My Picks for Tuesday 5-31-2016

Picks Tuesday

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Learning to Play the RestsManuel Luz
“One of the concepts that music students naturally have a hard time with is the rest… Unless a musician knows how to “play” the rests, a song will implode into cacophony. You see, music is defined as much by what notes you don’t play as what you do play. And when you play or not play them as well. And there is a lesson to be learned in this metaphor….

…As we enter into this summer, I encourage all of you—especially artists of faith—to play the rests. To set your life not to your own tempo, but to the tempo of the music that God is playing in your life. May we learn to both play and be still, to acknowledge both the sound and the silence, the notes and the rests.”

My Son Taught Me About Privilege YesterdayAmy Medina
“How many other young boys and girls are out there, DNA brimming with Olympic athleticism, or Ivy-League intelligence, or musical genius?  Yet they’ll never have a real soccer ball, or a classroom with less than 100 students in it, or a piano to practice.

And it hit me that one of the (many) privileges of being wealthy is the ability to see my children find their potential.  And have a shot at reaching it.  
It makes me wonder how many millions of those in poverty are ignored, oppressed, or spat upon, when all they really need is a chance.  Or how often I have taken advantage of my wealth and opportunity and forgotten what a what a huge privilege my life really is.
I’ve resolved not to forget.  Or waste it.”

This piece kind of got to me. Death is indeed the enemy.
I hate it…

When I Decided to Burn My SuitSteve Cuss
“I’ve worn the suit on a few other occasions: our dear friend’s brave mother passing away after a difficult, fierce life. The troubled husband of a strong woman who loved him to the very IMG_1196end, a baby killed in utero when her mother was struck by a car. As we lowered the tiny casket into the ground, I felt that pang in the gut and yearned for the day when people no longer gather around a casket sooner than they ever imagined and ask “why?”

And that is when I decided: it is time to burn this damned suit.  It is too tainted with pain.”

Go to the link for his elaborations…
4 Things Spiritual Growth Is NotMichael Kelley
“But what is spiritual growth? Much ink (some of it mine) trying to qualify and quantify what spiritual growth is, what it looks like, and how we help each other in that effort. Part of the reason for all that ink is because though all spiritual growth has some things in common, people progress at a different rate and in different seasons and, sometimes, through different methods. So what if we looked at it from the opposite perspective? Maybe knowing what spiritual growth is NOT can help us avoid some of the tendencies that can eventually stunt that growth.

Here, then are four things that spiritual growth is NOT.

1. Spiritual growth is not passive.
2. Spiritual growth is not educational.
3. Spiritual growth is not isolated.
4. Spiritual growth is not complicated.”

Source: Off the Mark

Psalm 1

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

After finishing Leviticus I felt the need for a change of pace. The Psalms will definitely provide that. This book is commonly thought of as a collection of the worship music of the Israelites. They were meant to be sung. These are worship songs that God appreciated enough to make sure they were preserved for us. Let’s see if we can find out why…

Psalm 1
Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Where do you “walk”, “stand” and “sit”? (vs 1)
You just finished reading the law (Leviticus).
Did you meditate on it? Do you find delight in it?
Why, or why not?


Leviticus 27:1-34

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

We’ve been going through a section of scripture where the details may make your reading feel a little tedious. Please do your best NOT to skim. Let the images sink in. God made sure this material was preserved and included. Let’s see if we can see why…

Leviticus 27:1-34
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, If anyone makes a special vow to the Lord involving the valuation of persons, then the valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels[a] of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. If the person is a female, the valuation shall be thirty shekels. If the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, the valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels. If the person is from a month old up to five years old, the valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female the valuation shall be three shekels of silver. And if the person is sixty years old or over, then the valuation for a male shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels. And if someone is too poor to pay the valuation, then he shall be made to stand before the priest, and the priest shall value him; the priest shall value him according to what the vower can afford.

“If the vow[b] is an animal that may be offered as an offering to the Lord, all of it that he gives to the Lord is holy. 10 He shall not exchange it or make a substitute for it, good for bad, or bad for good; and if he does in fact substitute one animal for another, then both it and the substitute shall be holy. 11 And if it is any unclean animal that may not be offered as an offering to the Lord, then he shall stand the animal before the priest, 12 and the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall be. 13 But if he wishes to redeem it, he shall add a fifth to the valuation.

