Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Universal Solvent

Does anybody remember the universal solvent from basic chemistry? Water. Is it any wonder then that Jesus is called the Living Water? And deservedly so. It is His nature to dilute and even dissolve our problems. On top of that, He can wash us clean of sin, cool us when we’re hot, satisfy us when we’re thirsty, drown our sorrows, and put out life’s fires. Like water, He takes the shape of whatever vessel He’s in (namely your heart), He is essential for all life on Earth, and as God, He can be found in three common forms (not solid, liquid, and gas but Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). For the perfect solution, just add Jesus.

Heaven on a Plate

Thick, juicy Filet Mignon wrapped in a fluffy layer of tasty carbohydrate––that’s like Heaven on a plate. Tina and I went on a wonderful rendezvous last weekend to a fabulous restaurant. We chose the restaurant based explicitly on one particular menu item, Beef Wellington. If your a vegetarian, it’s no “misteak,” it’s more steak for me.

I’ll tell you what, nothing says lovin’ like the taste of something from the oven. If you want to grow in your love together, grow your waist together. Food is a direct path to my heart (probably figuratively and literally). It started off with delectable French Onion Soup, then the entrée, my first stab at Beef Wellington, with yummy Garlic Mashed Potatoes and flavorful Grilled Asparagus on the side. Then the finale: Creme Brulee for me and Chocolate Mousse Cake for my T-cup; with coffee of course, about a pot each I think. (Asparagus and coffee together––talk about stinky pee!) Food for a prince on a pauper’s salary is a rarity.

brulee

Compare that to the Gospel. It is satisfying, fulfilling, and downright good. The irony is that it has already been paid for, it is not harmful to my health, and there is more than enough to go around for daily intake of the Lord’s Word. It’s a Prince’s feast on a pauper’s salary everyday. If you really want to grow in your love together, forget about growing your waist, instead grow your faith together. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to eat some steak along the way. (Just make it cattle without defect and consider it an offering to the Lord.)

*No animals were injured in the making of this post.

Old Habits Die Hard (And So Does Sin)

For thirty plus years, my parents kept the kitchen trash can in the pantry. After remodeling the kitchen a few years ago, they moved the location of the trash can. That hasn’t stopped me (even years later) from going to the pantry to throw something away at least once when visiting. It’s maddening! It does make it easier to see why we sometimes continue to struggle with the same sins over and over again. Just like old habits, sin becomes almost ingrained in us. Romans 7:17-19 says, “ As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

I do manage to find the trash can. Actually, it even seems to get easier to take my garbage to the right place the more that I do it. Old sins die hard, but they do die! Do not be discouraged––your sins of yesterday cannot defeat your Savior of today!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~Galatians 6:9

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Jesus saves me all at once but he changes me little by little. ~Pastor Steven Furtick

It’s better to break out little by little than to stay in chains for eternity. ~Pastor Steven Furtick

And the Oscar goes too. . .

I didn’t watch the Oscars on Sunday because, frankly, awards infrequently go to the people who really deserve them. If you ask me, there’s far too much hoopla over the “actor” in people and far too little concentration on the character in people. Millions of people tune in to watch millions of dollars spent on recognizing someone for how he or she acts, not on what he or she does; or what kind of impact he or she makes; or even what kind of virtuous life each leads. The rewards should go to the individuals on the front lines of life’s real battles––those who stand in the face of adversity, those whose integrity continue to shine even under the harshest of conditions, those whose values and standards don’t change with the direction of the wind. People like parents, pastors, believers, teachers, politicians (NOT!), nurses, doctors, the real heroes––not people who just play them on TV. I’m referring to people who use their lives to elevate others, not people who use others to elevate their own lives. (And, no, this ain’t a bitter tirade because neither Brad nor Angelina won the Oscar––give me a break).

And the Oscar goes to . . .

My dad and mom,

Robert and Marlene Shaw

Married for 38 years, they have always set a great example for my brother and I, and it’s certainly not because of a lack of adversity. They have had their share of hardships from times of unemployment and near-poverty, to a cancer that threatened the life of my father (he is a 10-year survivor by the grace of God), to a disabling physical condition that would not keep my dad from becoming a certified lifeguard, to who knows what other trials they stood tall through, at least by appearance in order to hold it together for us kids.

