November 29, 2008

"Black Friday" Etiquette

No, I did not get up ridiculously early to go stand outside in the cold and wait in line only to walk away empty handed. Actually, I didn't go at all. I know my sister and her husband did, it seems as though they have made this a sort of tradition for themselves. He got up at 3:45am and headed to a popular electronics store after which he headed home to pick up my sister because she wanted to "sleep in" until 4:30am. The two of them proceeded to navigate their way through the maze of sleepy-eyed shoppers and deals galore (or so I've heard).

On our way to our relatives on Thanksgiving day we passed a popular electronics store where there was already a tent set up outside the front door and it was only 12:45pm. This got me thinking and led to some discussion later in the weekend about the proper etiquette for waiting in line during the wee hours of the morning on "Black Friday"(click to find out why it's called that if you're not sure)...

1. If you get there early and setup a tent, do you have to stay in the tent or are you free to leave it and come back when you want to?

2. Is it possible for some object or person to save your place in line?

3. Is it common for people to take shifts waiting in line? If so, are the other people in line cool with this?

4. What is the deal or what would the deal have to be in order to motivate an individual to forfeit an entire night of sleep to go wait outside in the cold only to go shopping?

5. Are there any sort of "deals" that are being made while in line? Trading/selling item coupons or tickets, place in line, coffee, etc.? Is that generally frowned upon?

6. Shouldn't the fact that a store worker in NY was trampled to death as the doors were opened early Friday morning make us question our priorities as a society?

If you know the answer to any of these questions or have experienced any of these different "Black Friday" scenarios, please tell. Or if you have a story or a great deal that you got because you decided to wake-up before the rest of the world did, let us know.

November 22, 2008

That Time of Year

I'm sitting here at my dining room table looking outside noticing that pretty much all of the leaves have fallen off the trees in my neighborhood, it's cold out, and the holiday season is upon us as Thanksgiving is now only days away. Before you know it, it will be 2009 and we'll all wonder where the last month of the year went. I don't know about you but it's at this point in the year for me when time seems to fly by. Between all of the hussle and bussle of the season, traveling to see family, Advent events at church, using vacation time before the end of the year, scrambling to figure out program budgets for 2009, end of year meetings, etc etc I start wondering if I'll be around for the holidays, let alone enjoy them.

I was driving around town the other day and saw a bumper sticker that said, "Put Christ back in Christmas." I started thinking about that and two thoughts got stuck in my head:

  • Bummer for anyone that has already taken Him out of it.
  • Christmas is about Christ, it's that simple.
Our senior pastor just finished leading a class called 'Simplifying Christmas', which talked about practical ways to keep the holiday season simple. You know, things like don't buy an excessive amount of gifts for people, don't spend all of your time running around but enjoy the friends and family you're with or don't waste a lot of money on presents. I like this time of year and am not someone that gets stressed because of everything going on but I can get too busy and then I find myself missing the main points...a) be thankful and b) the coming of Christ. I am determined to keep this time of year slow and simple.

November 13, 2008

The Humility to Change

I have to admit that I have never really thought about the relationship between change and humility until 'dk', a now frequent commenter to this blog, brought up the question. (See his comment here.) The more I think about it, the more I see humility being a necessary component for change. And when I say change, I mean life transforming change that actually moves us from one point to another in our lives, not just changing something temporarily only to go right back to the beginning.

As I mentioned before, I think there is a certain amount of surrender that must take place in order to change and to do that, humility is required. To get to the point of realizing that you can't do it on your own and to give up control (though many times we realize we don't really control as much as we think) is a humbling experience because in a sense we are saying that this situation or needed change is beyond me. I have tried on my own to make this change and have failed and now I must give the power, control or whatever you want to call it to someone else. Humility allows me to admit that I can't do it on my own which then allows the process of change to begin.

Something else that was brought up was the idea of authenticity as a prerequisite to change, is it or isn't it? I think it is. Just as humility is needed to experience change, I think authenticity is needed to have humility. I've got to be real with myself in order to realize that I need to put my pride on the shelf so that I can be humble enough to experience change. It is so easy to convince myself that I am much better off than I really am, that the change that needs to take place in my life is really not that urgent or that I can get around to changing whenever I decide to. I almost think that humility and authenticity are so closely related it's hard to tell one from the other, because I wonder if you can truly be humble without being authentic. It is in my authenticity that I come to see that I am really nothing special, can't do much on my own and fail more often than I succeed and yet somehow through the mystery of Christ, it is then that change can begin.

