Friday, September 30- What Is SYATP?

     Americans LOVE acronyms. We never met and acronym we didn’t like. Here are a few, gleaned from the “300 most popular  internet acronyms”. 

AFAICS- as far as I can see
ANFSCD – and now for something completely different
AWHFY- are we having fun yet?
AYPI- and your point is?
BAC- back at computer
BEG – big evil grin
BION- believe it or not
BTDT- been there done that
CDIWY- couldn’t do it without you
CTS- changing the subject
DITYID- did I tell you I’m distressed
DMMGH- don’t make me get hostile
FOCL- falling of chair laughing
HOAS- hold on a second
LIMH- laughing in my head
NOTTOMH- not of the top of my mind
TNSTAAFL- there’s no such thing as a free lunch
YMMV- your mileage may vary
     So, those are some of the most currently popular acronyms. You may use some of them, you may use NONE of them. But have you heard of SYATP? Let me give you an hint- you are NOT likely to see it in a text or chat room. It stands for See You At The Pole. And now you’re saying, “Great! See You At The Pole. Sounds awesome!…What IS it? Well, here you go!
     In early 1990, a small group of teenagers in Burleson, Texas, came together for a spiritual retreat. In the middle of it, they felt compelled to pray and they drove to three different schools that night. Not knowing what else to do, they gathered around the school flagpoles and prayed. From that, a vision grew across Texas that would come to be known as See You at the Pole. That vision was shared with 20,000 students in June 1990 at Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas. Then, at 7AM on Monday, September 12, 1990, more than 45,000 teenagers met at school flagpoles in four different states to pray before the start of school. The next year, on September 11, 1991, at 7AM, an estimated one million students gathered at school flagpoles all over the country. The movement has only grown since then. 
     SYATP was recently held- on Wednesday, September 28. In our community, students and leaders gathered around both the High School and Middle School flagpoles in prayers. It was a powerful image- teenagers and preteens, who could have stayed in bed a bit longer or simply gone into the school a bit earlier, instead chose to gather around a flagpole, in front of their peers and their teachers, and pray. Absolutely amazing! It gives me such hope for the future…and the present!
     Next time you feel inclined to rail against “these kids today”, picture the millions of kids around the country who gathered in prayer and know that the future is in good hands!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- A(nother) Life Lesson From Raccoons

Thursday, September 29- The Spiritual Gift of Reading Bad Handwriting!

     Everyone has spiritual gifts. Some people are good at music. Some have the ability to listen well to others. Some are really good with their hands. I…ready?…have the spiritual gift of reading bad handwriting! (I know, right? Pretty impressive!) 

     Now you may be chuckling and shaking your head at me right now, but it’s TRUE! In fact, it is SO true that it gets tested almost every week! At my church, we have attendance sheets that folks fill out every Sunday. Some people have marvelous handwriting and it is perfectly legible. Some have so-so handwriting and it is readable. And some have really bad handwriting and it looks like a foreign language! As my Office Administrator enters that information in the computer every week, she will often come to me and say, “What does this say? Does it say, ‘Grifnizt?'” I will look at it, slip into “bad handwriting mode” and divine that it does NOT say ‘Grifnitz” but in fact says “Wilson”! Tada! Another successful performance by the Reader of Bad Handwriting! Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Try the veal! Be sure and tip tour waitresses!
     So (all modesty aside), I am really good at reading bad handwriting. Why? Because I HAVE really bad handwriting! And I’ve had to try and read i8t all these years, so I have LOTS of practice! When I was earning my Master’s Degree, there were times when I literally couldn’t decipher what I had written in my notes. And let me assure you that it’s NOT easy to study for a test with notes that you can’t read! So…I developed the spiritual gift of reading bad handwriting! (I’m considering going on tour, having people bring their bad handwriting on stage for me to read. I think it will WOW the crowds! Or…maybe not!)
     So, with my rather dubious spiritual gift as a backdrop…what can YOU do? What gifts has  God given you to share with others? And before you say, “I can’t do anything!” I say, “Horse hockey!” You CAN do something- everyone can do something. I firmly believe that God has  uniquely gifted everyone. I believe that everyone has some gift that God has given them that most people don’t have. And I also believe that we were given those gifts and talents for the express purpose of sharing them with others. Therefore, if we are “keeping out light under a bushel” as it were, if we are not sharing our gifts with others but instead keeping them to ourselves, then we are not living or life the way God intended us to. 
     How can you use the gifts you have for the benefit of others? What can you do that not many others can that you might share with the world for God. You CAN, and SHOULD, make an impact. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and change the entire world in one afternoon, and if you don’t your a big stinking failure. Instead, it means go out and change ONE person at a time! Make a difference in one life today, and you will actually make a difference in TWO…them…and YOU!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- What is SYATP?