14 “When a man dedicates his house as a holy gift to the Lord, the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand. 15 And if the donor wishes to redeem his house, he shall add a fifth to the valuation price, and it shall be his.

16 “If a man dedicates to the Lord part of the land that is his possession, then the valuation shall be in proportion to its seed. A homer[c] of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. 17 If he dedicates his field from the year of jubilee, the valuation shall stand, 18 but if he dedicates his field after the jubilee, then the priest shall calculate the price according to the years that remain until the year of jubilee, and a deduction shall be made from the valuation. 19 And if he who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, then he shall add a fifth to its valuation price, and it shall remain his. 20 But if he does not wish to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore. 21 But the field, when it is released in the jubilee, shall be a holy gift to the Lord, like a field that has been devoted. The priest shall be in possession of it. 22 If he dedicates to the Lord a field that he has bought, which is not a part of his possession, 23 then the priest shall calculate the amount of the valuation for it up to the year of jubilee, and the man shall give the valuation on that day as a holy gift to the Lord. 24 In the year of jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, to whom the land belongs as a possession. 25 Every valuation shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs[d] shall make a shekel.

26 “But a firstborn of animals, which as a firstborn belongs to the Lord, no man may dedicate; whether ox or sheep, it is the Lord‘s. 27 And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall buy it back at the valuation, and add a fifth to it; or, if it is not redeemed, it shall be sold at the valuation.

28 “But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the Lord, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord. 29 No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction[e] from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.

30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord‘s; it is holy to the Lord. 31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. 32 And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord. 33 One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”

34 These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Does it bother you that the value of a man is higher than the value of a woman?
Why do you think I would do that?
What do these laws teach you about material possessions?
What do these laws teach you about me?

My Weekend Picks for 5-27-2016

Picks Weekend

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Powerful stuff from a conversation with Don Carson…

We Are Not Entitled to the World’s RespectDavid Mathis
We Are Not Entitled to the World’s Respect 5htyxbf9
“…far too often we have let the surrounding culture define the rules and assumptions of our engagement. When shouted at, we are prone to respond with the natural human instinct to shout in return. We return shrillness with shrillness. But in our increasingly post-Christian society, we are in increasing need of being the kind of people who respond to a slap on one cheek by turning to the other and who respond to vitriol and venom with gentleness, perceptive questions, careful listening, and loving kindness.

We need to learn, in the words of the apostle Paul, “to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2).”

…The Christian’s charge is not to respond to fools with folly, but to cultivate the empathy that is fitting when we’re aware that we ourselves were once foolish — but for God’s grace — and still war against our foolishness in many respects.

It is striking in our day of soundbites and the growing polarization of perspectives to “speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle.”

This one made me a little sad for my grand-daughter…

13, right now – This is what it’s like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longingJessica Contrera
“The whole world is at her fingertips and has been for years. This, Katherine offers as a theory one day, is why she doesn’t feel like she’s 13 years old at all. She’s probably, like, 16.

“I don’t feel like a child anymore” she says. “I’m not doing anything childish. At the end of sixth grade” — when all her friends got phones and downloaded Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter — “I just stopped doing everything I normally did. Playing games at recess, playing with toys, all of it, done.”

Her scooter sat in the garage, covered in dust. Her stuffed animals were passed down to Lila. The wooden playground in the back yard stood empty. She kept her skateboard with neon yellow wheels, because riding it is still cool to her friends.”

Thanks to my friend Tom Lawson for this beautiful image to meditate on when I take the Lord’s Supper this Sunday…

FieldsTom Lawson
“The reality, of course, is that our bread is produced by crushing thousands of kernels of wheat to a fine powder. This is transported, packaged, and brought home. Then the powder is scooped into a great mound waiting for the addition of water and other ingredients. Then comes the kneading, forming, rising, baking, and, finally, a loaf of finished bread shared around a family table. The grain that makes up that finished bread came from hundreds of individual plants spread over great distances. Scattered kernels brought together into a single whole loaf…

…What an image—scattered grain lifted from across the hills and brought together to form one loaf as a visible parable of the church of Christ being gathered from across far-away lands and far-off times into a single gathered family of the kingdom of God at the end of the age…

…It is hard to see the loaf of bread when standing in the middle of endless acres of growing grain. It is also hard to picture the acres of grain when looking at a loaf of fresh baked bread. Yet, in our hearts, we know both realities, the seen and the not-yet-seen, are true.”

