Prop. 8 Is The New Roe v. Wade

A rare bonus post for a single day. Two for the price of none! What a bargain!

I’m not really in the mood to really dive into this topic, nor is the week before Christmas the ideal time, in my opinion. This is merely an observation I’ve made in the wake of President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to have Pastor Rick Warren offer a prayer at the Presidential inauguration next month.

The backlash I’m seeing in the local news outlets here in California about the single issue of Proposition 8 completely defining a person reminds me of how conservatives have been known to look at those in favor of legalized abortion. It basically doesn’t matter what your body of work shows, it matters how you stand on a single political flash point.

Rick Warren has been embraced by Christians and non Christians for his book The Purpose Driven Life. Pastor Warren has risen to national prominence as a beacon of information and human compassion. The presidential summit held at Warren’s church in Orange County was unprecedented, and applauded by both ends of the political spectrum. For one evening, no one seemed too concerned with the separation of church and state, and despite the stereotype of evangelical Christians being overwhelmingly Republican, it was anything but a home field advantage for John McCain.

The left now has it’s own equivalent to Roe v. Wade. This is the litmus test which will be used to determine whether someone is loving, or hateful. Conservatives have used the abortion topic similarly. Regarding Proposition 8, I find it unfortunate that people perceive this as hateful. It’s too bad that the body of Rick Warren’s life is so easily and quickly dismissed because of his stance for the traditional and biblical definition of marriage. There are people in my own life with whom I disagree, and who likewise disagree with me. However, they must also know that I do not define them or base my affection for them on how they vote or who they fall in love with.

I wish in my heart people would not judge or discriminate against others for any single ideology. We don’t have to agree on things. We do, however, have to coexist. Agree with me, or Rick Warren, or Barack Obama, or the butcher at the grocery store…or not. We all have redeeming qualities which should not be disqualified because of a single issue, no matter how closely to home it may hit.

Wow, looks like I dived in after all.

Fantasy Football Update

Those of you who know me probably have already figured out that these updates wouldn’t be appearing on my blog if I were anywhere but at the top of the standings. Hey, it’s my blog, it’s my game…why not?

There was a major turn of events last week which had a dramatic affect on the standings. “Longhorn” has been at the top of the standings right from the beginning. He has been in 1st or 2nd place all season, but I think he may have been just a little distracted in recent weeks. Within a five day period, his two sons and their wives brought three grandbabies into his life, including one on Thanksgiving Day. Despite these events, he was still in a position to win it all.

That is, until last week.

Unfortunately, he missed the deadline to get his picks set, so he got no points, thus eliminating him from contention for the championship. He slipped from 2nd place all the way down to 6th. It’s a sad ending to a great season, but somehow I think it’s not the biggest thing in his life these days.

Troy is still in 8th place.

The Motivation of Fear

There are many wise quotes about the consequences to doing nothing. You may have heard the saying, “you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.” I am a very conservative individual by nature. That doesn’t simply mean politically. It is a characteristic which applies in my life pretty much across the board. I’m not one who takes a lot of chances with my physical safety, with money, with relationships or anything.

However, there is a new wind blowing in my life. I’m finding that my fear of doing nothing is greater than my fear of rejection or failure. Without going into specifics at this time, (maybe another time), I am finding myself stepping outside my own familiar tendencies. I’m by no means wreckless. There is still conscious thought to my actions. I haven’t thrown caution to the wind. I simply mean that I’m discovering that I’m more afraid of the regret of omission, rather than commission.

I have, in the past, been fairly passive in certain circumstances. I’m finding that there is a growing measure of assertiveness which is rising up within me. You might call it confidence. You’d be correct in doing so, but not entirely. The fact is, if you’ve been reading my posts over the past month or so, I’m feeling empowered by my liberty in Christ. One thing that really held me back in my decision, 25 years ago, to become a Christian was that I feared I would lose my freedom. I perceived a whole lot more thou shalt nots in the Christian life. I saw it as a restrictive life. What I’ve discovered over those 25 years, and in a concentrated measure over the past year, is that a life which is truly submitted to Jesus brings liberty beyond description.

