Three Taverns Church


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Be The Loving Memory People Never Forget

As I was leaving my chiropractor’s office yesterday the doctor asked me, “So, you’re feeling better?”

“Oh yeah,” I said, “When I came home last night my two youngest kids ran to the door to meet me. We wrestled around on the ground for a few minutes…we had an awesome time.”

Then I paused for maybe half a heartbeat and, starting to tear up, I said, “Not to get all emotional in your office, but I didn’t realize until just now that it’s been almost six weeks since they’ve run to the door to see me. Ever since I got that herniated disc I haven’t been able to play with them, and they kind of just quit being interested in me when I came home. But now Dad is back (no pun intended) and I could see how excited they were to play with me again!”

Oftentimes when things go wrong in our lives, it’s a long, slow decline into pain and suffering. Moments of shock and trauma are thankfully rare; it’s much more common to wake up one day having forgotten how good things used to be. In my story above I had forgotten that my kids and I used to wrestle and laugh together, and I’d only been injured six weeks! I have friends and family who have been hurting a much longer time. Their slide into suffering was so slow that these days they don’t even realize how much they are hurting; they’ve forgotten what “normal” feels like.

How many of us know someone living in an abusive relationship who thinks it’s “normal” to be emotionally or physically abused? How many of us know someone slaving away for an awful boss because he assumes, “That’s the way it is,” or know a homeless woman who thinks she’ll be on the streets forever, for the exact same reason? How many of us know a family member who’s given up the struggle against age and physical illness because the pain has been present for so long?

Do you want to help people remember what “normal” really means, to recognize life when they see it?

Be the loving memory people never forget.

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, be the love that will open her eyes to just how wonderful human companionship is supposed to be!

If you know someone in a job he hates (or someone dying for any job), be the love that helps him re-discover his hopes and dreams, and the purpose he was put here for!

If you know someone in the final stages of life who has given up, be the love that reminds her of all the good things in life, and the hope she can have in the future.

Be the love that becomes someone’s most treasured memory, something they will never forget.


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Everyday Ecclesiastes: Chasing After The Wind

wheat

“I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”
Ecclesiastes 1:14, NRSV

You know these words are true, but you pretend otherwise. Why do you believe the lie which you know is a lie?

You are not your body; your physical form will one day die. If you are over 18 your body has already begun to wither, and yet you toil and slave to maintain it. You say you do it to be healthy; you feign joy in the process, but you know that’s not true. It’s all about your ego and your belief that you are your body.

You are not your psycho-social roles. Your being cannot be summed up in words like Mother, Brother, Employee, Christian, or Friend. These are only small parts of who you are, barely real, constantly changing. Within a generation or two, no one will remember you or your accomplishments. What is remembered, if anything, will be more legend than fact. Yet you live as if these roles and deeds were real, were really you, and you invest tremendous time, energy, and resources to maintain that which you know is false.

If you can, turn off your radio, television, laptop, tablet and phone long enough to think about what I’m saying. Go sit in a public place and watch people. Not for entertainment, but to be present and witness their hurrying, scurrying lives. You’ll see your own pointless, frenetic activity reflected in them. This time of year is perfect for this sort of thing: Go to a mall and watch people trying to make themselves happy through forced consumerism.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t work, or raise a family? Am I saying ‘do nothing’? No.

I’m saying you need to constantly remind yourself of the vanity of your life; continually acknowledge the fact that your life and your deeds will one day vanish like the fog in a breeze. See this fact, sit with it, and let go of your psychological hold on those things which are not real. Stop identifying with form. Stop pretending to be the role you are playing. Play the role, but know that you are playing a role.

“Everything that confronts (you) is vanity, since the same fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to those who sacrifice and those who do not sacrifice.”
Ecclesiastes 9:1-2, NRSV


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5 Ways To “Live Like You Were Dying”….Sort Of…

imagesI assume you’ve heard the song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw. If you haven’t, click here to watch the video, then come on back…

Did you like the song? So did I! Well, the first 240 or so times I heard it. It is an awfully catchy song, and the lyrics are oh so motivating. But they’re also kind of selfish, don’t you think? Like life is all about you and gratifying your bucket list? And who else besides multi-millionaires like Mr. McGraw can afford to live the way he describes in that song? I mean, skydiving, climbing in the Rockies, and bull riding? Who’s got the time or the budget for all that fun? I can barely afford my monthly Netflix subscription!

I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.

I was on a training call the other day with the woman I’m replacing. She started telling me about one of the IT personnel I support…

“Yeah, it’s very sad. I guess she has some sort of kidney disease. She gets dialysis three times a week. If she doesn’t get a new kidney in the next year or so, she’ll probably die. She knows she’s on borrowed time, so I try to be extra-nice to her and treat her with kid gloves…”

…which brought the question to mind, Why don’t you always treat her that way? And also, Why aren’t I treating people that way?

