Wednesday, May 03, 2017

 

[dailyfoodforthought] FATHER, GIVE ME MY SHARE OF THE ESTATE

FATHER, GIVE ME MY SHARE OF THE ESTATE

 

A long time ago, Jesus old a story about what it is like to come home.

Specifically, what it's like to come home to our Father in heaven with no more qualifications than that we've made a mess of our own lives.

What would God say to us?  What would his attitude be?

In one of Jesus' most familiar parables (Luke 15: 11-32), the younger of two sons demands, "Father, give me my share of the estate."  It's hard to overstate the edginess of this request. The Middle Eastern audience who first heard Jesus' story must have been appalled.  This Jewish boy has committed the ultimate sin. 

 

In so many words he has said, "Father, drop dead.  You're no good to me alive.  All I want from you is your money that will be mine when you're gone.  So, if you don't mind, let's pretend you're gone now."  It's hard to imagine a more painful or insulting injury to any parent.

With a breaking heart, the father realizes that his son has no desire to be in relationship with him.  So he complies.  He divides up the estate.

The boy takes off into the wide, wide world.  According to the Bible this describes the relationship that all of us have with God.  All of us have said, in one way or another, "Father, I wish you were dead.  You crowd me.  My life would be so much happier if you weren't hovering over everything I think and say and do." 

 

What does God do when we relate to him like that?  He says, "Go.  Go out and see if life is really happier when you are out of relationship with me."

Author H.J. Duffy remembers when his teenage son was so excited to try out his new surfboard that he plunged right into the breakers, ignoring the warning flags that had been posted for dangerous surf.  Immediately the booming voice of the lifeguard rang out: "You are an inexperienced surfer.  Return to shore."

Humiliated, the boy returned.  He asked the lifeguard how he knew he was a beginner.  "That's easy.  You've got your wetsuit on backwards."

God's love is such that he doesn't stand on the seashore of our lives and shout into a megaphone, "You are an inexperienced, completely ill-prepared rebel.  Return home at once."  Incredibly, God lets us go. 

 

At first things go brilliantly for the boy in Jesus' story.  He has the time of his life.  But then he runs through all of his assets in "the far country."  As scholar Kenneth Bailey observes, his ATM card is suddenly rejected.  His friends disappear.  Jesus assigns to him the ultimate nightmare job for a Hebrew boy – feeding pigs.

The boy gradually "comes to his senses," as Jesus puts it.  He wakes up.  He realizes how far away he is from where he started.  He not only grasps in his head but he feels in his heart and his gut his separation from his father.  He longs to go home.

But what will his dad do if he ever shows his pig-feeding face around town again? 

 

That would be a no-brainer in first century Jewish society.  The typical father would beat the living tar out of such a disrespectful son, as a warning to every other boy in the neighborhood.  It would be a kind of community service beating. 

 

But this boy wonders, in his heart of hearts: is there a possibility that my dad will take me back?  He's haunted by the last look that he saw on his father's face.

                

He begins to formulate a plan.  He will play Let's Make a Deal.  Certain that his relationship with his father is broken beyond repair, he rehearses a little speech.  "Dad, I don't even deserve a cot in the barn.  I know I can't be your son any more.  Could I at least be one of your minimum wage workers?"

He leaves the distant country and begins walking in the direction of home, no doubt burdened by the thought of trying to clean his own slate for the rest of his life.

The last thing he suspects is that his own father, the one he has wounded, is about to clean that slate for him. 

 

Luke 15:20 tells us, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." 

 

The astonishing detail is that the father runs.  Dignified gentlemen in the time of Jesus walked through their paces slowly.  To run meant to show your ankles to the neighbors.  To do that was to risk ridicule. 

 

This Father could care less. 

 

While we ourselves are still a long way off – even while we remain in our distant countries of doubt and anger and hopelessness – God the Father is waiting.

What is it like to go home?

God the Father will run to meet us.

 

-- Authored by Glenn McDonald

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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

 

[dailyfoodforthought] SO WHAT'S ON YOUR PLATE TODAY?

SO WHAT'S ON YOUR PLATE TODAY?

 

William Zinsser, who died in 2015 at the age of 92, was one of America's most esteemed writers and literary critics.

His bestseller, On Writing Well, provided guidance to a whole generation of journalists.

As a cub reporter, however, he despaired at his own writing.  He was going nowhere.

His assignment?  Zinsser wrote the obituaries for the Buffalo News. 