Right now, I’m not afraid of rejection as much
as I’m afraid of being in the exact same place tomorrow, next week, next month, next year – as I am today. I’d rather knock on a door and be told no than look back and wonder what might have been if I had only tried.

As Eugene Petersen writes in The Message, his interpretation of John 8:34-36 says the following:

Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.”

When we take action under the authority and power of God, you see a confidence which goes beyond a simple human characteristic. You’re just hungry to knock on doors and see if God has something special waiting for us on the other side. You just never know. Maybe there is.

What are you going to do about it?

Happy Announcement!

You know, I’m blessed. I once knew a guy who always responded with, “I’m blessed” every single time someone would ask him how he was. In a way, it was annoying because there was really no point in asking if you really wanted to know how he was doing. But in another sense, it doesn’t matter how things are going…we’re blessed.

In this economy, with the record unemployment numbers, I have to be honest. I’m blessed. I’ve been unemployed twice since I’ve lived here in Rocklin. That’s twice in less than 5 months! The first stint lasted one month, and this recent one lasted 3 weeks. I know of people who have been unemployed for over a year, looking, looking and looking. In fact, I found that looking for a full time job is a full time job, itself.

Here’s how things went this time. I had been looking through all the online job boards. I posted my resume everywhere. I submitted my resume everywhere. I was very discouraged because I really felt painted into a corner. The paint was my resume. I no longer wanted to be what my resume claims I am, professionally. I received offers for interviews, but just didn’t feel right about accepting them. That’s kind of odd behavior when you’re flat broke with no income.

Monday, December 1: I was at a bible study at a church here in town. During a fellowship break, I returned a phone call which came during the worship portion of the service. The call was from the Creative Arts pastor from my church. Our senior pastor had asked him to contact me to see if I’d be interested in working for a guy he knew. His name is Gary. This is where it gets interesting. This guy is a guy I sort of knew. I went to college with his wife, back before they were married. I even attended their wedding nearly 20 years ago. He is a motivational speaker. He does a lot of corporate events, television shows and churches. He was looking for a personal assistant.

Wednesday, December 3: I hadn’t heard from anyone yet. I saw my friend, the Creative Arts pastor this particular night and asked if he had heard anything. He gave me an unintentionally cryptic answer. He said I probably wouldn’t hear anything until after the coming Sunday. He wouldn’t give a reason, though I tried to press him for more information.

Sunday, December 7: As I’m walking into the sanctuary, I see Gary and his wife coming in just ahead of me. That’s odd. They don’t go to our church. Then I remembered the cryptic answer from Wednesday that I’d have to wait until after Sunday. Something is afoot. During the service, Gary is introduced as the new Men’s Ministry pastor at my church. How about that? God is bringing this guy into my home church. Gary and I meet briefly following the service and set up a meeting for the following morning.

Monday, December 8: Gary and I meet at Peets Coffee and talk for about an hour. He tells me more about his business, his vision for his new job at the church, and what he is looking for in his assistant. Then, I tell him about my passions and my skills and giftings. Our personalities are different, but they blend. Gary recognizes the need to staff your weaknesses. He knows he has great strengths and talents, but he also knows he has deficiencies.

Don’t we all?

At the end of our meeting, he tells me he’ll get back to me. He needs to consult with his wife, as they are business partners as much as they are husband and wife. Within hours, he called me back and said I was in.

Since then, we’ve hit the ground running. We’ve had several phone convesations, meetings with him and his wife, meetings with the pastor and administrator at the church. As you read this, we’re on our way to San Diego where he will be appearing on the local Fox affiliate’s morning television show.

**UPDATE: I’m not on this San Diego trip after all. We’ve got some things to do in town while he’s out promoting his book, so I’m keeping the home fires burning this week.

This is a great blessing to me. Gary and his wife have welcomed me with open arms, and we are already forming a great partnership.

I’ll keep you posted on how things develop, where we are, what we’re doing and where we’re going. You can also follow me on Twitter. The updates are posted on the top right of this page. If you have a Twitter account, just click “Follow Me”, and you’ll get all my updates.

Stay tuned!

Why Am I Not Surprised?

Why is it that we have faith in God, yet get all shocked when things work out in ways that can only be attributed to Him? Why is it we pray for God to heal someone, to bless someone, to meet some kind of need, yet we’re dumbfounded when it happens?