Wednesday, September 28- On the Road to Forgiveness: Roadblocks to Forgiveness

     (Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today we continue our current series- On the Road to Forgiveness.)  So far in this series, we’ve looked at what is at the heart of even needing forgiveness- sin. We’ve looked at the difference between forgiving and forgetting. We’ve looked at what else forgiveness is not. This week, we look more closely at what gets in the way of forgiveness- the roadblocks if you will.

     

     We all sometimes say- “I know I should forgive, but I just can’t find the strength to go through with it.” We all also sometimes say- “I know I should forgive; I just don’t WANT to!” Why IS that? What gets in the way of true forgiveness? Let’s look at 4 main roadblocks to forgiveness:
 
1. Lack of responsibility. We have a hard time owning up to our own failures and shortcomings.
And if we can’t see past our own faults and mistakes, how can we possibly move toward forgiveness of others? We 1st have to be able to admit that we’re not perfect, that we’re capable of hurting others.
Matthew 7:3-6- “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
      Why do YOU think it’s so easy to notice the problems in others but miss them in ourselves?
 
2. Unresolved emotions. Hurt, fear, bitterness, revenge, anger, and hatred are major hindrances to forgiveness. But the appeal that those emotions have is a perverted one at best. We tend to like the pure adrenaline rush that comes with our plans of retribution. We know it’s wrong…but it feels SO good!
     Have you ever been afraid of forgiveness? We often fear forgiveness because we think it will look like approval of someone else’s actions, that we are tacitly giving them permission to do it again. We fear that forgiving makes us vulnerable. Have you ever been so mad at someone that you “couldn’t see straight”? The Bible says- In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.(Ephesians 4:26-27, 31) An unforgiving heart is good soil for anger. Anger gives birth to resentment, bitterness and hostility.
     Have you ever plotted something bad against someone else? The Bible says,Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Proverbs 24:17) Revenge makes us want the offender to suffer the same discomfort we did. This does an end run around forgiveness. Don’t seek revenge- leave room for God.
     Have you ever thought: Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord…but only if He acts on my behalf? God has more power to pour out wrath than we ever could. So- let God do the heavy lifting. Let Him do all that marvelous smiting. The Bible says, “’It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. (Romans 12:19) Warning: this approach doesn’t always turn out the way we might like. God has this nasty habit of extending mercy and forgiving people!
     So what DO we do about those unresolved feelings? The Bible says, But what I tell you is this: love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so can you be like children of your heavenly Father, who makes his sun rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the honest and the dishonest. If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect? Surely the tax-gatherers do as much as that. And if you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that? Even the heathen do as much. There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.(Matthew 5:44-45) If we refuse to let go of these feelings, we’re hanging on to destructive forces that are in direct contrast to forgiveness. These emotions and forgiveness simply can’t co-exist.
3. Thinking we can do it on our own. That “pioneer spirit”, or as I call it “bootstrap  theology”, is a marvelously human quality. But the Bible says, Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.(Matthew 9:5-6)
It also says When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:20-21)
      Only God can truly forgive. That’s the secret to real forgiveness- it’s divine.
 