 

He soon became frustrated and bored.  Where were the opportunities to write cutting edge features and investigative reports?  Obituaries don't win Pulitzer Prizes.   He said to his editor, "When am I going to get some decent story assignments?"

"Listen, kid!" his editor huffed in response.  "Nothing you write will ever get read as carefully as what you are writing right now." 

 

"If you misspell a word," he went on, "you mess up a date, and a family will be hurt.  But you do justice to somebody's grandmother, to somebody's mom, you make a life sing, and they will be grateful forever.  They will put your words in laminate."

Zinsser never saw his work the same way again. 

 

"I pledged to make the extra calls.  I would ask the extra questions.  I would go the extra mile."  He decided to write obituaries for others as he would want others to write his own obituary – ones that deserved to be laminated. 

 

So what's on your plate today?

A meeting that needs to go well? 

A meal that needs to delight the people you love? 

A word of correction that needs to be communicated with grace?

An assignment that needs to call forth partnership from your team?

Do it with excellence. 

 

Go the extra mile.  

 

Here's how the apostle Paul put it:  "Don't just do the minimum that will get you by.  Do your best.  Work from the heart for your real Master, for God." (Colossians 3:22-23, The Message)

Most of us have spun our wheels on the idea that our work is what makes us significant. 

 

But just the opposite is true. 

 

We are the ones who make our own work significant – by seeing our next task not as just another item on our list of things to do, but as an opportunity to please our real Boss.

Your next appointment, your next phone call, your next conversation, your next email – they're really about working for Him.

 

-- Authored by Glenn McDonald

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

 

[dailyfoodforthought] WHAT FACE DO YOU SEE?

WHAT FACE DO YOU SEE?

 

On September 6, 1975, Thelma Perkins, a 38-year-old mother of three who lived in Maryville, Tennessee, was assigned to the newborn intensive care unit of the hospital where she had just become a nurse.

That day a baby arrived with extraordinary needs.

This little girl had light, curly brown hair, but a "face" that was nothing more than a shapeless mass.

She had no eyes, no nose, and only a ragged opening for breathing and feeding.

A few days later the NICU supervisor called a staff meeting to make one thing clear. 

 

"I  don't want to hear any more talk about this baby's appearance," she said.  "Her name is Alice.  She has a purpose in this world, and we are going to treat her like every other newborn patient."

Thelma Perkins found herself drawn in love to this baby with no face.  She talked and cooed to Alice, picked her up, cuddled her, and loved her.  Eventually she and her husband Ray became Alice's adoptive parents.

They patiently taught her to sit up and walk.  Alice endured a series of operations in which surgeons fashioned her a face.

In preschool she learned to talk, and at age seven could speak 250 words.  She learned how to play and live happily.

The story of Ray and Thelma Perkins' unconditional love found its way into an article that was reprinted in Reader's Digest in 1983.  Fourteen years later one of the young moms in the church where I served as pastor read it for the first time.

She was so moved that she felt prompted to see if there if there was still a phone listing in Maryville, Tennessee, for a Ray Perkins.

Even as she thought, "This is a crazy thing to do," she found herself dialing directory assistance.  Moments later she was on the phone with Thelma Perkins, then age 59.

Thelma radiated a love for God.  She related that Alice was due to graduate in a few months from the Tennessee School for the Blind, had a good sense of humor, and loved to go to church.

Then she choked back tears, saying, "Alice was diagnosed a few years ago with a form of MS which is causing her to lose her hearing.  Eventually she won't be able to walk."

When asked about further prayer concerns, Thelma indicated the need to build an addition onto their home with a wheelchair entrance.

That night the young mom from our church shared the news of the phone call with her husband.  Without hesitation he said, "Let's offer to go help Ray build that addition."  A few weeks later they and their family had driven the 350 miles from Zionsville to Maryville, and established construction plans with the Perkinses.

News of the trip inspired the involvement of four other churches, two in Tennessee and two in Indiana. 

 

Suddenly, dozens of people who were unknown to each other, separated by time and space, came together to extend the healing ministry of Jesus – all for a girl who once literally had no face.

How do we respond to a world in deep need?

First we cry.  Then we die.

We cry as our hearts are broken with the things that break the heart of God. Then we die to the comfortable patterns of life that isolate us emotionally and geographically from those we are called to serve.

And in our crying and our dying, we get to experience the gift that only God can truly give: 

 

Our hearts are reborn.

-- Authored by Glenn McDonald

 

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Monday, April 24, 2017

 

[dailyfoodforthought] HOW ARE YOU RUNNING YOUR RACE?