What if we changed the lyrics of the song to “Live Like They Were Dying”….’They’ being everyone you interact with on a daily basis. Because let’s face it, all of us are living on borrowed time. And when you consider how nicely you treat really sick people, doesn’t it strike you as odd that we reserve that ‘special’ treatment for folks about to leave this world? What the heck are we waiting for?

So without further ado, and with no disrespect intended to Tim, here’s my own list of ways you can “Live Like They Were Dying”:

  1. Be Present With Them: More than anything else, people in the final stages of life feel afraid and alone. Of course, the only difference between them and the rest of us is that they have nothing left to distract them from their fate. They can’t deny it any longer. Here’s what I’m saying: Just about every person you know is, to some extent, feeling afraid and alone. So be with them. Really. Like Will Smith says in Hitch, “When you’re in the room, be in the room.
  2. Their Bucket List: Whether or not they call it this, everyone’s got one. Everyone has a list of things they want to do in/with/during their lifetimes. Too bad most of us wait until we’re retired or terminal before we get serious about it. So: Ask your friends, family, and associates what’s on their bucket list. Then do what you can to help those things happen, even if it just means forwarding an interesting article you read online.
  3. Money Concerns: Another major concern of the dying is whether there will be enough money for their funeral and their family after they are gone. And just like #1, everyone suffers from this worry. Live like those around you are dying by being generous. Buy a cup of coffee for someone. Pick up someone’s grocery tab (assuming you’re in the 20-items-or-less line). Buy someone’s gas. Take care of people the way you would if you knew they wouldn’t be around for another Christmas.
  4. Get Past The Body: Did you tell Grandma how awful she looked in the hospital gown she had to wear? Well, maybe you did to break the tension, but seriously…When you know someone is dying, you really don’t care anymore about their physical appearance. So why care now? Stop evaluating people based on their appearance; simply appreciate them for being in your life.
  5. Get Past The Mind: Alzheimer’s Disease is the worst. I’m not being flippant. It really is just about the worst thing that can happen to a person and their family. The loving, wonderful parent and grandparent you used to know disappears, and is sometimes replaced by a monster. Inside their mind, somewhere, you know that same person exists, but you don’t get to see them anymore. In exceedingly trying times like this, you love the person as best you can, and you reminisce about the “good old days”. Why not give everyone in your life this kind of treatment? When someone wrongs you, love them anyway for the wonderful person you’re sure is lurking in there somewhere. Be forgiving of people’s erratic and out-of-character behavior. The mind is a tricky, temporary thing. Don’t take yours, or anyone else’s, too seriously.


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Good Or God?

FaithHopeLove

Is “good” good because it’s inherently good, or because God says it’s good?

It’s a question C.S. Lewis raises in his book “Reflections On The Psalms”, and I think our answer to this question has significant implications towards the way we see the world and the way we live our lives.

If “good” is only good because God declared it so, it’s possible that what we consider “evil” might instead have been named “good” by God. Instead of extolling the virtues of faith, hope and love, Christians today might laud hate, anger, and selfishness. Perhaps the “holiest” among us would be sociopaths and psychopaths. It’s really not a far stretch to imagine a world like this, if God is the one who declares and defines “good”. This leads to relativistic world views where what is “good” is defined by what we believe “good” to be. It means each system of belief can define for itself what is “good”. It means you can justify hurting people who don’t follow your system of belief because they are against what is “good” according to your worldview (think: ISIS).

On the other hand, if “good” is good because it’s inherently good, then it is good independent (if such a thing were possible) from God. This means that even if there were no God (if such a thing were possible) then those things we consider “good” would still be good. It also means that any “god” or system of belief which espouses anything other than what is inherently “good” must be wrong, but we are not released to attack those who follow such beliefs lest we risk contradicting what is “good” ourselves. If “good” is good regardless of God, then it never changes; it is eternal. Who I believe God to be today will not influence what is “good” if “good” is independent from God.

I think this is why the Bible says things like, “God is love.” It is not possible to separate the Creator from the Created, but if it were, love would be the preeminent virtue of what is “good” in this world. And because love is inherently “good” regardless of which faith system I fall into, God must be love because love is inherently good, and God cannot be “evil”.

If I follow this thought down the rabbit hole a bit further, I see that by affirming the inherent “goodness” of certain things I must simultaneously relinquish my monopoly on God. If “good” is good independent of God, then those people who fall outside my belief system, even those who don’t follow my God (or should we say ‘MY god’), may still be “good”.


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You Are Good Enough

father-and-son-sunrise

Luke 3:22 – “and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus didn’t need to do a single thing to got God’s approval. And neither do we.