4. Misconceptions about forgiveness. As we talked about last week, we struggle with forgiveness because we misunderstand it. If we believe the lies about forgiveness, it’s natural we would avoid it at all costs. But the truth sets us free. Author William Meninger said: “Forgiveness…is not forgetting. It is not condoning or absolving. Neither is it pretending nor something done for the sake of the offender. It is not a thing we just do by a brutal act of the will. It does not entail a loss of identity, specialness, or face. It does not release the offenders from obligations they may or may not recognize. An understanding of these things will go a long way towards helping people enter into the forgiveness process.”
     Forgiveness requires courage and humility. Without those, we run away from the situation, hoping it will go away. Absence doesn’t heal; time doesn’t heal- God does the healing.
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- The Spiritual Gift of Reading Bad Ha
ndwriting!

Tuesday, September 27- Does It REALLY Take a Village?

     I recently got an email from a parishioner – we’ll call her Molly – about something that happened to her son. It seems he was at school (he’s in Middle School) on morning, waiting in the gym, with all the other fresh-faced young lads and lasses, when a new girl walked in. Her son said that not only did he know she was new based on the fact that he didn’t recognize her but also because she looked lost. She stood near the doorway of the gym, looking around, trying to figure out what to do and where to go, not knowing anyone. And everybody ignored her. Everybody, that is, but one.

     Molly’s son felt led to get up off the bleachers, walk over, introduce himself to this new girl and invite her to come and sit with him and his friends; she gladly accepted. Unbeknownst to Molly’s son, some of the faculty and administration were watching. later that day, Molly got an email from the principal telling her about the event and (rightfully so) praising her son. Molly forward me the email and added this personal message: “I know this is bragging, but I owe our wonderful church family some of the praise too . Thank you for all you do.” I would disagree that’s it’s bragging!
     As I thought about that whole event, I started to think about my own kids. All modesty aside, I have great kids! They are smart, funny, polite and respectful. I am very proud of them. And as I thought further through, I realized that, like Molly, my wife and I would be remiss to simply sit back and take all the credit. Sure, we have had the most influence on our kids- as it should be. But we haven’t had the ONLY influence on them.
     Although I didn’t go into the ministry until my oldest was in 3rd Grade, both of my kids have grown up in the church. And the truth is that there are a LOT of saints that have positively influenced them. I can name SEVERAL pastors, staff and church members who have helped them become who they are. On top of that, there are the MANY teachers and other school staff who have added to that. And I simply CAN’T leave out our extended family who have given of themselves toward this goal as well.
     So at the end of all things, my kids, your kids, everybody’s kids for that matter, are who they are because of a LARGE number of people who influenced them over the years. So although I don’t always see eye to eye with former First Lady Hillary Clinton, I MUST agree that it takes a village to raise a child. And I would like to put forth that, no matter who you are and no matter what kind of school district you are in or what kind of extended family you have, your kids would absolutely benefit from adding a church family to that list! There is something about a church family that cannot be replicated by any other group. No connected by blood or marriage, their only bond is the strongest bond they could have- love. (I KNOW that sounds hokey…but it’s TRUE!) They love each other, they love their church and they love God. And because of that, they often have a marvelously positive influence on the children of the church. Kids see them being generous and gracious and, over time, it becomes a way of life! 
     So, Molly, I agree wholeheartedly- I am thankful for church family who have helped my kids become who they are! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a great day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
   Tomorrow- On the Road to Gorgiveness: Roadblocks to Forgiveness

Monday, September 26- What to Wear, What to Wear!

     I was driving through town the other day and I spotted a guy walking down the sidewalk. He was wearing jeans, a HEAVY winter coat that was zipped up tight, a HEAVY orange stocking cap AND ear muffs over the stocking cap! Now you might say, “Well, depending on where you live, that’s not bad!” But let me answer that with three statements: 1. it’s September, 2. I live in Central Illinois and 3. at the time, I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts!

     I can remember going to college in central Illinois and seeing an even more  extreme version of this phenomena. I would see a girl walking across the quad, in the snow, bundled up and wearing snow boots…walking alongside a guy with cut-offs, a tank top and flip-flops! (I must confess, even tough I LOVE shorts this time of year, I will NEVER understand flip-flops in the snow! That’s just…wrong!)

