Archive for March 2009

March 19, 2009

March 19, 2009
“The Progress of Back-steps”

I was walking through a hospital recently, pretending to know where I was going. When I came to a dead end and the wall in front of me didn’t open I knew I had missed something. I retraced my steps and came to a corridor that goes right and left. I had gone right when I should have gone left. (There is not meant to be any kind of political statement or inference in that whatsoever!)
It was one of those moments when you’re glad no one else knows what you were thinking or doing, because right at that point there were signs…BIG SIGNS!…telling me which direction I was to head in if I wanted a certain department in the hospital. Being your typical male, I hadn’t seen the signs because I had already made up my mind which way I was going. It was only in taking a few steps back…okay, a whole lot of steps back…that I saw the right way!
I think about that in relation to our spiritual journeys. We’re so focused on progress and moving forward that we often miss the value of back-steps. In fact, I believe there is a fallacy that is being lived out in numerous spiritual journeys today that says “If it doesn’t move me forward it must not be of God. If it isn’t a success story something’s wrong!”
But there are times when we have to step back to make progress. When you read 1 Corinthians you find numerous examples of the church in Corinth moving forward only to have to back-up. In chapter 3 of that New Testament book there’s the concern of people becoming drawn to different leaders. It was the first century spiritual equivalent to high school “letter jackets”. (By the way, I still have my varsity letter jacket hanging in my closet from Ironton High School; Ironton, Ohio…”Go Fighting Tigers!”) Each group thought they were making progress. There were the “Apollos-ites”, who thought Apollos was “the cat’s meow.” And then there was “Paul’s Pack”, who liked to identify themselves with the apostle who was known all over. To this Paul writes “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” (1 Corinthians 3:2)
Time to back up the journey!
Paul let’s them know that they haven’t arrived, and in thinking they’ve arrived they REALLY haven’t arrived. The Corinthians need to back up a little bit and realize where they took a wrong turn. They need to realize that they missed some signs, some key teachings, some messages from the Lord.
How easy it is to confuse forward movement as always being progress, as always being the next step in the journey God is leading us in.
When we get into life situations that are difficult and perplexing and we seem clueless as to what should be our next step, back-steps bring us to a point that we’ve already visited but missed the meaning in. It brings us back to a place that seemed insignificant when we were first there, but in returning to it we see that it was huge!
Those back-steps retrace conversations, events, and decisions. They back us up to the point where we realize we made a bad choice that has had consequences. Or the back-steps bring us back to a point where we can see the whole forest instead of the most immediate tree in front of us. We can see the re-run of how the hand of God was apparent, even though we missed the original occurrence.
Progress sometimes can only happen by taking a few steps back. Call it “spiritual moonwalking” if you’d like, as long as you get back to where you can better see the hand of God.

March 10, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. March 6, 2009

“The Mainstreaming of Styrofoam”

We go through “spells” of eating out. (Since we’ve been going through the Dave Ramsey course, Financial Peace University, that has decreased greatly. In fact, I think tonight we’ll go out to eat in celebratiuon of the facvt that we don’t eat out as much any more!).
When we’re in the midst of one of our “spells” our refrigerator gets stacks of Styrofoam take-out boxes in it. One has the remnants of a cheeseburger and fries in it. Another has a baked potato with three bites missing. A third one has lettuce that has lost the crispness of when it was first in a salad bowl. There in the refrigerator they are stacked like building blocks, each one in its own Styrofoam container. Sometimes if I have a meeting or some other kind of function and I miss the usual dinner time meal, I come home and take one of the take-out containers and finish off the remains.
And after I do that I toss the container. No one washes styrofoam around our house.
One and done!
Finished and diminished!
We often don’t think anything about it…unless I start re-heating the leftovers in the Styrofoam container. If Carol catches me she tells me that it’s not good for me, kind of like microwaving things in plastic containers, or eating microwave popcorn, or any of a number of other things. (Why can’t eating broccoli be bad for you?)
Styrofoam, however, has mainstreamed itself into our culture. It’s cheap! It’s so “mainstream” that we seldom think about environmental effects and repercussions with it. We use it, toss it, and go on to the next meal.
The problem is the mindset that is becoming more and more prevalent. Styrofoam is just one example of an ever-growing list of examples that communicate that we are short-term, limited-focused, self-absorbed people who live in the moment and don’t worry about the future. Jesus said something about that in regards to sparrows and lilies, but I don’t think he was telling us to live for the now and not worry about the repercussions of our decisions in the future.
I see “the mainstreaming of a Styrofoam mindset” infecting how we view relationships. Marriages that are long-term are in short supply. More and more people treat marriage as an episode of their life; and the next marriage will be another episode; and the next…you get the point.
We are more about Styrofoam relationships than fine china commitments. You don’t throw away the fine china. You treasure it. You display it in “the china cabinet”. There are no styrofoam cabinets, just trashed and “not yet trashed”. In our house, the china symbolizes something special. It’s precious and fragile, so it is handled with care. Chinaware is defined as “high quality”.
Oh, that our relationships would be considered that!
I’m not saying that ended relationships and divorce court marriages aren’t void of pain. Many of them are so painful the persons involved never recover or heal. But many relationships are void of value. There has been a lack of investment, and so it’s easy to toss it and start again. That’s why Styrofoam is so popular. It’s cheap and replaceable.
There are a lot of landfills overflowing with Styrofoam. The “white stuff” hangs around there like a hovering mother-in-law.
What if high-commitment relationships became more mainstreamed? What if there was such value placed on our relationships that we would hold them with care?
May our relationships have a little more “china” in them!