Well, a coworker of mine (thanks Annette) taught me that it’s far more important to celebrate your parents on your birthday than to celebrate yourself. After all, how much did you really have to do with your birthday? Sure, you were there for the conception but without your mom and dad meeting like they did . . . enough said!

Thanks Dad and Mom for bringing me into this world! To be only half the parent that you are would be a noble accomplishment. I hope to make you proud by leaving a deep and lasting impression on this world that will shine a legacy of integrity into generations to come!

WWJD or WWJD?

Today, I turn 36 years old. By this time three years earlier in his life, Jesus already had himself a team of twelve, confronted the current zealots of the day, healed the sick, raised the dead, turned water into wine, fed many from little, walked on water, endured a brutal beating, died on the cross, rose from the dead, saved the world, and ignited a 2000+ year legacy. And he did it all in 3 years.

Whew! Need a minute; feeling a little inadequate right now.

Now that I think about it, should I really be feeling inadequate? It’s easy enough for Jesus, being God’s true son and all but I’m merely an adopted son. How can one really, possibly even come close to living the WWJD mantra? I mean, hasn’t Jesus already done what it is He would do? Why are we still asking the question (WWJD) when we already have the Answer? Did He really call us to act like Him or to act for Him; to do His work or to do His will? Honestly, if we could do what Jesus did, would we even need Jesus?

Follow me here: His work was to die for all, right? Then our work is not His work because it has already been done. So then what is our work? Our work is His will. His will is to die for all to see (not visually with human eyes of course, but with the eyes of the heart; to understand; to believe). That’s where we come in. Our work (or His will) is to reflect His love so that others see it (Matthew 5:16). He’s the Message, we’re the messenger. Maybe the question isn’t completely off the mark, maybe it simply needs rephrased. Instead of “What would Jesus do?”, perhaps it should read, “What would Jesus desire?” It’s His will that He desires of us.

How does that look from a practical standpoint? Try this on for size:

You come across a beggar blind from birth, do you,
A) Do as Jesus would: spit in the dirt, rub mud on the man’s eyes thereby healing his blindness (John 9:1-11)?
B) Do Jesus’ will: get him hooked up with a local ministry, share the Gospel with him, pray with him, or even just lead him to a restaurant whereby you buy him a meal ?
C) Do your will: look the other direction?

Surgeon General Warning

Long-term exposure to sin can lead to heart disease.

Long-term exposure to the Son can lead to heart transplantation.

(Ok, it’s not from the Surgeon General but the Great Physician.)

Manure Happens!

Playing outside at my grandparents house one weekend as a kid, my brother and I discovered a pile of dirt over a little embankment that lead down to the garden. The knoll was the perfect launching pad for us to jump right into the cushiony pile of dirt. I’m not sure how long we played in the dirt but by the time we were finished, we had dirt in our ears (and every other orifice not covered by clothing). When my mom and grandparents came outside to see what we were up to, they made us aware of the painful reality that what we thought was dirt was actually manure for fertilizing the garden. I haven’t jumped in any unidentified piles since.

Manure happens! Don’t sit there and waller’* in it. Stand up, clean yourself off, and move on. You can let your past either haunt you or help you; one way or the other, it will determine your future. These situations are not meant to shake you as much as they are meant to shape you but the choice is yours. Nobody likes manure but it happens. Get over it and leave it behind (no pun intended)!

*waller’: southern for wallow, meaning to roll about in the mud; to indulge in something uncontrollably.
I am not southern but I am in the south and “when in Rome, you do as the Romans do!”

MythBuster

I don’t have traditional cable (too cheap, I mean, fiscally prudent) but I was lucky enough to catch a few MythBusters episodes while on break at work. If you haven’t seen it, it’s where science meets entertainment. The hosts take urban legends (for example, is it possible for a human to catch a bullet with his teeth?) and either confirm or debunk the myth basically by destroying stuff. [GRUNT Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor-style]

I think reality can be a better measure of outcomes than reality TV. Take the following old adage for example:

“Money makes the world go around.”

Is it Myth or Fact?

No laboratory or studio needed here. The testing grounds for this myth is real life. It routinely has a way of wrecking things on its own (or at least the entities in life like greedy corporations and corrupt governments do). There hasn’t been many times in history when the dollar has taken a beating like it has the last several months.