     I am always amused by the clothing phenomena that happens this time of year. The weather starts to turn cooler, and you see some people who are clearly anxious to get out the fall clothes while others are in NO hurry to pack away the summer clothes. I fall into the latter category. Although I actually like fall/winter clothes, I am never in any big hurry to say goodbye to the shorts and t-shirts. What about you? Where do YOU fall in the clothing spectrum? Which is your favorite season, apparel-wise?
     It truly takes all types, doesn’t it? Just when you think you’ve see it all, someone wanders along that blows that theory right out of the water! And we tend to think that “those” people are just…plain…nuts. At least they aren’t anywhere close to “normal”…like we are! But you know what the Bible says? It says that we were ALL fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of God. And clearly, if we are ALL made in the image of God, then it must point to something more than physical appearance, because you and I (no matter WHO you are) were NOT made to LOOK the same! No, we are made in the image of God internally…in our hearts. It’s the soul that presently  inhabits this rather flawed and imperfect body that is made in the image of God.
     So, regardless of who we are, where we are from or what we look like, we are ALL made like God AND we are all His children…even if we choose not to recognize that paternal link. And because of that, the guy who wears the heavy coat while I’m in my shorts or the dude who wears flip-flops in the snow while I trudging around in my boots are just as important to God as I am. And when you really give that a hard think…how cool is that? Although the world tries SO hard to pull us apart and segregate us, God is constantly about the business of bringing us together- pointing out that our similarities far outweigh our differences. And, for my money, it just doesn’t get any better than that!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Does it REALLY take a village?

Sunday, September 25- Fitting in and Being Fit: Self-Acceptance and Self-Worth

          A man took great pride in being a former Navy Seal. And why not? It’s an elite group-  It takes a special sailor to become a Navy Seal. He went to his grandson’s kindergarten class to share his Navy Seal exploits with them. After he finished, a hand shot up into the air “So, can you balance a ball on the end of your nose?” She thought a Navy Seal should be able to balance a ball on the end of his nose!