We may feel like our parents are disappointed in us. We may think that we’re not smart enough, sexy enough, or talented enough to earn other peoples’ approval. We probably don’t even approve of ourselves.

And while it may feel like we need to be, do, or have more to make God proud of us, or make him approve of us, that’s just not true. The moment we were born, we had God’s approval. He is proud of us for no other reason than we exist.

Which means we can stop trying to be, do and have more to earn God’s approval.

What would our lives look like if we could all wake up tomorrow and know God is proud of us regardless of what we’ve done? How would it feel to know our Father approves of us? How radically different would our lives be if we stopped trying to impress God with our good deeds, church attendance, tithing or dress code?

I’ll tell you what would happen: We’d be set free to love.

We’d stop being so wrapped up in ourselves that we would start to see the people around us. We’d stop being consumed with our own needs and start being able to fill the needs of others. Not out of obligation. Not because we’d be trying to impress God or make Him like us or be proud of us. Instead, we’d realize how deeply we are loved and we’d want to share that love with everyone we met.


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Who You Are Is Enough

1

Who I am is enough. What I have is enough.
– Unknown

Who you are is enough. What you have is enough.

Doesn’t often feel that way, though, does it? Know why? Because we’re stuck in an addictive society which rejects this truth. If you had to rewrite the mantra above based on the way you feel on any given day, it would probably sound something like this:

Who I am is not smart enough, attractive enough, athletic enough, tall enough, cool enough, thin enough, strong enough, caring enough, loving enough, supportive enough, friendly enough, happy enough, healthy enough, spiritual enough, brave enough, hard-working enough, emotionally balanced enough, or accepting enough.

What I have isn’t…well, it isn’t enough!

John Rockefeller, one of the richest and most powerful men in American history, was once asked, “How much is enough?” His answer: “Just a little more.” Sure feels that way, doesn’t it?

But do you ever wonder why the holiest men and women of the Christian tradition, hell, of any tradition, lived in near poverty? If our self-talk is accurate and we need to be and have so much more, how could the saints have been right to choose the life they did? In fact, how could Jesus have been “enough” when he was broke and homeless the last 3 1/2 years of His life?

Because who He was, was enough. Because what He had was enough.

Who you are is enough. What you have is enough.

Why is that so hard to believe?

For one thing, you’re told hundreds of times every day through various marketing campaigns that you are not enough because you don’t yet own whatever it is the marketers are trying to sell. It’s hard for our self-talk to fight that kind of repetition.

Another reason it’s hard to believe who we are is enough is that we’re part of a productive society that requires its members to conform to a set of norms. This process of conformity starts at home, where we learn which parts of us are “good” and which parts are “not good”. We personalize our conformity to such a degree that we end up believing we are our behaviors, both the good and the not-good. In other words, my good behaviors make me good, and my not-good behaviors make me not-good. This is the fundamental problem of all religious systems…but that’s the topic of another post.

Who you are is enough. The “good” parts you love showing off and the “not good” parts you keep in the shadows.

What you have is enough. Yes, even if you’ve got less than Mr. Rockefeller.

Three Taverns Church 2-23-14

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Today was a quick but powerful message on John 19:30 & Hebrews 10:10,14, and what it meant when Jesus said “It is finished.”

I loved this topic…after the message I wanted to spend another hour at Frank’s Place to talk with folks and really dig into the implications of these verses on our daily lives.

I want to apologize for the background noise. What can I say; it’s the risk you run when you’re in a location you don’t control.

See you next week!
Stephen


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Is It ‘Finished’? It Has To Be.

It-is-finished

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
John 19:30

“And by God’s will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
Hebrews 10:10,14

When Jesus said, “It is finished”, He meant it. He didn’t mean it was 80% complete. He didn’t mean it was mostly finished. He didn’t mean we still had some work to do on our own. It’s the reason why the author of Hebrews claimed we’d been sanctified. Once. All of us.

It has to be finished.

It’s the only way to love God and love others as we love ourselves.

Because if it isn’t finished, I still owe God something for my sins. I’ll become angry, resentful and frustrated about owing a debt I can’t pay. Which makes it impossible to love Him.

If it isn’t finished I’m going to hate myself and be ashamed as a sinner. Which makes it impossible to love myself.

And if it isn’t finished, and if I can’t love myself, then I’m not going to love anybody else because nobody else is ever going to be good enough to deserve my love, either.

So you see, the only way we can love God is if God’s work was finished on the cross. And the only way we can love others as we love ourselves is if we’ve all been saved through Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice.

It is finished. Stop living in fear, wondering if God’s work was enough for you. And stop worrying about everyone else, whether God’s work was enough for them. Once-for-all means exactly what it sounds like.

Once. For all.