I have no right to claim any kind of special spiritual achievements in my life, but I do believe I have reached an important milestone in my walk. I honestly don’t think I’m shocked when things I ask for come to pass. Let me balance that thought with this one. I’m also not surprised or even upset when things don’t happen how, or when I had hoped.

I am at peace. I still have many unanswered questions, intertwined with some pressing needs. However, my job is out in the field in sales and the proverbial, other duties as assigned. God is in control of management and production. So we know our roles. God doesn’t micro manage my life. He is aware of my performance and activity, but He lets me make my own decisions. I will perform better and earn promotions and bonuses when I stay in line with His policies and procedures, but He is patient with me when I take a little bit longer on my break than I should have, or I zig when I should have zagged.

I am at peace. There are special people in my life who are facing literal life and death circumstances. My difficulties pale in comparison to theirs, but I know God cares about my things, without having to turn His ample attention from theirs.

He’s quite the multi tasker.

I pray for these special people in my life. I pray that God would comfort them. I pray God would heal them. But ultimately, I pray that God would have His way, and that I would see Him in it no matter how things turn out. Remember, I’m in sales, not production. If I don’t believe in what I’m selling, how can I expect others to want what I have? On the other hand, sales comes easy when your life’s foundation is the commodity, itself. When others see it at work in your life, they’ll be more inclined to believe in its value and power.

Christianity is a verb. I love this life. It defines who I am. I serve at the pleasure of the Most High God. He takes great care of me. (I was going to make a comment about God’s retirement plan being out of this world, but that would be cheesy. Good thing I didn’t write it!)

Time to get back to work!

Lessons From A Cruddy Car

I’ve had some pretty serious clunkers since I got my first driver’s license. These days, it seems to be vogue for parents to bestow upon their children new cars upon their 16th birthdays. Of course, it’s for safety reasons.

Oh please.

Back in my day, we learned life lessons by having to deal with getting stuck on the side of the road (always on a rainy day, on a country road where the nearest phone was at least 5 miles away…uphill…through five feet of snow).

Anyway, that’s another post for another day. Before I got my current car three years ago, I’ve had many cars, all in varying stages of jalopy-ness. I often would comment that the Blue Book values of my cars fluctuated depending on how much gas was in the tank.

The value of something, or someone, is determined by what that thing or person means to someone else. eBay has become a cultural phenomenon by capitalizing on this fact. You find an old button in the attic that means nothing to you. You consider just throwing it away, but instead, you list it on eBay. Then someone who collects antique buttons buys it for $100 because it holds value to them. Value, like beauty, tends to be subjective.

Not always.

The relationship between God and man is unique. God loves each and every one of us more than we can imagine, and none of it is based on merit. How could it be? When you’re God, can a mere human actually impress you? Yeah…no.

On the other side of the same coin, God’s value doesn’t fluctuate. So many people call out to God when they’re in deep trouble. You’ve heard the phrase, “there are no atheists in a fox hole.” Well, it’s human nature to look for help when we’re desperate. We make promises. “God, I’ll never do that again if you just get me out of this.”

Here’s the thing. People who don’t have a relationship with God and don’t spend time getting to know Him tend to humanize Him. They ask questions like, if God is such a loving God, why do children suffer? Why is there murder? The simple answer is because we have a free will. He allows us to make our own choices, even if they’re evil.

We have devalued God. We have somehow reduced God to being the corrector of all our screw-ups. We made him Alice from The Brady Bunch. We run around the house, making messes, and He is supposed to follow us around and clean up after us so there are no consequences.

God has already done all He needs to in order to deserve our devotion. In fact, He’s done more than keep His end of the bargain. He’s gone significantly out of His way to give us life and a home which supports life. Namely, Earth. If that weren’t enough, when Adam and Eve fell victim to the world’s first and most lethal Trojan horse virus, the consequences were separation from God. From that point on, people had to offer sacrifices and crazy rituals to win God’s favor.

That is, until God provided the ultimate sacrifice, once…and for all.

