Thursday, April 1, 2010

What do certain cookies, dessert snack foods, steaks, chickens, turkeys, pork chops, dates, pigs, people, etc. have in common?
When stuffed, the middle makes it really good!
The middle is good. Yes, the new TV comedy is also good, but I’m really talking about middle, small “m” with a big impact.
Everything has a beginning and an end, but the middle may be the most important part.
If I had paid better attention to my middle, I would be healthier than I am.
If some businesses paid better attention to the middle, their bottom line would be better.
If everyone paid better attention to what happens in the middle of every minute, in every bigger segment of time, life would be better for everyone.
Most businesses, of any kind, are more concerned about the quality of bottom line numbers than they are about the quality of the middle. Ask the employees and you'll find out. is a great example of a company that pays attention to the middle.
Since I’m in the church business, most churches are also more concerned about the quality of the bottom line “numbers” than the quality of the middle. Yes, I know the tired statement: “Numbers are people.” People live in the middle not in the numbers or the bottom line.
The middle is always our behavior as individuals and organizations. The middle usually impacts people much more than either end.
Both the beginning and the end are exciting moments, but the middle is the truly impactful experience.
“The Dash” asks us how we’ve lived our lives. My whole life is a big thing to think about, probably too big.
How are we living the middle of every minute and every other segment of time that makes up the moments of our lives?
The attention we pay to these mini-lives paints the picture of our life.
I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying. Join me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Real Mystery of Jesus, perhaps?

Christians understand why Jesus had to die, it was God’s plan. The human reasons were all about how He didn’t satisfy human perceptions of/on Him. He wasn’t the conquering hero. He didn’t go along with the religious leaders of the day. He challenged religious, political, and social status quo. In the perceived social hierarchy, He was trying to create a level playing field for all. And, unfortunately, the list can go on for a while. Even more unfortunately, He died for those reasons!
The real mystery, as to be discussed here, has little to do with understanding God’s reasons, but trying to understand how it all happened 2000 years ago and, today, the same human reasons are attempting to kill, and are killing, human spirit every day, everywhere.
On a very small scale, relatively speaking, I’ve experienced this personally. Every time I challenge the status quo, try to create a level playing field, challenge someone else’s notion of how things should be, I experience the side-affects/effects of “put down heaven.” “Put down heaven” is that place in which people, mysteriously, find great enjoyment in trying to kill someone’s human spirit by putting them down. There is obvious glee in playing this game. Many people consider themselves heroic if they can feel like they’ve killed someone else’s spirit.
As I said, my experience is on a very small scale. Sure, some think they’re dropping atom bombs of disrespect on me, but it’s really not anything to worry about. Then, why am I talking about it, let alone wasting a blog on it? Because I spend a lot of time with people whose lives are deeply affected, and effected, by this insane activity. I am tired of seeing people unnecessarily attacked for no other reason than, “They don’t agree with us, so, we must destroy.”
Suppose, ala HG Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” that Martians planted pearls of happiness, instead of Martians to conquer the world, within reach of every human being, and those pearls became evident to us at 12 noon tomorrow. As soon as everyone realized that everyone had happiness, no one would turn it down and life as we know it would change for everyone.
Well, that is essentially what Jesus did 2000 years ago. He died to conquer the worst in us, to give us a second chance, and to plant hope in every person so that it would grow and change “life as we know it.”
But here were in the year 2010 and it hasn’t taken hold. People want to damage, discount, hurt, and destroy other people’s happiness. Many would like to think they’ve created endless ways to do this, but have really only found a million or more variations of the same basic ways to smash happiness that have been around forever.
I know, I’m guilty, just like the rest of you. I’m exceedingly tired of it, and I’m ready to do whatever it takes to pursue, share, and empower happiness as much as possible. Why is this so hard to do? If it’s important enough to do countless things to one another in order to steal, damage, and destroy happiness, why can’t we grasp the simple notion that if we worked as hard to make people happy our lives would be happier than we could ever imagine?
Jesus didn’t die so He could be a “get out of jail free” type of Messiah. He died because humanity could not grasp the simply concept of shared happiness. He rose from the dead to show that God’s love is more powerful than the worst we have to offer. It’s within reach for each and every one of us. It’s not just an altar call, or prayer of salvation, or any other thing like those. It’s deciding to live beyond our human nature and follow Jesus by living lives that recognize the human connection, the human desire for happiness, and the human ability to achieve happiness that can be shared with, and by, all. That’s why early followers were simply known as “followers of The Way.” The Way was a way of life that was full of joy and nearly impossible to resist.
Whatever reason you need to find to strive for happiness, take hold of it and run with it. You’ll never be alone, and you will find happiness, even in the midst of its opposite! May God bless you and may God’s love shine on, in, and through you! I mean it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Downside of Toilet-flushers

(Okay, this is a weird blog post. There is a reason for it, of which some will know. It’s allegorical, or perhaps simply metaphorical, pertaining to my perception of what people I love could possibly feel like because of the close proximity of the allegorical emotions. My apologies for the “outthereness” of it. Yes, I just made up a word because I can! Or, maybe I didn't make up a word and I'm just showing off my vocabulariousness!)

