Whining = Pushups

I really should be doing dishes this morning, but when it comes to house work I am a terrible procrastinator (admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery; of course, the second step is caring enough about it to change . . . and I don’t). And I had enough folks ask me what a recent Facebook status meant that I thought I would offer an explanation.

When I was in high school, we had a rule. At the time, I thought it was funny. Looking back, I think it was brilliant (yes, Bro. Poore, I said brilliant). It was a way of sucessfully keeping order among a group of crazy teengers without being heavy handed.

The rule was this:

We had to drop and do ten pushups for every instance of whining, rebellion or stupidity.

I still remember a trip to Table Rock Lake when one of our vehicles broke down and we were eating at a Wendy’s somewhere in Missouri, and I don’t know what happened but suddenly there were five of our group on the floor doing pushups. Wherever we went, our group was always doing pushups.

Now, of course, I can’t touch on this without bringing up the only time I had to do pushups.

I was either a junior or a senior in high school (can’t remember and don’t feel like doing the math) and I thought I would make it until the end of my four years in youth group without getting a single pushup, mainly because I’m a deplorable people pleaser (I was worse when I was in high school) and I thought I would just die if I ever did anything meriting it. It was one of our Mexico trips. We had been living in a village for a week, subsisting on military rations, and we were eating at a steak house somewhere in Texas, and the fact that I had never gotten pushups came up.

So. I got ten just because I’d never gotten pushups before.

Oh, my. I was such a weird kid. I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t upset, that I was mature enough to see the silliness in it at the time. But man I was angry. Looking back now, I’m honestly embarassed about it (so embarassed that even as I write this I feel my face getting red). But I was so angry. I don’t get angry very often, so the urge to spit nails was a new experience for me. I had to leave the restaurant and go out to the parking lot and just stay away from people because I was so angry.

But that anger didn’t compare to how awful I felt when my youth pastor apologized to me about it. I felt lower than dirt because deep inside I knew it hadn’t meant anything, and it was stupid for me to be upset about something like that. So I guess that was my life lesson about not getting angry about stupid stuff. =)

Pride. The great equalizer. You’d think it lifts you up above other people, but it really just drags you through the dirt with everyone else.

In any case, if you ever hear me or anyone from the Class of 2001 refer to pushups or use the phrase “just drop” after somebody does something stupid, now you’ll know what it means.

Trust first. Ask questions later.

Do you know people who can remain hopeful even when the world is falling apart around them? And I’m not talking about the kind of hope characterized by plain old denial. Unfortunately, that’s usually the kind of hope I brandish, refusing to deal with a situation until I absolutely must, ignoring it until it becomes undeniable. After all, it’s a lot easier to live in denial than it is to actually face your troubles, confidently believing that everything will work out.

But is that real hope?

I guess to find out what real hope is we need to find out where it comes from. 

If you listen to the message coming out of the world and the opinons in television shows and movies, hope comes from some ethereal belief in the human spirit. Or from following your heart. Or from believing in the general goodness of Mankind. And everyone knows that’s a bunch of bologna. Well, maybe not everyone knows . . . . but if they’d really think about it, they would.

What good does the human spirit do, other than get us and others in trouble? What hope can you derive from your heart when it’s often what causes the problem to begin with? And is Mankind really good? Not in my limited experience. On occasion we do kind things, but does that kindness come from us or from somewhere else?

So what is the source of hope? That answer, I believe, is found in today’s verse.

Romans 15:13

 13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is the source of hope.

I know I say it all the time, but it’s true: God knows everything. He knows what happened in the past. He knows what will happen in the near future. He knows what will happen in the far future. And so who else better to help us through today that Someone who already knows what it will bring? Someone who already helped us survive yesterday?

This is a terrible example, but it’s the only one I can think of until my coffee kicks in. In March 2010, I went to visit my incredible, awesome friends Jim, Shelley, Jonah and Silas Dinsmore in Guatemala. Originally, I had hoped other people could go with me, but the way everything worked out I was going by myself. Oddly enough, however, I wasn’t concerned. Plenty of other people were concerned with me travelling internationally for the first time by myself, but I wasn’t. Why? Well, Jim had given me clear instructions on how to navigate the Guatemalan airport, even down to giving me Spanish phrases to use if I got in trouble. And I had his cell phone number.

I know there was plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong. Looking back on it now, there were LOTS of opportunities for something to go wrong. And I’m certainly not saying that Jim knew what would happen. But he knows Guatemala. He knows the people. He knows the culture. He knows the airport. He knows the airlines. And I trusted he knew what he was talking about, and on account of that trust I didn’t worry about my trip down or my trip back home. I had hope that everything would work out just fine because Jim had given me instructions and I had followed them.

What would have happened if I decided that Jim was just faking when he gave me directions on how to navigate the Guatemala City airport? What would have happened if I hadn’t taken him seriously and tried to talk to a child in Guatemala City (very bad things would probably have happened, just so you know)? What would have happened if I didn’t bring the medicine or the supplies Jim told me I needed?