If God doesn’t do one more thing for me. If He doesn’t answer one more prayer. If He allows me to suffer as a result of my own mistakes. If He doesn’t respond to my attempts to please Him with my words, thoughts and actions…He is still God.

If God could retire from all His work and just sit back knowing the body of His work is good and complete, He still deserves my devotion. God’s value doesn’t increase because He does something really good in my life. He doesn’t owe me anything.

Thankfully, God doesn’t retire. Thankfully, God still blesses us. Thankfully, even when we endure hardships, He is constantly at work in our lives and loving us through it all. Unrequited love breaks God’s heart more than it hurt mine to be snubbed by that very cute girl I really liked. When we turn our backs on God, it brings Him great pain. That is because of the value we hold in His heart. God carries your picture around with Him every minute of every day of your life. In fact, he knew you before you ever took a breath. He eagerly awaited giving you life. He created heaven, and gave us a way to spend eternity there not for us, but for Himself. He loves you so much that He made a way to spend eternity with you.

How’s that for value?

Fantasy Football

Every year, I host an online game during the NFL regular season. I invite a group of friends to participate, and we always have a great time.

Here’s how it works. There are 17 weeks to the regular season. On any given week, there can be anywhere from 13 to 16 games. During the season, each team gets one week off, called a bye week. That is why the number of games varies. The object of the game is to pick the winners of each game. Your picks must be made before the first game of the week. For the past few weeks, there have been games on Thursdays, so that means you have to have all your picks, including the Sunday games, set before the first game of the week on Thursday. Once that game starts, everything is locked. You can’t make changes.

Here’s where it gets tricky. You have to assign confidence points to each game. If there are 16 games that week, you assign a point value, from 1-16, to each game. You cannot use the same value twice. So here’s an example of how you would do it. The Raiders stink. So, if they were playing a very strong team, say the New York Giants, you would be very confident the Giants would win. So you might put 16 points on that game. If the Giants win, the 16 points you put on it are added to your tally. For each game you lose, you simply don’t get the points. At the end of the season, the player with the most points wins.

Each year, I have three goals.

  1. Make sure everyone has fun
  2. Win
  3. Beat (best buddy and Crossing Paths reader) Troy

Goal number one is most important. I don’t think we’ve ever lost anyone because they didn’t have fun. We have men and women in the group, college students, moms, dads, sons, brothers, sisters and grandfathers. It’s a fun group of people, and it’s growing each year.

Goal number 2 is a real challenge. This year we have twelve players, so coming in first is never easy. Counting this week, which kicked off with last night’s game between Chicago and New Orleans, there are only three weeks remaining.

Goal number 3 is pretty much a lock.

Lessons From a Trojan Horse Virus

Well, last week I experienced a first. For the first time in my life, I fell for the old Trojan horse virus trick. After I got past the initial self loathing process that comes along with falling for something like that, I had a pretty full day of dealing with getting the thing out of my computer. And the really humiliating thing about a Trojan horse virus is that it goes through your address book and cordially sends everyone you know the same virus.

How thoughtful.

Anyway, like most things in my life these days, I am having no trouble in finding life lessons in these little misadventures. So today, my life lesson learned from the Trojan horse virus.

The thing about these viruses is that they don’t look like viruses. They look like something entirely different. I mean, who among us would look at something that had a skull and crossbones on it, and think to ourselves, “sure, why not? What could possibly go wrong?” Sin often presents itself in our lives in very attractive packages. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that history’s very first Trojan horse virus pre-dates the actual Trojan horse. Heck, it pre-dates the invention of the horse! Of course, I’m speaking of that whole Adam and Eve/fruit incident. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s true. Think about it. Adam and Eve are knocking around the Garden of Eden without a care in the world. They’re enjoying everything God had created for them. But then came that wiley old serpent. He approached Eve and eventually convinced her that there was absolutely nothing wrong with eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, despite the directive from God to eat from anywhere but that tree.

The bible says that the fruit on the forbidden tree was, “pleasing to the eye.” Well, of course it was! If it looked like snot, I doubt Eve couldn’t have been talked into it. Anyway, you know the story. Eve ate it, and like the Trojan horse virus, she passed it on to Adam. And like a dummy, he ate it, too.