     Today we continue our current series- A Fresh Start. Last week we walked through an overview of what it means to have a fresh start. Today, we will focus on self-worth, and how that impacts our ability to actually have a fresh start. In the past 30 years or so, psychologists have discovered what they believe to be the one essential element within all of us- that single element that determines the entirety of human behavior. Self-esteem, or more specifically the lack of self-esteem, has been identified as the root source of virtually every human failure and frailty. Psychologist Nathaniel Branden said, “I can’t think of a single psychological problem- anxiety, depression, fear of intimacy- that’s not traceable to poor self-esteem.” And if you still have any doubt, no less that the Supreme Queen of Daytime Talk, Oprah Winfrey, once said that her mission statement was, “What we’re trying to change in this one hour is the root of all the problems in the world- lack of self-esteem”. 
     In 1987, baseball pitcher Dickie Noles earned the dubious distinction of being traded for himself. The Chicago Cubs traded him to the Detroit Tigers for the ubiquitous “player to be named later”. Several months later, the Tigers shipped Noles back to the Cubs, completing a deal in which he was traded for himself. That would do something for your self-esteem wouldn’t it? But that’s not the worst one. A few years ago, a minor league baseball team traded one of their pitchers for 10 maple baseball bats valued at $665. That’ll have an impact on your self-worth!
     Psalm 139:1-6- “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”
     Charles Cooley is considered the dean of American Sociology. He developed a theory called “the looking glass self.” The idea is that a person’s self-worth is established by what they think the most important people in their life think of them. Think that through- our self image is shaped by what we think the most important person in our life thinks of us. And while that may be painting with a bit of a broad, simplistic brush, I think it makes some sense. Which means that the people who were most instrumental in helping form our self image would be our family and closest friends. Why? Because the perceived “you are’s” of parents, close relatives and friends become the inner “I am’s ” of children. Were you ever called “stupid” as a child? Have you ever told YOUR child they’re stupid? Remember- you’re shaping their self-worth, whether you realize it or not.
     Building self-esteem is an inside job. If we depend on others, or on circumstances, or on performance, we will never get a grasp on self-esteem. The reality is that we can be all sorts of things, but we will never be ALL we can be apart from Jesus Christ. The Bible says as we think in our hearts…so we are. Paul calls it “the eyes of your heart.” As Christians, the most important person in our lives is…Jesus. Therefore, our self-worth can be established by what He thinks of us- not what OTHERS think of us. God loves you and doesn’t want you to live a mediocre life.  
     One day a woman ran out of the house with the trash when she heard the garbage truck. She wore a ragged bathrobe, worn-out slippers, her hair in curlers, and her face was coated with greasy cream. “Am I too late for the garbage?” she asked. “No, hop right in.” For many, our self-worth is shaped by forces we have little to do with, by things we don’t control. But one of the greatest tragedies is to live denying who you are. If we think we’re nothing, then we’ll live and act like we’re nothing. We are more than we think we are. We weren’t born to fit in. We were created to make a difference. Your gifts are unique. You should want to share them, not simply keep them to yourself. There’s no need to slouch, to hide in the back row, to try and slip away unnoticed. You are the crown jewel of God’s creation. You are his beloved child. God doesn’t settle for us being less than He intended. 
     1 Corinthians 12:12-20- “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. or we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
     Christianity isn’t simply about adhering to a specific set of rules or beliefs. At its best, it demonstrates God’s transformative grace that empowers us to follow Him. The Church should be populated by radicals- those counter-cultural folks who believe that the least can serve and be elevated to places of prominence. The Church should never be seen as a place where people farther up the “social food chain” are held in higher esteem than others. Unlike the world, the Church should see through spiritual eyes- helping develop the gifts of those present. We should WANT to see every last ounce of the goodness that is the gift of Jesus Christ being used. Why? Because those gifts, when used fully, can make disciples for Jesus Christ, can change the world.
     What do you think you’re worth? It’s not likely you’re worth the billions of a Bill Gates or Sam Walton. Years ago someone calculated what the average person weighing 150 pounds was worth. (First of all I’m more than a little troubled that the AVERAGE person weighs 150 pounds!) Th
e average person is made up of 3,500 feet of oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen; enough fats to make a candle weighing 15 pounds; enough carbon to make 9,360 lead pencils; 54 ounces of phosphorus- enough to make 800,000 matches; enough sugar to make 6 sugar cubes; enough iron to make a 10-penny nail; enough lime to mark off the batter’s box on a baseball diamond; 20 teaspoons of salt; and various other chemicals and water. When you add it all up, we were worth, at the time, $8.50. When you take into account inflation, the average person is presently worth around $15. What do you think you’re worth to God? GOD not only created people- He created people of worth. God thinks you’re something, you’re valuable, you’re important. This is based on the fact that God knows you…personally and individually. God knows us so intimately that He knows the number of hairs on our heads. On average, a blonde has 145,000 hairs, a brunette 120,000, and a red-head 90,000. (And then there’s me!) But regardless of your hair color…or quantity…God knows how many are on your head! You’re His creation…and He knows what He made. And according to the Book of Genesis, what He made is good. 
     In the Gospel of Matthew (6:26) Jesus says, “Look at the birds in the sky: they don’t sow or reap or gather in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are?” The affirmation of worth here can’t be ignored. The question is, “Aren’t we more valuable than they are?” And the inferred answer is, “Yes”! The Bible tells us that each of us is of incalculable worth. In fact, it says that we were created just a little less than…God. Such a birthright should overwhelm us with a great sense of humbleness. The Bible even says that we are worthy of God’s Son dying for us! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …” What higher value can be placed on anything than that God’s only Son would lay down His life for us? God has NO unwanted children. He makes NO mistakes.
     John 5:16- You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last.
     If your life’s not centered on Jesus Christ, it’s centered on…YOU- your passions, your wants, your goals, your desires. And if that’s the case, you’re not where, and who, God intended you to be. And when that happens, it creates a God-shaped hole in your heart that leaves you with a great longing. You need the assurance forgiveness offers. You need a radical fresh start, and it is God Who makes that possible. When our self-esteem is diminished, we deny both the world’s needs and God’s gifts. God didn’t make us to simply fit in. Instead, He created us distinctly and creatively to make a difference.
     Maybe you’re here today looking for a new beginning, a fresh start in life. Perhaps there’s dissatisfaction in your soul that you’ve not been able to fill. Maybe there’s a thirst for joy that eludes you. Maybe something’s just…missing in your life. If you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you WILL find a new beginning- a new direction in life that’ll satisfy the thirst in your soul, that’ll give you a joy, peace and purpose you’ve never known. Jesus loves you as though you were the only person in the world to love. He loves you so much that He died for you. The cross would have happened even if you were the only one who would receive that grace. That’s what Jesus thinks of you. It takes courage and hope to see the potential God has placed in us. But with Jesus’ eyes, we can see the fullness of who we are called to be. Will you let His love shape your life?
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- what are YOU wearing today?

