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Sunday, December 18, 2016

"May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is best forgotten."

Last weekend, we took a trip to Florida with our very dear friends.  Much to Christie's chagrin, I don't much care for vacations.  The transitions between leaving children and work behind to going someplace to have the time of your life is always stressful for me.  I always wonder what burden I am creating in my absence.  Also, I like to know what environment I'm going to be spending my time in.  The vacation was a fine time, though, we saw some sights, and also did some relaxing.  Everyone on the vacation liked to take naps.  Naps stress me out too, so while they were doing that I did the thing that relaxes me, I walked as far as I could go, on the beach with my headphones on.  I tried to walk the entire beach that was within walking distance of our condo over the course of two days, but I think I missed out on a mile or two.  These walks weren't all that memorable in that not much really happened, I enjoyed the music I listened to (Chimes of Freedom by Bob Dylan, live in 2000 and Brilliant Mistake by Elvis Costello stand out), I enjoyed the scenery and as I found a shell or two and saw a snowman made out of sand, I missed my kids.  That being said, I will always remember these walks, just as I remember the walk I took at Rosy Mound in Grand Haven the morning before Christie and I went on our first date.

On the last night of our trip, we went to this kitschy restaurant on the water where there was a Christmas boat parade going by.  When we were seated for dinner, being the sentimental dork that I am, I asked what life would look like for all of us on December 10, 2017, and I hoped that we would remember that we sat at this restaurant (the food was okay) and watched the boats go by.  I hoped that Christie and I will be able to maintain our sanity as we have another child.  I hoped that our child would bring us as much joy as Lillian and Emmett.  I hoped that our friends would have another child by then (if they want one).  I hope for so many things, knowing full well that I don't always get what I hope for, but if there is one thing this year has taught me is that God gives me unexpected gifts that are greater than what I hoped for.  Merry Christmas, friends. 

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Brilliant Mistake-Elvis Costello


Christmas in the Room-Sufjan Stevens  The surprise hit of the Christmas season!


Good Christian Men Rejoice-Joseph Pensak


In Dulci Jubilo-King's College


Rise Up Shepherd-Nick Lowe


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

God's Economy

I suppose you could say it's my job to make money.  We put all kinds of other titles to it, but if I don't make money doing what I'm doing, no one will allow me to do it anymore.  Being the son of church workers, this hasn't always come easy to me, but I've become moderately good at it.  I just came back from our yearly convention, where people are praised for the amount of money they brought to the company.  Don't get me wrong, I love the company I work for, but the whole thing always makes me uneasy for a variety of reasons but especially for the praise of money making.

The parable of the talents always puzzled me, mostly because I sympathized with the guy who was given one and buried it in the ground.  In the grand scheme of things, I look at my little corner of the marketplace as equivalent to the guy with the one talent.  I know the parable isn't talking solely about money, though I think it could be applied to money as well.  I've never particularly enjoyed taking people's money, but again, it's the purpose of the enterprise.  I don't say this to brag, because it's nothing really to brag about, especially in the company I work for.  I think what particularly bothers me about the parable is not the money part of it, it's that I always want to come out even.  I want to play it safe.  I don't want to disappoint anyone.  Even after hearing the parable, I want to take umbrage with God and argue with him about the point of His story.  I want to stick up for the guy who hides the money.  I want to praise the guy for not taking any chances.

This time last year, I had an idea to have a bible study group open to anyone who wanted to attend while out of town at our company meeting.  I've never seen or heard of anyone doing such a thing and I thought it would be a great way to be a witness to a group of people who need to hear the word about Jesus Christ.  I had a friend at the time who was willing to do it with me.  The friend has since quit the company, and instead of acting alone, I did nothing.  To be honest, the reason I did nothing was most likely a combination of laziness and fear of having people roll their eyes at the mere mention of it.  I was ashamed to speak the words of Jesus in public.    

 I thought about Luke 12:48, to whom much is given, much will be expected.  No other parts of scripture disturb me in the way this verse and the parable of the talents does. Luke 12:48 always gets me thinking about my parents.  Not all have grown up hearing about Jesus every day like I have, how am I holding up my end of the bargain?  What have I done with the gifts God has given me?  Who has heard me spread the good news of Jesus Christ?  Not enough people, I can assure you.

Our economy is based on the exchange of goods and wealth.   As anyone who has bought or sold something will tell you if they are being honest with themselves,  they want to come out on top of the transaction and make out better than the other guy.  Capitalism is based on this principle.  The degree to which coming out on top is acceptable is an ever changing target.  I'm sure everyone knows the story of the guy who bought the patent for the aids drug and then increased the price 4000%.  What if the guy only raised it 50%?  Would he still be hated?  Probably not.  Markets dictate what is an acceptable amount to charge, but in the end, our economy is based on everyone looking out for themselves.  This is how our economy works, good or bad.  Greed is good.  This is the best system mankind has come up with to date.   

God's economy works in a completely different way.  It's not capitalism, socialism or communism.  God's love is given MOSTLY with nothing in return.  God's blessings are given ALWAYS with nothing in return.  God wants our love back, but not for himself, but rather because He knows that our love for Him is His greatest way of delivering his blessings to us and that a life in love with God is the best that anyone has to offer.  There is no viable business model for giving away goods or services with nothing in return.

Instead of abiding by God's economy, we try to bring God into our economy.  We try to do things to settle the score, to make things even.  I am a person who doesn't like to owe people anything, so if they do something nice for me, I try to do something nice for them in return.  If you ask anyone on the street if this makes sense, just about everyone would agree.  If we're honest with ourselves, we try to do this with God.  We do some good things to make it seem like we have earned God's love.  But since God is a horrible businessman, we cannot pay him back, despite all our feeble attempts.

Even a tithe isn't God asking for some of His money back, it's a way of giving God our trust, which only benefits us.  I'm sure there are no coincidences in the bible, so it's intentional that in the parable the one man is given 1/10 of the amount that the other man receives, and I believe this points to the fact that we will only be truly blessed when we give everything to God, meaning our lives, our time, our money and most importantly our hearts.  God doesn't want us to try to settle the score, or to try to come out even, God wants to use me to multiply His love.  This is incredibly scary, since, as I said before, I would rather be the guy who hides his talent in the sand.  God wants something better, for me and you.

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...