There’s another humorous aside in this story which I’ll share with you another time. It’s another topic, and I don’t want to get sidetracked.

We can be so easily duped by things and people which look so darned good on the outside. But the devil is no idiot. He’s puts sin in nice, eye-catching packages. But here’s the thing. When we give in to sin and let it worm its way into our lives, it leads us into deeper and deeper sin. That is what happens to good people when they start with a little marijuana. But it’s not enough. So now they need to move on to a little crack, which leads to a lot of crack, which leads to heroin, and so on. Or people start with a “little” porn. The next thing you know, it’s not enough. They need to move on. They go from looking at it to needing to experience it for real. They find themselves in a dark subculture just to fulfill their need for more. The soccer mom, the bank executive, the politician, the pastor, the teacher. It doesn’t matter. Sin has torn apart people from all walks of life. It’s not just for homeless junkies.

Sin leads to death. An eternal, catastrophic death. But there is no way the devil is going to package it that way. Instead, he does it with something pleasing to our senses. He promises to lavish us with power, wealth and fame.

Just like avoiding a virus on your computer, there is a way to avoid falling into the trap of sin. Wisdom. And this important quality begins when we fear the Lord (Psalm 111:10). When we recognize God’s ultimate power and authority, and fear the consequences of being separated from Him, we exercise wisdom.

Listen to and obey God. Know His word. The bible is the ultimate anti virus.

Recognizing God’s Voice

Not long ago, I shared with you a story which reminded me of the need to recognize God’s voice in our lives. The thing is, how do you learn to recognize it?

I’m sure there are many scholars and teachers out there who can give you a more theological answer to this great mystery, but I like to take a more practical approach. Not that theology is less important than practical. It’s just that theology without practice is nothing more than book knowledge.

When I was very new in my faith, I found that decisions I was making were very atypical to the patterns in my life. For instance, when I was a senior in high school, and literally only weeks before I ultimately gave my heart to the Lord, I was preparing for the annual band trip to Southern California during Spring break. Not only was I part of the marching and concert bands, I was the student president of the music department. This trip was the social highlight of the year. And there was particular significance with it being my senior year.

However, having been on the trips the previous three years, I knew very well of the
activities which went on when the chaperones were nestled away in their own hotel rooms. The trip was scheduled for the week following Easter Sunday. But just a few weeks earlier, I had lost my entire interest in going on the trip. I notified the band director that I would not be going. He was very upset with me. I was the band president, and also the first chair in the trombone section. Despite the backlash I knew this would create, there was nothing in me that wanted to be part of this trip.

The Monday following the trip, and the first day back in school after Spring break, the Dean of
students approached me in the main hallway of the school. He was a very tall and imposing figure. At 6’7″, he was affectionately, and reverently called “Lurch” by the student body, in reference to the character from the television show, The Addams Family. We had a very friendly relationship throughout my years in high school, but this time he had a rather serious look on his face.

-“I’m very disappointed in you, Corey.”

-“Why?”

-“I heard about what happened on the trip to Southern California.”

Apparently, things had gotten rather out of control – more than usual – on this particular trip. But I was able to tell him I wasn’t on the trip, so I wasn’t A) responsible for what happened, nor B) a participant in what happened. On both accounts, God had protected me physically, spiritually, and even my reputation. God’s voice, at work. And as a brand new Christian, right out of the wrapper, I didn’t even know it was God’s voice until I could later think about everything and unpack it all in my mind.

A few years later, I was in Lexington, Kentucky on a tour with a Christian band I was singing with. We had a rare night off, and the guys in the band decided they wanted to go bowling. I just wasn’t in the mood. I was going through a bit of an identity crisis. I was still very young in my Christian experience, and even newer at singing. I was traveling in a group of people who were not only practically born on a pew, but most of them were part of musical families. I really felt unqualified, inferior, and very out-of-place. As the band was out having fun, I crawled into my bed in my hotel room and began flipping through the channels on the TV. I came across the movie, “The Breakfast Club”. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s about a group of kids in high school who, for different reasons, are sentenced to Saturday detention in the school library. The cast of characters includes a rocker guy, a jock, a goth girl, a girly-girl, and a nerdy brainiac. Kind of an odd mix of characters to be locked together for an entire day. But it is a very introspective type of movie when considering what makes us who we are, and finding we may have more in common when we look beneath the surface.

