflected this morning on an analogy that I heard a few years ago (probably in a church) that described Christian life in terms of driving a boat. It goes like this: the boat is going in one direction, guided by human nature. Once you become a Christian, it’s your job to turn the boat around toward Christ. The boat wants to go the other way, but if you hold onto the steering wheel tight enough, you can change headings. If you hold on long enough, eventually the boat will accept the new course… but if you let go of that steering wheel early—even for a moment—the boat will revert back to its former (sinful) ways.

So… for the past seven years I’ve been holding onto that steering wheel for dear life.

This type of thinking, McVey notes, underestimates the transformation that takes place the moment you accept Christ. In my analogy, once saved by Christ, my bearings changed too—and I became a new person… righteous and holy… a saint.

McVey offers this tip: Just say it out loud, “I am a saint.” Go ahead, try it. The underlying message: no person can consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with the way he perceives himself.

Funny, I saw a flyer in the deli yesterday talking about self esteem, and how most people derive their self-esteem from factors other than self (grades at school, promotions, etc.) rather than by what’s inside them. Inside, I am a saint.

I’m not dead yet!

Being the saint I am, just had to include a quote from the Holy Grail.

But seriously… if I became a new man… a saint… what happened to the old Ed? Well, I’m still working on this part. McVey writes: you may not feel that your sin nature is dead, but God says it is.

Maybe chapter 5 will help me internalize this a bit more… we’ll see. (to be continued).

If you want to read more commentary on Grace Walk, check out what NaNcy has to say.

Monday, July 7, 2008

3,434 miles... 4 days

A short ramble. Over the past four days, I drove cross-country with my two brothers, my son and my nephew. A definite WOW experience. Some quick highlights:

*** started with an In-and-Out burger in LA (mmm, mmm)

*** sunrise at the Grand Canyon - amazing

*** breakfast on a Navajo reservation

*** crossing Monument Valley (see photo above)

*** driving through Colorado (most scenic part of trip)

*** Rockies vs. Marlins goes extra innings

*** the town of Cheyenne, WY

*** Mt. Rushmore on the 4th of July

*** the Corn Palace (murals made of corn!)

*** spending 4 days with my brothers

*** non-stop fireworks driving thru SD

*** lunch in Madison, Wisconsin

*** Chicago skyline

*** "touchdown Jesus" in South Bend, IN

*** Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland

*** Seeing my son laugh in 14 states

*** No traffic on the GWB!!

And best of all, my wife and two girls running across the lawn waving sparklers as we turned the corner on our street at 11PM last night. More to come.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

$8 hotdogs

A most worthwhile post over at spaghettipie.
Check it out here. (ht NaNcy)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

pulpit politics

UPDATED 7/7 - See below.

Went to church while on vacation this week where I learned a valuable lesson. If I want to consider myself a follower of Christ and an American, then I should vote for John McCain.

Yes, it was certainly distracting that a wonderful sermon on the role of faith in the foundation of our country included the following slide:

To be a Christian and a Patriot, you need to vote for the presidential candidate who:
1. Best on national security
2. Will appoint pro-life justices
3. Good family values

(Of course, “good family values” is church code that means you can have an affair, divorce and remarry as long as you condemn the gays. But I digress... )

Now I have no issue with a pastor who promotes one candidate over another. But by slipping this into a liturgical sermon, the message was clear that you would please God by voting for McCain.

I wrote to the pastor Sunday night. I thanked him for the warm, welcoming feeling of his church, the inspiring music and the insights he provided. But I also let him now that when he put up this slide, I was distracted, disappointed and quite insulted. My concluding words:

This November, when I go into the voting booth, I will be thinking about the final lesson our Lord taught us before his Passion. And when I pull the lever, I will consider which man will help this country feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite in the unwanted, clothe the homeless, look after the sick and visit those in prison. And despite what you claimed this morning, my vote for Senator Obama will be an act of a Christian and a patriot.

Will let you know if I get a response.

UPDATE 7/7. Received a warm response from the pastor who had given this sermon, noting that his intent was to encourage his congregation to think through these issues as Christians and patriots -- and he was very positive that had taken both matters so seriously in my consideration of the two candidates. I am glad that I wrote to him.