HOW ARE YOU RUNNING YOUR RACE?


Growing up in his native India, author Ravi Zacharias used to participate in a strange event on community sports days.

It's called the slow cycling race.

The goal of the race is not to take off as soon as the gun sounds, but to move as slowly as possible.  In fact, it's best if you can remain completely still on your bicycle, your feet never touching the ground.

The goal of the race is to come in dead last.

 

Some competitors are so adept at remaining stationary that the distance of the race is only a few yards.

Imagine a visiting cycling champion from another culture standing there before the gun sounds.

He sees the riders hop onto their bikes and thinks, "I wish I could be in this race so I could teach these beginners a few things about cycling."  If he's offered the opportunity, imagine his surprise at what happens next.

At the pop of the starting pistol he speeds off and breaks through the tape first, only to look back and notice that the rest of the cyclists are still at the starting line trying to balance their motionless bikes.

Imagine his astonishment that he has finished last, even though he crossed the line first.

It pays to know the purpose of a race before we try to win it. 

 

It pays to know how we should define a rich and meaningful life before we speed off, assuming we're winning, when in fact we can't even state what kind of life God has actually called us to.

He who dies with the most toys wins.

Money is life's scorekeeper.

If I just made $10,000 more, I know I'd be happy.

There's no shortage of bankrupt philosophies in the world.  Some of life's most famous "winners" are convinced they have outsmarted, outhustled, and outmaneuvered everyone they know.

Jesus offers this warning:  "The last will be first, and the first will be last."  (Matthew 20:16)

It pays to learn how God defines the Good Life.

That will certainly help us keep our balance in whatever slow race he's set before us this day.

-- Authored by Glenn McDonald

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

 

[dailyfoodforthought] WALKING THROUGH THE CHURCH DOORS

WALKING THROUGH THE CHURCH DOORS

 

What's the number one thing that keeps spiritual searchers from walking through the doors of a church?

 

That's easy:  Christians. 

 

Philosopher Bertrand Russell famously said that he would believe in a Savior when his followers began to act as if they were saved.

 

Craig Detweiler, a Christian filmmaker, knows that artists can feel particularly hostile to the traditional church scene.

 

About a decade ago he attended a sold-out showing of a virulently anti-religious movie at the Sundance Film Festival. 

 

In the movie, a suburban Southern Baptist family is killed in a car wreck on their way (of course) to church.  In heaven, a tattooed Jesus sends them back to earth so they can live far happier lives the second time around – this time with few moral boundaries.

 

Their scandalized church friends decide to send them back to heaven, hopefully for good, by poisoning an apple pie. 

 

The crowd loved it. 

 

It didn't seem to be much of a stretch, after all, to imagine Christians as homicidally hyper-judgmental. 

 

After receiving a standing ovation, the director was asked if any conservative Christians had seen it.  "I'm ready for that fight," he smiled.

 

That's when Detweiler, not even thinking about what he was doing, rose to his feet.  Here's his own account of what happened next:

 

"I struggled to compose my words.  My voice cracked slightly.  I eked out, 'Jay, thank you for this film.  As a native of North Carolina, a fellow filmmaker, and an evangelical Christian…'

 

"I never use the word evangelical.  It is so loaded with negative baggage that I usually attempt to distance myself from such an association.  But in this case, it seemed quite right.  I was speaking for my community, responding to a particular stance we had staked out for ourselves.

 

"Jay stepped back, ready for that fight.  He tensed up, preparing to launch a counterattack.  The crowd sensed that things were about to get ugly.  My next words caught them off guard:  'Jay, I apologize for anything ever done to you in the name of God.'

 

"The entire tenor in the room shifted.  Audience members in the room turned around.  'Did I heart that correctly?'  They craned their necks.  'Who said that?'

 

"Jay fumbled for words, not knowing how to respond.  He was ready to be attacked.  He was not ready for an apology.

 

"He offered a modest, 'Thank you.'  The audience was literally disarmed…

 

"Audience members approached me afterwards with hugs.  A lesbian couple thanked me.  Gay men kissed me.  One person said, 'If that is true, I might consider giving Christianity another chance…' 

 

"A simple apology set off a series of conversations and exchanges about our faith and how we live it."

 

Churches are willing to do almost anything to increase the foot traffic to their front doors:  catchy slogans, fish fries, family nights, concerts, ice cream socials.

 

It's just possible that two words, spoken humbly and sincerely, will generate more good will than all those strategies combined:

 

We apologize. 