When you flush the toilet and find out there were people in there when you sat down, even if you did hurt your finger, you have to take responsibility for your actions.
First of all, you should have looked before you sat down. Yeah, we all have stuff and we often need to get it out, but it should never be on somebody else. Every action we take will probably affect somebody else. It’s very rare, if ever, that we do something that only affects me. It doesn’t take long, and it’s not that hard of work, to think about what we do and the possible affects and effects our actions just might have on somebody else. Personal responsibility is a good thing.
Secondly, flushing doesn’t erase that you’ve put your stuff in somebody else’s life. Flushing usually just gets it out of your sight and you pretend you don’t know where it went and that it might mess up somebody else’s life. Looking at it isn’t necessarily the worst thing that can happen. When you’re enjoying the pool and then have to swim with somebody’s stuff, it’s not cool anytime, anywhere, anyhow!
Oh, you were in a hurry to flush and you hurt your finger on the handle! I’m sorry, but it doesn’t erase that somebody may have gotten flushed and others have been forced to swim in what seems like an endless swirl of your stuff. Oh, you lost part of your finger and you’ll never be able to flush the same again?! I’m sorry, but maybe you should jump in the pool and see if that isn’t much worse than the loss of part of your finger and not being able to flush properly! You will heal in many ways, but those people are still swirling round and round with your s……..tuff, and it doesn’t easily come off, if it ever will!
Oh, you’ve walked away from the toilet and “out of sight, out of mind” is working for you? Well, what you didn’t see, can’t see, but hopefully will see is the beauty of those who are being forced to swim in a swirl. Not only are they beautiful and loving people, but they are loved by many. The love they have, and the love directed toward them, will bring them healing and wholeness, eventually. What, probably, hurts the most is that, ordinarily, they would do anything they could to help you before, during, and after you flushed.
If you’re in the toilet, we love you, pray for you, and hope for hope for you. We’re sorry for the days we don’t jump in and swim with you, for the days we walk around the rim and can’t seem to find a ladder or rope that will rescue you, etc. We know that just because there are flushers, God didn’t flush and loves you every minute of every day. Those who get taken by the swirl are experiencing God’s love in a way we don’t know how to describe. Every day we pray that flushers stay where flushing is approved, and only do it the approve ways, in the bathroom, until their business is done and they can help make the outside world better than it was when they went into the bathroom.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wanna go sailing?

Life without prayer is like sailing without a sail. Prayer allows us to catch the wind of God’s Spirit. Once we catch the wind God places our hand on the rudder and, with God, we navigate through life. In a pond or small lake it doesn’t seem to matter as much, but the larger the body of water the more it does matter that we have good sails. Does a body of water get any larger than life? When we’re stuck in the middle of water without any means of moving, except for the current, we are exposed and helpless in the midst of any “weather” that comes our way.
So, why does any of this matter? If I don’t sail and don’t care about prayer, why should it matter?
Well, first of all, we’ve got nothing to lose. Prayer is expressed in either thoughts or words. How many times a day do we think or say things to ourselves that are far more meaningless than the words of even the simplest prayer? So, if I happen to spend time praying, in whatever form I want to pray, if it’s nothing more than a vent or rant, it’s okay and can be helpful. But, if I believe that prayer is opening myself to catch the wind of God’s Spirit, something incredible just might, and probably will, happen.
So, if I take a chance, pray, and “accidentally” discover that God is real, then, I have truly found a buried treasure, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, etc., etc. Is there anybody who doesn’t benefit from having a positive work relationship with our boss? Probably not. When the boss appreciates our work, good things generally happen. How much better is it if we have a good working relationship, based on trust, with the One who has made and sustains the life in everything?
When we have wind, sails, and a rudder we can reach the destinations we desire. That works very well in a real sailboat, and when using it as a metaphor for life. Yes, I know that sometimes there just isn’t any wind out on the water, the wind will change direction, and sometimes other conditions set us on a different course. When we’re talking about life there are more serious similarities and differences. The unexpected things of life always have a greater impact than those on the water. (Yes, if your sailboat gets caught in a very bad storm it can be as serious as it gets. That’s exactly what I mean.) On the water, we have no control over the conditions, only over what we do under those conditions. Life is pretty much the same, other than, when we open ourselves to The Wind/God of life, God always wants the best outcome for us. The conditions of life never stop and ask us what we want, nor do they try to make the best happen for us.
I have been sailing several times in my life. Once on a friend’s boat that was around a 30 footer and it was on Lake Erie. The other times were on much smaller boats, and bodies of water, and were with my wife. So, every time I’ve been sailing has been a great experience no matter what the conditions might have been. I can say the same, even more so, about my sailing experiences with God in life. All the water experiences were with God too! It really is a win-win. Like everything else, you really do get out of something what you put into it. Have a great life!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Blessing from a Scam