It was the perfect movie for the mood I was in. Then it came to me. God’s voice. As if someone shot a flare into a moonless night’s sky, it revealed my fears and doubts. Then this simple question filled my thoughts;

“Do you think I made a mistake?”

It was undoubtedly the voice of God speaking to me. The reason I knew this was because it was so opposite of my natural way of thinking. Then, in an instant, I pondered the depth of the question. In the entire history of mankind, going back to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, how many people have walked the face of the earth? Without even needing to know the specific number, I had kind of a scale to work with as I continue the thought.

Then, God continued;

“Since that time, there have been only six people I have placed in this ministry. Only one lives any further west than Kansas.You. Again I ask. Do you think I made a mistake?”

Of course, I knew enough to know God doesn’t make mistakes. He had selected me to be part of this exclusive group. And in those moments, I was able to see that my life was filled with purpose. There were better singers. There were people who had forgotten more bible verses than I even knew. There were people who were more of this, and less of that than I was (and am). But God has put His Spirit and purpose in me. Other people are not my standard of measure. I have God’s call on my life, and He is my equalizer. God created me to be me.

God’s voice, to me, is clear because it contradicts my own voice. His voice gives me purpose. It causes me to go against the pattern my life would normally take. It defies logic. It defies my sinful nature.

While the bible is commonly referred to as “God’s Word”, I’m so grateful that He speaks to me personally. He speaks to my heart in ways I can understand. He thrills me when He speaks to me. His voice sometimes comes through the words and actions of people around me, sometimes in quiet moments when I’m home alone, sometimes through a song or something I’m reading.

His voice is impossible to describe, but it’s unmistakeable. And it’s something I can’t live without.

Lessons From Basketball

Continuing with my life lessons from everyday things, today I want to focus on a simple element from the game of basketball.

When I was younger, I was very active in sports. However, I was not blessed with a lot of physical tools which made me a natural athlete. I am not very tall, by athlete standards, (unless you’re talking about jockeys, then I’m Shaquille O’Neal.) I couldn’t jump all that high. And I certainly wasn’t very fast. I spent some time at an orphanage in Mexico, and one of my favorite things to do was play basketball with the kids. One of the older boys gave me a cool sounding nickname. I felt pretty special. I mean, he said it almost with a reverential tone. He dubbed me, “Tortuga”. Wow, it’s so percussive. It just sounds powerful! It sounds majestic! I couldn’t wait to get home and get a personalized license plate that said, “Tortuga.”

When I proudly reported to my mom that the boys gave me a cool nickname, she laughed.

How can you laugh at me? I am Tortuga!

That’s when she sprung the news to me. Tortuga means “turtle”.

That whooshing sound you hear was my ego flying around the room like a violently deflated balloon.

Anyway, back to basketball. When you shoot a basketball during the context of a game, you’re typically being defended. When you lift off from the ground to take a larry_bird_jump_shotjump shot, the defender instinctively will jump with you, with their arm extended in hopes of blocking your shot. If nothing else, they want to distract you with their pressure.

As you look at the picture to the right, you’ll notice the shooter’s eyes. They’re not fixed on the distraction, but the goal. He’s fully aware of the presence of the guy in front of him, but his concentration is greater than the would-be distraction.

My life is filled with potential distractions. As I write this, I am still unemployed. My bills continue to arrive, and oh by the way, Christmas is just over two weeks away.

Guess who that is waving a hand in my face trying to distract me.

The lesson is that no matter what leaps into my life in hopes of jostling my faith, I must keep my eyes on the goal; God. My faith, my focus, my devotion must be greater than the obstacles set in my path to rock my world. Like the basketball player, we must practice the fundamentals which will help us experience success, no matter what conditions are before us. Keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord is the first step. Taking your eyes off of Him and putting your focus on the obstacles will certainly create instability in your life.

So this is where I am. There’s a lot of stuff going on around me which are very real, and very important. I’m keenly aware of them. But my eyes are fixed on Jesus. He is my goal. I trust He’ll see me through.