Saturday, September 24- What Exactly ARE “Homestyle” Mashed Potatoes?

     My church does a program every week called Wednesday Night Live. About 70 of us gather for dinner at 6PM. Then, at 6:30PM, we head to a variety of classes for both adults and youth. Everybody is done at 8PM and we all head home, having shared a great evening together!

     Recently, I cooked the meal. (I love to cook!) I made baked chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad and a variety of desserts. Everybody seemed to enjoy the dinner and the evening went off without a hitch. Well…almost!
     Caterers will tell you that it take roughly one pound of raw potatoes to make three servings of mashed potatoes. So a 10-pound bag of potatoes should feed about 30 people. Therefore, I bought 30 pounds of potatoes- enough for 90 servings. (Again, we normally feed about 70 people and we ALL know that people like home made mashed potatoes!) So…I peeled 30 pounds of potatoes- and let me assure you, that’s no easy feat! I tossed them into a HUGE pot we have in the church kitchen and began the cooking process. They took a while but cooked just fine. When they were done, I decided that I shouldn’t try to mash them (not whip them) all at once- too many potatoes. So I put about half of them in a big container, threw some butter and cream cheese on top of them, and began mashing. (Note to self: the church doesn’t own a masher- get on that!) I mashed and I mashed and I mashed and I mashed…and there was still more mashing to be done. So I mashed some more. Then I poured some whole milk in and mashed yet some more. It finally became apparent to me that I had 2 choices: pull out smaller portions of the potatoes and mash them some more or serve them with chunks in them. I weighed the options and decided that…chunky it was!
     I am a firm believe of trying to be proactive, so I made up a “menu” for the night- I printed out what I was serving on an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet and posted it at each door and in the room where we were eating. And that menu said- “Baked Chicken, Homestyle Mashed potatoes, Green…” wait a minute! “Homestyle Mashed Potatoes”? What are “Homestyle Mashed Potatoes”? Well…mashed potatoes with chunks in them! I decided that, if I was going to serve chunky mashed potatoes, I would put a proactive, positive spin on them! And…everybody loved them! To quote that great “A-Team” theologian Col. Hannibal Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together!” 
     The bottom line is that things are GOING to not go as planned sometimes. Often, things will go exactly as you thought they would. But other times, no matter what you do, things simply will refuse to turn out like you planned. What do you do? Do you go ballistic- yelling, slamming things around, looking for anybody or anything to blame? Do you go into total embarrassed “shut down” mode- trying to crawl under the nearest rock before anybody sees you? Or do you accept the fact that life is simply not perfect and move on, making the best of what you have to work with? Life is SO much better when you see the positive side of things. If your glass is always half empty, then much of the joy of life gets lost in the shuffle. But if you are instead a “half full” kind of person, then joy is a regular part of what you do, of who you are. And I don’t know about you, but I want AS MUCH joy in my life as possible!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Fitting In Or Being Fit: Self-Acceptance and Self-Worth

Friday, September 23- It’s Open House Day!

     Remember school Open House? You had to get your “school clothes” back on and go BACK to school? You had to trundle along, showing mom and/or dad the construction paper monstrosity that you created and i\was taped to the wall next to all the other monstrosities. You had to show them your desk, and Mom was always quick to open it and lecture you on why you needed to keep you desk clean. “How can you stay organized when your desk is such a mess?” Yada, yada, yada, Mom! And you had to stand still AND behave while your parents exchanged pleasantries with your teacher- Mrs. Althea Facialhair. 