You may know that about a month ago I did something I knew I shouldn’t – I tried to get a “free iPad.” Nice FREE gifts are enticing and most of us will think, “What if it’s true?”
Yesterday, March 23, the best thing from this “momentary lapse of reason” came in the mail. No, it wasn’t an “iPad.” It was the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. “Wow.” You may be saying. “That’s a real treasure, Greg. You know you’ll have to pay something if want a real subscription to Rolling Stone, don’t you?” Yes, but this issue was heaven-sent. Some of you probably know or have figured it out, because you know me very well. Yes, it contains the first ever interview of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck together! Wow!
I love listening to great passionate guitar music. Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, in my opinion, are two, on a fairly short list, guitar players who have a genuine gift from God to create passionate musical art on the guitar. After reading the Rolling Stone interview I can say my reasons for feeling this way are communicated in the interview.
First of all, they are extremely gifted/talented/skilled at playing the guitar. The kinds of skills they possess come only from: God, recognizing the gift, practicing that gift as often as humanly possible, learning every day, and never feeling they’re the best ever at what they do.
We all have skills. Do we recognize them as a gift from God? Do we practice them every day, as often as humanly possible? Do we feel as though there’s something new to learn in our skills every day? Do we know that we are the best me, and someone else is the best them, and so on?
This leads to number two on my list about Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck: They are both pretty humble. In the interview, neither wanted to say they were better than the other, or others. Maybe it wasn’t always that way, but life has taught both of them the great lesson known as humility. It makes them better people and better guitar players. They both willingly admit they owe who they are and what they do to others and what they’ve learned from the others.
A friend of ours, Robin W., used to say, “He/she thinks they’re all that and bag of potato chips.” Robin was only 13-14 the first time we heard her say that. She knew, then, that some people were like every bag of potato chips: mostly air with a few chips. It’s important to be confident in our “skills.” It’s equally as important to be humble learners. We know that there is always somebody better, but I’m the best me, and I can learn every day and become a better me every day.
Which, of course, leads to number three on my list about Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck: They were genuinely excited to be together talking about a big passion in their lives. They are going to do some concerts together in the coming year. These concerts will be, in many ways, legendary. It will not be two egos colliding, though the result of that big bang would be amazing. It will be two artists working together to create beautiful music for themselves, but, most of all, for the world to enjoy!
Who’s on your “team?” Who do you work together with for the sake of the enjoyment of others? Of course, we all need and want affirmation, but can we let go of 99% of that to do what we do for somebody else? Beautiful music is many notes. The night sky is many stars. A beautiful painting is many colors. We are our best when we work together!
Skills + Humility + Sharing = WOW! This formula works for EVERYBODY!
Well, I’ve got to go, I think I heard the doorbell, it might be my “iPad” being delivered!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Beauty of a Mess

A friend once told me that when he sees a lawn with tall grass, weeds in the garden, and even litter in the yard he also sees the probable evidence of someone with a busy life. Wherever work is being done, there is usually an accompanying mess. It’s inevitable. The key questions are: Why was the mess made? And, what are we going to do with it?
Politics in the United States appears to quite messy right now. Why? The mess is here partly because great issues are being wrangled and worked out by many. The mess is here partly because those who aren’t sure how to work it out plow ahead anyway, unfortunately, often like a bull in a china shop.
I have just begun to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s great book “A Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” I wanted to read it because it’s about how rivals came together to accomplish something that changed the world. While Lincoln was President, he and others pursued the end of slavery, and quite a mess was created. A civil war through which many Americans divorced themselves from others, hurt one another, and killed one another all because they stood on opposing sides of the issue. In the end, Abraham Lincoln lost his own life over it. All of this was the “bull in the china shop” part of the mess. In the end, a new door had been opened, and is still being opened, to help us live up to a foundational belief of our nation: all people are created equal.
On page 60 of the book, Goodwin quotes Alexis de Tocqueville from his book, “Democracy in America.” He basically says that you can barely arrive in the United States before you find yourself immersed in the energy and furor of political discourse at many different levels and locations. That we have a vision, disagree about how to achieve that vision, and have millions of heated discussions about such things is part of the basic fabric of democracy and of our nation.
The “Why?” isn’t hard to figure, but the “What?” seems to be a bit more complicated. What do we do with ignorant name calling, from any side? What do with do with senseless acts of violence over issues? What do we do with widespread disagreement and disapproval of the way things are?
When a bull gets into a china shop and starts destroying everything, we don’t let it go and accept it as part of life. We do whatever it takes to corral the bull so that people, property, and the bull don’t get injured, damaged, and/or destroyed. We, then, take measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again. In other words, we believe in the possibility of a creative and effective solution. That the United States of America exists and has over 200 years of history is strong physical evidence that we have tremendous creativity and we can find effective solutions to disagreements. We can quote all the great ones, but can we put our feet to the street and live the way they did, beyond words?
When we see someone with a messy yard, house, life, etc. we can either believe there’s a good reason why and wait for the chance to help (if needed), or, we can live contrary to faith and country and treat them as less than human and unequal to us.
When we have disagreements in the arenas of politics, religion, life, etc., we can either listen to the other to find out why they feel that way, try to find common ground, agree to disagree, or even work out a positive solution. Or, we can live contrary to faith and country and treat them as less than human and unequal to us.
The beauty of a mess is always the creative ways we can make an effective solution happen. We can do it because life is a dream we live to make come true!