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Five Ways To Positively Model God To Your Children, #5: Discipline

The Reuben Hill Minnesota Report

The Reuben Hill Minnesota Report from http://www.focusonthefamily.com

It’s true that we are the most influential people in our children’s lives. It’s also true that we tend to treat strangers with more kindness than our own families because it’s impossible to keep our “nice” masks on for long at home. These two facts lead to a third truth: Our children’s negative perceptions of God are often shaped by our behavior toward them.

The chart above is fascinating! It reveals so much I already know to be true about parenting, and it helps me understand my heavenly Father. The chart is laid out on two axes: Discipline on the horizontal axis, and love on the vertical axis. In a nutshell, here are the four types of parents the chart calls out:

  1. Fellowshipping Parents: These parents combine discipline and love in their parental approach. Like God, they are “fellowshipping” parents. They want to be with their children and take part in their development.  Their approach to parenting is authoritative: They acknowledge their responsibility in raising their children and exercise the appropriate authority.
  2. Fighting Parents: These parents employ lots of discipline when dealing with their kids but without the appropriate balance of love. They aren’t looking for a healthy relationship; they’re looking for a fight. This is the angry, alcoholic father who flies off the handle and hits his son. Rather than the ideal “authoritative” parenting style of Fellowshipping parents, Fighting parents are authoritarian dictators in their children’s lives.
  3. Forsaking Parents: These parents don’t show much love or discipline when interacting with their children…In fact, they don’t show much of anything at all. These kids never receive love and discipline, and they internalize the belief that their parents didn’t think they were worth the effort. The children are neglected and will likely develop severe emotional, mental, and developmental issues.
  4. Fearful Parents: These parents show their children “love”, but do not discipline them an adequate amount. They are afraid of losing influence with, and the friendship of, their children. Permissive parents fail to teach appropriate boundaries. Children from these homes won’t learn tough lessons until later in life, when the stakes are much higher.

 

Folks, it’s pretty simple. You need to love your children, and you need to discipline them:

  • Expectations should always precede discipline
  • The punishment must fit the crime, i.e. logical consequences
  • No name calling, ever
  • You should never discipline in anger
  • Praise desired behavior
  • Leave punishments in the past; don’t bring them up again
  • Discipline should be age-appropriate
  • Your child should always know why they are being punished

Your consistent effort to love and discipline your children will lead to emotionally, spiritually, and developmentally healthier adults down the road.

What disciplining secrets would you share with a new parent-to-be?


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Five Ways To Positively Model God To Your Children, #1: Apologize Immediately

It’s true that we are the most influential people in our children’s lives. It’s also true that we tend to treat strangers more politely and with more kindness than our own families because it’s impossible to keep our “nice” mask on for long at home. These two facts lead to a third truth: Our children’s perceptions of who God is are shaped by our behavior toward them. This is the reason why so many people in therapy and twelve-step groups routinely express their beliefs that God is an angry or distant God; because Mom and Dad treated them this way.

I don’t want my children to see God as a harsh, angry, unloving God. Instead, I want them to see God for who He is in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. For this to happen, however, I need to take specific steps to model that kind of behavior for my children.

Here is the first of five ways I model Christ for my children in order to positively shape the way they think about our heavenly Father. With a little tweaking to fit your particular set of circumstances, I believe these steps can benefit your family as well!

1. Apologize immediately after I realize I’ve done something to hurt them.
I’m not Jesus, so at least once a day I say or do something that hurts my children’s feelings. Just today, while cooking dinner and trying to help my wife get out the door for a small group meeting, my son and I got into an argument. As my temper rose, that little preschooler started talking back to me and I completely lost my temper. I started yelling at him and ordered him into his room. My outburst frightened him.

After two minutes of cool-down time I strode into his room, sat on his bed, pulled him into my lap, and hugged him. I told him how much I loved him; how much he means to me; how special and wonderful he is. The combination of gentle physical touch and loving words calmed him down immediately. I believe repeating this pattern throughout his childhood will also positively shape the way he sees God. Had I left him to cry in his room alone, there’s a chance he would project my behavior onto God and see Him as a frightening, angry Being who refuses to be reconciled to his ‘sinful’ son.

By apologizing immediately to my son, holding him, and telling him I love him, I positively impact his view of God in a number of ways:

  • My son can feel loved even when he makes mistakes
  • God will appear to be Someone who greatly desires reconciliation
  • My son can see himself as a treasured child of God, not an unfortunate screw-up
  • My son’s relationship with God will be defined by learning and growth rather than perfectionism
  • Rather than an emotionally distant Being, God will be Someone who wants to understand, and be understood by, my son
  • It’s OK for my son to be angry at, or confused with, God. My son’s emotions are not taboo in the eyes of his Father

Do you apologize to your children immediately after you realize you’ve hurt them? Why or why not? How does this have the potential to impact the way your child sees God?

Thanks for reading! Check back tomorrow for the second part of this series!
Stephen