Disaster. The trip would have been a bust. I would have spent all my time miserable or terrified or lost or struggling to make do, unprepared, unhappy and unfocused.

Does that sound like us in life?

God is the source of our hope because He knows what has come and gone, and He knows what is coming, and He has given us instructions not only on how to face it but how to overcome it. If we really believe that God knows everything, we need to take Him at His Word and do what He has told us to do. We need to follow His instructions (the Bible) and live the way we’re supposed to live.

If we really believe that He knows everything, we need to trust Him.

And when we trust Him completely, the automatic, instantaneous result is peace and joy, followed by hope. Real hope. Confident hope. Not the fake smiles and “I’m fine” sort of hope that gets people to leave you alone but turns your hair gray. Hope that lets you see no matter how difficult a situation might be God is in it.

That’s the kind of hope I need. That’s the kind of hope I can have if I trust God truly. It’s the kind of hope the world needs too, especially now in this time of economic crisis and natural disasters. We absolutely can’t understand everything, but God can. When I’m in a situation that’s too big for me, I usually default to people who know more than I do (in algebra, I always took my brother’s word for everything; I still do).

I could struggle through life on my own understanding, but why? My own understanding is limited and claiming that I comprehend why bad things happen to good people is nothing but pride on my part. Pride hurts me, it hurts people around me, and it does absolutely nothing to accomplish what God left me here to do.

Trusting God to resolve a problem is a lot harder than denying it exists — but trusting God works better. Because if you’re so busy trying to figure out why God has done the things He’s done or allowed the things to happen that have happened, you’ll very likely miss the point of why it happened in the first place.

The only holiday I know dedicated to an engineer . . . .

St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Engineering. Did you know that? That’s what I’ve been told, which is why Wallace Hall at WSU has shamrocks all around outside it. In any case, I have my corned beef and cabbage cooking. How about you? And I fully intend to wear green this morning, even though I’m not sure how my German company celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t want to get pinched.

I am often amazed at the simple complexity of Scripture. Did you know that something could be simple and complex at the same time? Well — it can. Every person is both simple and complex. Layered. Shrek would compare them to onions; Donkey would compare them to parfaits. Either comparison is true. And the Bible is the same way.

The verse(s) for today are part of one of the most well-known, most quoted section of Scripture in the world.

Psalm 23:1-3

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
      I have all that I need.
 2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
      he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    3 He renews my strength.
   He guides me along right paths,
      bringing honor to his name.

Just about everyone knows this chapter out of Psalms, whether they know that they know it or not.

And there is so much complexity in it that I could spend all day talking about it. The culture behind it. The purpose of shepherds and how they lived and took care of their flocks. How shepherds worked. How sheep think (or don’t think, in my limited experience). Just this snippet of Psalm 23 is full of all sorts of complex meanings and truth.

But . . . . I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a killer week. There’s a lot going on right now. Personally. Professionally. Emotionally. And my life is so complicated at the moment that I don’t think I want anything else to be complicated either. So, for this morning, I’m going to keep it simple.

The Lord is my shepherd.

He gives me everything I need (not always everything I want, which is very very good for me if I’d stop to think about it).

My life is crazy, but He gives me moments of peace where He reminds me everything is going to be okay.

He tells me what I need to do and how I need to live, and when I follow Him, He lets me bring glory to Him, which is what life is all about.

The Bible is simple. The Bible is complex. If you have time to be complex, go for it. I know I have mornings where I feel the need to delve deep into symbols and themes and theological reasoning. But not today. Today I need the simple reassurance (more like re-re-re-re-reassurance) that God knows what He’s doing.

And He does. He’s my Shepherd. He’s looking out for me. And He’s looking out for you too.

A wardrobe that never goes out of style

As much as we like to deny it, our clothing identifies us. People like to think that it doesn’t matter what you wear and that everyone remembers that everyone is equal no matter how much their outfit cost, but I just don’t think that’s the case. I wish it were.

I’ve never been into fashion. Actually, I have always run away from it screaming. Anything related to fashion, I usually pretend that it doesn’t exist, mainly because I see it as a waste of time. But that’s my philosophy, and a lot of other people don’t feel that way about it. And that’s perfectly fine. That’s just my choice. I have a style that’s my own, I suppose; I don’t know if it’s a good style or a fashionable style, but it’s mine. And I’m perfectly pleased with it. But it’s interesting how the clothes I wear identify me to other people.

The best example I can give is my latest work trip to Florida. I came home to Wichita, and it was freezing. I had expected to get to go directly home from the airport, but it was late and I had to be in early the next day. So I spent the night in town and went to work from my parents’ house. However, I didn’t have my coat. It was still at my house. So I went to work wearing my mom’s coat — which is quite a bit different in style than my own. It’s not ugly by any means. It’s actually very cute — and it’s very cute on her — but on me it just looked odd. I didn’t really think about it, though. It was warm, and I was off to work, accompanied also by a giant blue scarf and a pair of pink gloves. And it confused everyone at work, and they wondered what was going on because I never wear colors like that.

Once I explained that I had left my coat at home and was borrowing my mom’s, they all laughed. Actually, we all laughed. It was really funny. One person I worked with told me, “I thought you were looking a lot more colorful than usual.”