What Cringing at Your Own Dumb Voice Reveals About You
Melissa Dahl
“Most of the time, most of us live inside our own heads, imagining that the person we believe we are presenting to the world is indeed the person that the world sees. Cringeworthy moments yank us out of that fantasy, forcing us to at least briefly take an outsider’s view of ourselves.”

How does he do it???
Click image for a larger view. Source: Non Sequitur

Leviticus 26:14-46

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

We’ve been going through a section of scripture where the details may make your reading feel a little tedious. Please do your best NOT to skim. Let the images sink in. God made sure this material was preserved and included. Let’s see if we can see why…

Leviticus 26:14-46
14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. 18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply[a] of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

34 “Then the land shall enjoy[b] its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes. 44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.”

46 These are the statutes and rules and laws that the Lord made between himself and the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Did you notice the “ifs” in verses 14 & 15?
Did they do that?
Do you?
What do you expect from me?
Does this help you appreciate grace?
Did you notice verses 40-45?
I’ll always give you another chance.

The 2016 Election = Vizzini’s Choice

This has certainly been a fun election year so far, don’t you think?

Ok, “fun” might not be exactly the right word.

I know it seems inconceivable, but the two major political parties (bless ‘em) have offered up the two most disliked candidates in U. S. history.

What’s a conscientious voter to do?

As I’ve considered my voting options, it occurs to me that, as in most important life experiences, there is something to be learned from that legendary cinematic masterpiece, The Princess Bride.

We are faced with what I would call “Vizzini’s Choice.”

In the rare case that you have never seen the movie, or your memory needs to be refreshed, or you just want to see a classic film scene again, this is the scene I’m referring to…

So, as we face the 2016 election, I say…

“All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun.”

What about Hillary Clinton?

There are many reasons you could find to vote against Hillary. Perhaps your reasons go back to the Whitewater scandal. Maybe for you it’s her involvement in the Benghazi attack or the fact that she’s in process of being investigated by the FBI. Or, it could be that your reasons have more to do with the uneasy feeling you get when you realize their personal life and marriage seems a little too much like Frank & Claire Underwood in House of Cards.

For me it’s pretty simple. I cannot, in good conscience, vote for any candidate who claims that mothers have the absolute right to end the life of their unborn babies if they find them inconvenient. I don’t consider myself a “one issue voter” but this one is a deal breaker for me. I believe it is the most basic of human rights issues and goes to the heart of who we are as a people.

“…so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.”

Ok, what about Donald Trump?

Donald can’t seem to make up his mind what his opinions are so it’s kind of hard to know what he would do as president.

In 1999 Donald is “pro-choice in every respect.” In 2016 he thinks women who have abortions should be punished. So, what does he believe? What will he do? The truth is, no one has any idea. He has since back-pedaled on his answer, but that is his typical pattern. He generally seems to have no idea what’s going to come out of his mouth until he hears it played back for him. Then he has to “clarify.” This is not a character trait I want in a president. Every elected official struggles to keep his campaign promises. Some are more successful than others. But we really don’t have a clear idea what his campaign promises even are.

Except that he’s gonna “make America great again.”

What does he really mean by that? Judging by his campaign rhetoric, making America great will came at the cost of making America good. A bully is not great, he’s just mean.

Is it possible that his picture of a  “great” America is the same as David Duke and the KKK? He seems fairly comfortable with the fact that he has their support. Well, I’m not.

His supporters somehow have the idea that he’s on the side of the little guy. They think he is an outspoken business man who “tells it like it is.” He’s not. The only part of that that’s true is the “outspoken” part.

I hate to re-use all the same adjectives that appear in every #NeverTrump article, but he is an arrogant, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, bombastic, childish and thin-skinned blowhard. He’s an insulting, disgusting bully. He is not a leader.

“…so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”

I wouldn’t want to “have a beer” with either one of them, let alone a glass of poisoned wine!

So back to the original question: What’s a conscientious voter to do?