  • Foreclosures up 81%
  • Layoffs up 55% (200,000 in January alone)
  • Unemployment up 2.7% to 7.6% (4.1 million more jobs lost in ‘08 than ‘07)
  • Burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft up
  • Real estate value down 15.3%
  • Dow is Down 37% (4700 points) since one year ago
  • Consumer spending down 8.9% Q4 2008 (worst since 1947)
  • Federal government over $10 trillion dollars in the hole
  • Fed $787 billion more down (pending the “stimulus” package)

There is no money left out there! Has the earth’s rotation slowed? Has the days gotten any longer? Has the world stopped?

myth-stamp

Bottom Line (no pun intended):
Money does NOT make the world go around.

Introductory Offer

The so-called “credit crunch” hasn’t seemed to slow the number of credit card offers that come to the house. They kind of remind me of dating. Of course, the only dating I’ve done for years is with my wife but I’m referring to the courting process, when you are dating someone new.

Both parties are in their “introductory period” trying to induce the other party to commit to longer, more binding terms. Like the introductory credit card deals, each are oftentimes offering attractive, sometimes irresistible terms to lure in the other party. That’s why your little peculiarities don’t seem like that big of a deal when you’re dating. She doesn’t seem to care that you leave the toilet seat up or that your priority every weekend is 18 holes. And he doesn’t seem to mind that you’ve just spent $300 on yet another outfit or that you’re gabbing on the phone with your BFF for hours on end everyday. Or she’s impressed by the fact that you planned a romantic dinner date and he’s impressed that you not only approve of but even encourage him to have all of his buddies over for the game each Sunday.

However, let that introductory period run out, and the teeth come out. I find it bizarre that the financial industry calls it “interest rate;” who in their right mind is interested in paying 8, 12, 20 or any percent on money borrowed? In fact, that’s about the time I start to lose interest. And that’s the same with dating. When it’s time to begin paying the the full price, when the grace period is over, the terms don’t look so impressive anymore. By that time, though, they got you. A commitment has been made, personal items have accumulated, you’re carrying some of each other’s baggage, you might have even purchased property together (like a house or car), you’ve got time invested that you just don’t know is worth giving up to start the process over again.

Most people miss or overlook the fine print, the details of the terms for when the intro period expires. This is a precarious position to be in. You failed to cash out when the gettin’ was good and now you’re stuck with the charges. Don’t over-commit. Keep at a distance until his or her real character starts to show through. Be careful not to settle for a sales pitch when you can find favorable terms that are permanent. Take it slow and cautious, don’t rush into things until you know full well what the penalties might be if your mate turns out to be a ferocious wolf (like my ex-wife) instead of the friendly puppy that you see in the beginning.

Marriage: The Double Black Diamond

Tina and I went on a “romantic” ski trip this past weekend with three other couples, experiences ranging from novice to expert in both skiing and relationships. Being a trip of dual purposes (skiing and romance) make for an easy comparison. After nearly eight years of marriage on the second time around for both Tina and I, I can say without a doubt that marriage is one of the toughest things that you will ever do in life. Not getting married, of course, that’s the easy part; staying married and keeping the union tight is the challenge. It can often seem like an uphill battle,  a losing one at that.

If you’ve got only a modest knowledge of skiing, you know that “double black diamond” is a label given to the most difficult skiing terrain. The slope is often very steep with many obstacles, mostly bumps (called moguls), and narrow passes that you must negotiate in order to keep from planting your face in the hard-packed snow, or worse yet, breaking your neck. Double black diamonds are reserved for advanced skiers only as they can make mush of the bones of a novice. Well I’m here to tell you, marriage is very much the same way. Look at the parallels below:

skiing-marriage

Are these requirements? Only for successful unions. With a greater than 50% divorce rate, even in Christian homes, the warnings signs are there. Do you ski on past the signs knowing that it’s either you or the schmuck beside you that won’t survive the mountain? If so, ski at your own risk!

In order to survive the treacherous conditions that await to assail you on the Double Black Diamond of marriage, heed the warnings, go back to the basics, start from scratch, bruise your back side some to avoid breaking the bond of marriage; become a seasoned skier first, and only then will you conquer the Double Black Diamond of marriage without ending up on the rocky cliff of divorce.

Here’s a trail map that will guide you down some of the Green Circles and onto the Double Black Diamonds:

  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  • Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs
  • The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick
  • The Every Battle series by Stephen Afterburn and Shannon Ethridge
  • Moments Together by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Happy trails!