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were really right. I don’t wear overstated colors and I don’t wear flashy things. That’s just my style. Understated. I prefer it that way. I don’t like people looking at me. And I’m perfectly all right with that. It was just fascinating to me.

So it’s doubly fascinating to read Colossians 3:12 when it talks about putting on clothes of a different kind:

 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

It’s interesting, I think, that God chooses to use the word clothe in this context, referring to these character qualities like they’re something to wear.

When you wake up in the morning, do you think about what you put on? I do. I mean, I don’t plan out my wardrobe the day before or anything, but I don’t just pick the first thing I come to and put it on. It wouldn’t match and it wouldn’t look right. I have no fashion sense, but I know that much. And, working a corporate job, I have to keep up a certain level of professionalism, especially in my appearance. So I have to think about what I’m going to wear and make a conscious decision to choose things that match.

It’s the same thing with these character qualities. These things aren’t just going to appear in our lives automatically. You have to choose to put them in effect in your life. Mercy is the least automatic virtue in the world. Kindness and gentleness may be a little easier for some people who are just kind-hearted, but I guarantee no one immediately volunteers to be humble. And patience is one of those things that requires a lifetime to build. We have to choose to use each of these things in our lives just as carefully as we select our clothing that we’re going to wear for the day. Why?

People identify you by the clothing you’re wearing. So if you wear these virtues like clothing, people will know you belong to God. And, what’s really nice, is that these traits never go out of style.

Cornelia Marie. Time Bandit. Northwestern. Discovery Channel geeks already know what I’m blogging about today.

Does anybody watch Deadliest Catch? I’ve seen it a few times, and though I’m not into reality television, I think that show is incredibly well done. Imagine doing that sort of job for a living. Going out on a boat in absurd conditions in the middle of the ocean where anything can happen. Relying on your crew and your wits to save you from danger when something goes wrong.

Who knew fishing was such dangerous work?

Strangely enough, I thought about that show when I read the verse of the day today (actually, after I read most of the chapter because the single verse by itself didn’t make a lot of sense).

Most of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. That’s what they did for a living. Granted, they didn’t fish in ice storms, but I’m sure their brand of the profession had its dangers too. And I haven’t seen Deadliest Catch enough to know about the education level of the captains and the crew, but how much schooling have they had? Not that I’m speaking against a lack of education. Not at all; some of the smartest people I know only have high school diplomas. It would just be interesting to know because Jesus’ disciples had very little educational background. The Bible even calls them “unlearned and ignorant men.” And where the Gospels put the disciples after Christ’s death on the cross is anything but flattering.

The disciples ran away. They left Him to be arrested and killed. A few were there (recorded) when He died, but for the most part, they had given up. And even when they heard that He’d risen from the dead, some of them didn’t believe it (even though He had told them He would).

My point is that the disciples were pretty cowardly. The disciples were a lot like us, in all honesty.

So . . . .if the disciples were cowardly, petty, uneducated people, who the heck are the men in Acts 4:1-22? (sorry for the long passage, but trust me; it’s worth it)

 1 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. 2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. 4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.[a]

 5 The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. 7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”

 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, 9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? 10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene,[b] the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

   ‘The stone that you builders rejected
      has now become the cornerstone.’[c]

 12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

 13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. 15 So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber[d] and conferred among themselves.

 16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

 19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

 21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.

Peter and John got in trouble because they had healed a lame man in the name of Jesus and they were telling people about Jesus in the streets. Okay, first off, since when could any of the disciples do miracles? And since when were they gutsy enough to preach in the streets to people who didn’t believe what they believed, let alone stand up to the religious establishment of the day?

Something changed Peter and John.

Peter — the loud-mouthed, brazen, impetuous fisherman who spoke before he thought about it and acted before he considered consequences. The disciple who loved Jesus but denied Him when push came to shove.

John — the youngest of the disciples who stayed in the background until he had an opportunity to argue about who was more important, who had the gall to ask Jesus if he could have a position of authority in heaven.

Something changed both of these men, like something changed the rest of the disciples. Being with Jesus, living with Him, walking with Him, talking to Him, made them into different people. And after the Day of Pentecost (you’ll have to read the beginning of Acts for that), the 11 remaining disciples became a force for Christ so unstoppable that the world is still recovering from their influence. Did you realize that of the 11 disciples (Judas is not in this count), only one of them died of natural causes? John. An old man. Exiled on the Isle of Patmos after he’d been burned alive in oil. He died naturally anyway after he wrote the Book of the Revelation. The rest of the disciples were killed in horrible ways for their faith.

Aren’t we talking about unlearned, ignorant, cowardly men?

We absolutely are. But we’re talking about unlearned, ignorant, cowardly men who knew Jesus. And that makes all the difference in the world.

And if God can take an unlearned, ignorant, cowardly fisherman and use him to turn the world on its head, what can He do with me? What can He do with you? We just have to figure out what the disciples eventually did: Jesus is all we need and any suffering we face in this world can’t possibly compare to the life He has planned for us when we leave.