Not voting at all is a bad idea. This could be interpreted as apathy and the only message it sends is that you think things are going fine without your input.

No, I think we must vote for someone, anyone, other than Trump or Clinton.

Right now I don’t know who else will be on the ballot in November, but someone will get my vote. It may be a Libertarian, an Independent or a write-in, but it emphatically will NOT be Hillary or Donald.

I know what you’re thinking. The Republicans are thinking that “a vote for a third party is a vote for Clinton.” The Democrats are thinking that “a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump.”

Be careful with that thinking. When you say that, what you’re really saying is that you’re not going to vote your conscience. You’re saying that your vote doesn’t represent you. You’re saying that you have no choice but to fall in line with the party, and unite around the candidate the party tells you to unite around. You’re saying that your vote is not yours, it belongs to the party.

I urge you not to fall for it! Who’s in charge here?!?

I am under no illusions that a third party or independent candidate will be our next president. But if everyone who hates Trump and Clinton votes for someone else, it will send a powerful message. One of them will in all likelihood still be president, but the party leaders will see that a majority of voters voted against them, and the president will not be tempted to interpret his/her election as a mandate.

Yeah, our next president will be poisonous.

But here’s the good news:

“They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

Well, actually, we didn’t build it up. The immunity is written into the constitution. The good news is that the president is not an emperor or a king. The president doesn’t rule, he presides. (One reason why Trump isn’t qualified.) The checks and balances of our constitution is a beautiful thing. Yes, we’re in for a tough presidential term or two, but I’m optimistic about our future. Don’t believe the prophets of doom who say that the future of our nation depends on this presidential election. Our nation has endured bad presidents before and we will again.

I urge you to vote with the long term in mind. As Miracle Max said: “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”

Vote your conscience. Let’s do our part to make America good!


My Picks for Thursday 5-26-2016

Picks Thursday

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Good reminder, encouragement, and a little exhortation for worship leaders…

Talent Isn’t Everything: What Sets You Apart As A Leader
David Santistevan
hustle“Losing your heart is losing your reason, your purpose, your compassion…

…I can remember these moments vividly.

Looking out at my church and not caring about them. Feeling more frustrated by their lack of worship rather than a brokenhearted compassion for their lives.

Those moments of rushing to “pull off an event” rather than savoring the Holy Spirit’s move in the present moment. Stressing to cross of a “to-do” rather than listening and praying for someone in need.

The rush to the next thing. The discontent with the here and now.

Yes, I would venture to say that your heart is the most important quality of your leadership.

Talent without heart leads to a show.
Leadership without heart is a power trip.
Working without heart leads to the mundane.”

You may find this helpful. I did…

Explainer: Federal Government issues letter on transgender policy to America’s public schoolsJoe Carter
“This specific letter is a “significant guidance” document, a policy instrument that provides “initial interpretations of statutory and regulatory requirements and changes in interpretation or policy.” These type of directives are often used to “Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles…” This letter provides guidance on how the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will “evaluate a school’s compliance” with interpretation of laws regarding transgender students.

This letter provides guidance on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving Federal financial assistance. The administration has reinterpreted Title IX to make “gender identity” synonymous with “sex.””

I need this reminder sometimes…

Risk or RustDarryl Dash
Good advice from Sprin
“I’ve reached the age that people stop taking risks and begin to coast. I get it. I’m fighting that impulse. I hope you are too…

…Risk. Dare. Pursue what will glorify God most, not what will make you most comfortable. Don’t be foolish or presumptuous, but default to taking the bold action. Risking is way better than rusting.”

Ok, is Someone trying to tell me something?

Actively Serving Christ in Older Age – Dr. Carl K. Becker
Vance Christie
Modern Medical Missionaries
“One of the characteristics that has always impressed me about highly committed servants of Jesus Christ is that they continue to actively serve Him to the very end of their lives. Long after others have retired from their vocations and various forms of Christian service, these deeply dedicated Christian servants continue right on actively ministering for the Lord in whatever ways they are able. For them there is no such concept as retiring from the Lord’s work. They may not be able to serve Christ as actively or in all the ways they did in younger years. But they continue to serve Him to the full extent of their physical strength and other capacities (even as those are diminishing) to the end of life.”

Well preserved…
Source: Off the Mark