Friday, November 27, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Broke of Soul
I am surrounded by poverty.
I hear it in the clank of the coins in that old man’s can. I feel it in the woman’s wrinkled, scaly hands. I see it in those big and youthful, starving brown eyes.
These images form a single bleak picture that hangs on the walls of my heart. But if this picture is reality, then I do not know poverty. For this picture is Xeroxed from my world; it is not my actual world.
My poverty is not “out there.” It is “in here” … and it is abominable. I taste it in the bitter bite of apathy. I smell it in the stench of my stale heart. I drown in its waves of raging indifference.
Oh, Lord! I gasp for Your presence!
Would You save me from cheap, hollow distractions? Deafen my ears to the beckoning snap of the dollar bill; I want instead to hear the crack of my own heart as You reposition it rightly before You. Would You blind me to gold, glitz, and glamour? I want instead to see Your peace, justice, and faithfulness. Would You restore feeling where I am numbed by self-preservation? Oh that You would melt me with the wildfire of Your compassion!
You give me air, life, and breath that I might receive growth, promise, and hope. These lifesprings well up and bubble over. They tickle. They shine. They last. You, oh God, pour out your riches without measure. And I? I receive them without hesitation. For it is the treasures of Your abiding presence, oh Lord, that make whole my broken soul.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Thursday, November 19, 2009
You know how the grocery stores rearrange their stock every now and then, just to make you wander around and look at things? It's so disorienting, walking down the aisle to exactly where the shredded wheat lives, to suddenly come face-to-face with nothing but creamed corn and that soft, over-salted asparagus in the skinny cans. Certainly this isn't a customer-friendly practice, but they keep doing it, so I assume it generates some revenue.
I wonder if God doesn't do the same thing with us sometimes, when we start heading for the cereal aisle every time we walk in the door, because he knows that if he doesn't shake things up, we'll completely miss a lot of the great things he's made available for us.
This is not to say you should buy the creamed corn; it's just a reminder to be aware of God's bottom line as we attend to our routines, because he has so much more in store for us than we realize.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Observe: common refined sugar.
Now, when I say it's like crack, I'm not referring only to its alleged addictive properties (though it is a convenient parallel); mostly I was thinking of the fact that the street drug and the sweetener share an uncanny resemblance as white, powdery substances, and the unfortunate truth that both provide a happy little "fix" while ultimately serving as a detriment to your health.
Crack, of course, is an illegal narcotic, but while sugar is getting some bad press lately, it remains deeply entrenched in our culture. Consider the phrase, "American as apple pie," for example. What makes an apple pie? A good crust, fruit, and lots of sugar. The stuff is all over the place in our traditions, our artistic expressions, and our everyday life.
Now, before this turns into an anti-sugar essay, let me say that sugar represents a common trend in America and in my own life, where we pursue things simply because they taste so good. We even, from time to time, try to convince ourselves that it's healthy. But we only try to do that because we know it's not. Meanwhile, our society is so wrapped up in a hedonistic paradigm that turning away just seems weird.
Enter Dr. Jerry Sittser. I had the opportunity to hear Jerry speak briefly yesterday, and he reminded me of a phenomenon that I hadn't thought about in awhile. Back in the day, (we're talking fourth century A.D., not the 1980's) droves of people ditched civilization completely and went to live in Middle Eastern deserts, where they battled demons, ate dates, and sat on pillars in isolation, all ostensibly with the goal of seeking God. I've always been a little skeptical of the "desert fathers" myself, but I think we can learn a lot from them about the value of discipline.
Asceticism was highly regarded in that time and region as a means to escape corrupt culture and foster spirituality; it seems strange to us, what those people were doing, and accordingly we as the church in America have largely turned our backs on the materially spare lifestyle they modeled. We don't even really use the term "asceticism" anymore, at least not for normal people. It's more the domain of hairless vegetarian Tibetans and extreme protesters.
This all might be another symptom of the somewhat misguided quest for cultural relevance, but it might also be due to our own purchase of the line everyone is trying to sell us--you should try to "get yours" (it's the American dream! The American way!) as long as you don't, you know, go overboard with it (everything in moderation!). We're blessed and God wants us to be happy, so the only limit to our excess is our own ability to justify it.
At this point I've written well past my intended stopping point, but suffice it to say that my life is probably built around the pursuit of superficial gratification more than I realize, and it's probably doing me less good than I think (and I suspect that I am not alone in this).
As a friend of mine once said, "I had a hatchet in one hand, and a drink in the other; it really was all about pleasure." It's an apt metaphor, I think; it's just what we do, and unfortunately it's hard to work for God when your hands are so occupied.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I hope it inspires you.
Transforming Your Workplace By Os Hillman
This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." (Matthew 6:9-10).
What would your workplace look like if this prayer were answered today where you work?
"Transformation" is a powerful word. Just hearing it, you almost automatically think of radical conversions and incredible change. But is it possible to transform your workplace into something Christ-like? Jesus thinks so.
One example involves a story told in Ed Silvoso's book, Anointed for Business, about a Filipino business man who owned a hotel chain. God saved this man and began an amazing transformation in his life and his large scale hotel.
The man owned a 1600-room hotel that covered three buildings. Because of its rates and location, the hotel had become a haven for prostitution, with the rooms being used as much as five times a day. There were over 2000 employees, and the primary clientele were more than 3000 prostitutes.
One of Silvoso's associates shared with the owner a formula for winning the lost, so he hired 40 pastors and told them to follow these instructions: a. Speak peace to the wolves. Bless those who curse you. b. Eat and drink with the sinners. Become their friends. c. Pray for them and their needs. The pastors were not to share the gospel until they'd met these three requirements for two years. What an investment. But ultimately, it paid off.
The pastors followed these three rules and saw every single one of the 2,000 employees become saved. The hotel was upgraded to an executive level, raising the rates and forcing the prostitutes out because they could no longer afford it. They even added a prayer chapel with 24/7 prayer available to anyone by dialing '7' on the telephone. Two years later, 10,000 guests had received the Lord on the property.*
That's transformation! And that's the kind of transformation we can see in our workplaces. We just have to find the vision and the willingness to ask God, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?"
*Adapted from story in Anointed for Business, Ed Silvoso, Regal Books, Ventura, CA 2006.
Contact Os Hillman at marketplaceleaders.org