 

-- Authored by Glenn McDonald

 

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

 

[dailyfoodforthought] A FATHER SHOPPING

A FATHER SHOPPING


A young father was doing grocery shopping with his little boy, who was sitting in the cart.

 

The dad kept whispering things like, "Be patient, Billy.  You can handle this, Billy.  It's going to be OK, Billy."

 

A woman who was shopping in the same aisle was impressed.

 

She leaned over to the dad and said, "I just want to tell you what a great job you're doing.  You're so wonderfully patient with your little Billy."

 

"Actually," said the man, "my son's name is Jason.  My name is Billy."

 

All day long we hear words that are calculated to encourage us or break us down.  Sometimes we speak those words to ourselves.

 

Unfortunately, they may be negative messages that play like digital recordings in our minds:

 

You'll never lose weight.

You will never survive this lawsuit.

You can't beat cancer.

You don't have the courage to pursue the job you've always wanted.

You don't have the guts to reclaim your sexual integrity.

You're a loser.  And you always will be.

 

For all too many of us, personal acquaintance with such spiritual darkness is a day-to-day experience. 

 

We hear intimidating voices that are calculated to make us lose heart.

 

But God's Holy Spirit can break into our minds as well.

 

The Spirit reminds us that, in Christ, we are loved.  And chosen.  And forgiven.  And blessed beyond all ability to comprehend.

 

God will never leave us. 

God will never abandon us. 

God is at work right now in the midst of the most painful things that are happening to us.

 

The outcome of this day will largely be determined by what voices we choose to hear.

 

Not to mention whether we can make it make it down the candy aisle at the grocery store unscathed.  

 

-- Authored by Glenn McDonald

 

 
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

 

[dailyfoodforthought] THE COLOR OF FRIENDSHIP

THE COLOR OF FRIENDSHIP

Once upon a time the colors of the world started to quarrel. All claimed that they were the best. The most important. The most useful. The favorite.

 

Green said:

"Clearly I am the most important. I am the sign of life and of hope. I was chosen for grass, trees and leaves. Without me, all animals would die. Look over the countryside and you will see that I am in the majority."

 

Blue interrupted:

"You only think about the earth, but consider the sky and the sea. It is the water that is the basis of life and drawn up by the clouds from the deep sea. The sky gives space and peace and serenity. Without my peace, you would all be nothing."

 

Yellow chuckled:

"You are all so serious. I bring laughter, gaiety, and warmth into the world. The sun is yellow, the moon is yellow, the stars are yellow. Every time you look at a sunflower, the whole world starts to smile. Without me there would be no fun."

 

Orange started next to blow her trumpet:

"I am the color of health and strength. I may be scarce, but I am precious for I serve the needs of human life. I carry the most important vitamins. Think of carrots, pumpkins, oranges, mangoes, and papayas. I don't hang around all the time, but when I fill the sky at sunrise or sunset, my beauty is so striking that no one gives another thought to any of you."

 

Red could stand it no longer he shouted out:

"I am the ruler of all of you. I am blood - life's blood! I am the color of danger and of bravery. I am willing to fight for a cause. I bring fire into the blood. Without me, the earth would be as empty as the moon. I am the color of passion and of love, the red rose, the poinsettia and the poppy."

 

Purple rose up to his full height:

He was very tall and spoke with great pomp: "I am the color of royalty and power. Kings, chiefs, and bishops have always chosen me for I am the sign of authority and wisdom. People do not question me! They listen and obey."

 

Finally Indigo spoke, much more quietly than all the others, but with just as much determination:

"Think of me. I am the color of silence. You hardly notice me, but without me you all become superficial. I represent thought and reflection, twilight and deep water. You need me for balance and contrast, for prayer and inner peace."

 

And so the colors went on boasting, each convinced of his or her own superiority. Their quarreling became louder and louder. Suddenly there was a startling flash of bright lightening thunder rolled and boomed. Rain started to pour down relentlessly. The colors crouched down in fear, drawing close to one another for comfort.

 

In the midst of the clamor, God began to speak:

"You foolish colors, fighting amongst yourselves, each trying to dominate the rest. Don't you know that you were each made for a special purpose, unique and different? Join hands with one another and come to me."

 

Doing as they were told, the colors united and joined hands.

 

God continued:

"From now on, when it rains, each of you will stretch across the sky in a great bow of color as a reminder that you can all live in peace. The Rainbow is a sign of hope for tomorrow." And so, whenever a good rain washes the world, and a Rainbow appears in the sky, let us remember to appreciate one another.

 

-- Author Unknown


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