     Well, that was then and this is now! We recently went to our son’s Open House, and I actually enjoyed it (although if it could have been schedule at a more inopportune time…I can’t imagine when that would be! BUT…they surprisingly didn’t contact me before they set the school calendar! Can you imagine such a thing?!)! We got to meet his new teachers. We got to see his work that was hung on the wall…as was NOT a construction paper monstrosity but a really cool “door” that opened up to show what he is like! We got to see lots of people we know and enjoy talking to. AND…we got to go to the Book Fair- always a fun time! All in all- a perfectly enjoyable evening!
      But the whole thing DID make me stop and think (OH…THAT explains the burning smell!)- what would it be like if our lives had an Open House? Think about it- what would happen if we had a person Open House, giving people a greater, deepen glimpse into who we really are? Sobering, isn’t it? I mean, it’s one thing to “meet and greet out on the street”- offer superficial “how are you”‘s and non-committal “have a nice day”‘s. But what if we actually opened up not our homes…but our LIVES for others to walk around in? What if we actually let people get beneath the pristine veneer and see us for who…and what…we really are? Would we be willing to do that? Would we be SCARED to do that?
     Now, lest you think I’m casting stones at YOU from my ivory tower, I am the self-professed  KING of playing my cards close to my vest. It is stamped in my very DNA to be an extremely  private person. And yet, the older I get, the more I see that God calls us to so much more than that. God calls us to true…ready?…relationship. (I know, right?!) He calls us to not simply offer up the freshly-scrubbed, polished version of ourselves that we try to show everyone. Instead, we are encouraged to be…here’s the tough word…vulnerable. Why? because when we are vulnerable – perhaps ONLY when we are vulnerable – we can truly build relationships with other people. And THAT’S why we were created- to be in relationship! 
     How are YOU at the whole “vulnerable” thing? If you’re like me, it’s tough. BUT…it can be SO rewarding when you tear down that wall, or at least knock a hole in it, and let others peak inside. You’d be surprised- they might not only still like you when they see what’s hidden behind the curtain, but they might actually like that version of you…the REAL version of you…better!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- What exactly ARE “homestyle” mashed potatoes?

Thursday, September 22- It’s a Hard-Knock Life!

     Let me say, right off the bat, that I am NOT a farmer. For most (if not all) of you, that comes as no big surprise, but I wanted to establish that as the base line. So…NOT a farmer. BUT…I grew up in the middle of “farm territory” (literally…I had corn field on either side and in front of my house and a pasture behind my house!) and I spent my “formative years” working for farmers. (I have picked up more hay that I would even want to calculate! AND I know how to milk a cow and once helped deliver a calf!) So will I have never been immediately dependent upon farming for my livelihood, I have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to BE a farmer…and I have a healthy respect for them as well! 

     I remember as a kid, Daylight Savings Time would roll around and the older farmers I worked for would just laugh. I’d say, “You HAVE to set your clocks forward an hour!” They would say, “Son, I don’t HAVE to do anything. Besides, I don’t care what the clock says- I go out when the sun comes up and come in when the sun set…regardless of what the clock says!” (It IS funny when people say, “We get and extra hour of daylight!” “No, the hours of available daylight don’t change…they just get redistributed!) 
     I also remember watching these “old school” farmers be oblivious to the weather- cold, hot, wet dry…it didn’t matter. They went outside and did what needed to be done. Period. And they were quintessential “jacks of all trades”- they knew how to predict the weather better than any weatherman I’ve seen, they could repair just about anything, they always seemed to know exactly what an ailing animal needed, and they had a really good grasp of the art of agriculture! 
     The other thing I remember is they knew how to eat! We would work all morning and then go in for “dinner” (which has always been “lunch” to me!), where the woman of the house (don’t mean to sound sexist, that’s just always who did the cooking in my experience) would serve fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh biscuits and some awesome fruit concoction for dessert. If I had been at home that day I would have had a PBJ and some chips!
     I’ve been thinking a lot about farmers lately. We had basically NO rain all summer, which has a potentially devastating impact on crops. Then, right about the time that corn is supposed to come out (and be nice and dry when it does)…it starts to rain! I look at that, and so many other things that farmers have to deal with, and think that they REALLY do have a hard-knock life!