November 8, 2008

Pocket Change

A sermon I gave on Nov. 9th.

We have heard a lot about change over these past few months. And when you hear this word, a couple of things might come to mind: a change of clothes, political change, the coins you find under your car seat. Something I find funny about change is how each of us reacts differently to it. Some of us thrive on change, we need that sense of newness or spice to liven up the status quo. Others of us can’t stand change. We like things the way they are and don’t see any reason to mess things up.

Tai and I were eating breakfast earlier this week and I was complaining about my cereal and her comment was, “well maybe it’s time for grown-up cereal.” And I said, “but I like my Cocoa Krispies." Some things just don't change.

Some of us are paralyzed by the fear of change because we can’t always predict what the outcome will be or look like. We see this often in abusive relationships, where someone has become more comfortable with the emotional or physical abuse then the thought of the change that might come from leaving the relationship.

I want to talk about change but not change on a global, national, or local level; not any sort of change that has to do with politics or outfits or the coins you find between the cushions of your couch. I want to talk about change that can touch your heart. I want to talk about something that can change your life. I would encourage you to, even if just for a moment, forget about all of the other things that need to be changed in this world and focus on the things that need to change in your relationship with Jesus.

James writes in 1:17 and the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. It’s you and I that need to change, not God. He has been and will continue to do His thing…being faithful, just, loving, forgiving, merciful, etc etc. All of the things that I am so often not.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:1-4 that we must change and so I’m wondering if there are any of us that have things in our lives that need to change. Things that are getting in the way of knowing Jesus better; things like pride, busyness and the excuse of “not having any time”, selfishness but not the kind of selfishness that says, “Gimme, that’s mine and I want it.” but more of a subtle selfishness that says things like, “I don’t really feel like serving, helping, fill in the blank…” or "I'm sure someone else will step up to help or volunteer." Many of us want to change and have been telling ourselves that we will change but here we sit, dealing with the very same lack of change in our relationship with Christ.

We’ve just finished a stewardship campaign that not only touched on financial stewardship but stewardship of our time and talents as well. This change that I’m talking about is not to try and get you to volunteer or give more because in my opinion, that’s not what it’s about. What I’m asking you is what is it that needs to change in order for you to be closer to Jesus. We see the change we want to make in our lives, we have every intention of making it but we just can’t seem to do it. And you know what, we can’t. It’s kind of like what Paul says in that sometimes confusing passage in Romans 7, the one with all of the “do’s” and “don’t do’s”. We can’t make life transforming change on our own…

To change is to let go. We have to hand over control, take our hands off the wheel and let someone else drive. The only way I have found to ever really change something in my life is to surrender it over to God. This was not something that happened overnight, it was a process and at times a difficult one. It involved a lot of prayer, discipline, accountability and support from others. It wasn’t until I realized that I couldn’t make the change on my own that I started to see change taking place.

2 Corinthians 5:16-18…verses 16 and 18 are good stuff and really could be separate sermons for another day but what I really want to focus on right now is verse 17. No doubt there are some of us here in this place that need to hear that, we have the power to change our lives, not because you and I are all that great but because Christ is. “If anyone is IN Christ…” To be found in Christ is what it means to be a Christian. No, it doesn’t mean you’re perfect or even close but it does mean that you trying to be like Him. If you call yourself a Christian, if you have a relationship with Jesus then this promise is yours to claim. I heard someone say, “Jesus loves you exactly where you are but He loves you way too much to leave you there.” I don’t know what change needs to take place in your life but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit has laid something on your heart as you’re sitting there that needs to change. Isn’t it time to make this life transforming change that comes through Christ more than just pocket change?

November 5, 2008

Day After

It is 72 degrees and sunny on November 5th in central Indiana. The day after our country has just elected the first ever African American as President of the United States. Surreal.

What lies ahead for us as a nation and especially for those of us who call ourselves Christians is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create unity. No one likes to lose but we cannot let the color of our political party divide us, whether you're RED or BLUE. We have a beautiful opportunity as the Church to "reach across the aisle" and give our support, prayers and service to our fellow man being reminded that it's not about you or me, this political party or that one but rather it's about Christ who calls us to serve Him by serving each other. The words of Paul's letter to the Philippians should not only echo in our hearts but in the things we say or don't say, do or don't do...

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.