     Some days, us Christians do, too. Some days it feels like everything is falling down around. And we pick up the paper or turn on the TV and read or hear somebody slamming Christians as being deluded or misguided or judgmental or whatever the “topic du jour” is. And sometimes, on those days, it feels like it would just be easier to quit and join forces with the non-believers out there. But I would like to encourage you, when those days come up, to think of the farmers. They do what they do despite the circumstances and they don’t quit. And because they don’t quit, we have food on our tables. So, the next time you’re feeling down…look to the farmers!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- It’s Open House Night!

Wednesday, September 21- On the Road to Forgiveness: What ELSE Forgiveness Is Not

     (Wednesdays are Bible Study Day here at Stick With Jesus. Today is Week 3 of our current series- On the Road to Forgiveness.) Last week, we talked about the
fact that forgiving is not the same as forgetting. This week, we will look at
what ELSE forgiveness is not.

1. Forgiveness is not play-acting
for the sake of appearance. 
Remember when you were a kid and you were forced to “forgive” someone who had been forced to “be sorry” to you?. (I ALWAYS thought that stunk!) Is that really repentance? Is it really forgiveness? I would answer with a wholehearted and sincere, “NO!” At BEST it’s nothing more than a temporary ceasefire with the full intent of starting back up at the first possible opportunity. In the end, what does that sort of “play-acting” actually lead to? It leads to unhealthy relationships and a skewed understanding of true forgiveness. Play-acting only offers a temporary reprieve, and that “pantomime” of forgiveness often carries over into adulthood. But it is nothing more than a  superficial substitute for the real thing. And when we do it enough, we begin to convince ourselves that simply saying it makes it’s true!

2. Forgiveness is not smothering conflict. When you have a fire in a pan on the stove, you put the lid on the pan and the fire goes out- smothered. And that’s what we often do to conflict- we simply try and smother it rather than address it. But what does smothering conflict instead of offering true forgiveness actually create? It creates an environment in which forgiveness is no longer even possible. To throw a blanket over the conflict is to disavow its existence. And that puts both parties in an awkward position. If you
smother conflict, you remove the possibility to forgive

3. Forgiveness is not condoning, excusing or
absolving the behavior. 
Even if you were willing, you can’t clear someone’s
conscience for them. Forgiveness doesn’t let the other person “off the hook”- it lets’s YOU off the hook. Why? because refusing to forgive is like
trying to drive with your brakes on- it doesn’t get you very far. So b
y forgiving, you are NOT saying that what they did was OK, just that you have let go of its hold over you. C. S. Lewis said: If one is really not to blame, then there is nothing to
forgive. In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposite.
But does forgiveness REALLY happen…in the REAL world? Pope John Paul II openly and publicly forgave his intended
assassin. 
Forgiveness is not accepting or tolerating
the behavior. Y
ou can
forgive people for what their behavior and actions and still not accept or tolerate what they have done. 

4. Forgiveness is not glossing over the behavior. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “Forgiveness
is taking seriously the awfulness of what has happened when you are treated
unfairly. Forgiveness is not pretending that things are other than the way they
are
.” Author Dwight Small said, “Forgiveness is not merely a soft attitude
toward a harsh fact; forgiveness is the vital action of love, seeking to
restore the harmony that has been shattered
.”

5. Forgiveness is not the same
as reconciliation or trust. The injured party can forgive the offender even though the offender may
never (or for safety sake, must never) be a part of his or her life in the
future. The 2 can be, and often are, mutually exclusive.

6.
Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. By forgiving someone, you are NOT saying that the harm they caused
you was of no consequence. Indeed, you may still be dealing with the negative
results of their actions. But by being willing to forgive them, you are allowing
yourself the opportunity to quit wasting precious energy on anger and put it to good use
building yourself up instead. You survived the transgression. Now it’s time for
you to thrive.

7. Forgiveness is not a self-righteous act of virtue. It is not cause for arrogance or
fanfare or a holier-than-thou attitude. The decision to forgive is
supremely practical and self-affirming. Self-affirmation is what people need
most. And only we can do this for ourselves.

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

  Tomorrow- It’s a Hard Knock Life!