Spiritual Musings from an Educated Redneck

An inside look of the mind of Pirate Pops

Two Glasses Shy

For many many years I have been on the front lines of the battle against the devastation alcohol has brought upon individuals, families, and our entire society.  The cavalier attitude so many Christians take toward the use of alcohol has distressed me to the core of my being.  Some I have known even see their alcohol use as a badge of honor as an expression of their freedom in Christ.  Scattered around them are the broken lives and the detritus left in its wake.  They don’t seem to notice.

Recently I read an article by Gordon Keith that appeared in the Dallas Morning News on July 11, 2013.  Its clarity and applicability struck me so much that I decided to repeat it here.  I wish that I had written these words.

“Last week, 20-year-old Kirstyn Blackwood fell off the back of a party boat in the approaching darkness on Lake Ray Hubbard and no one noticed.  Directionless and confused, the girl treaded water for two hours before a rescuer’s spotlight found her 200 yards from shore.

This weekend and every weekend after until the cold sobers us up, we’ll be out on our lakes with our plastic cups and leaking coolers chasing good times and navigating poor decisions.  For most of us, life without alcohol doesn’t seem like much of a life.  It’s what we do.  We pair it with everything.  A lake outing, a celebration, a defeat, a night out, a night in, a Christmas, a Memorial Day, a wedding, a Wednesday.

I got a promotion.  Let’s have a drink.

I didn’t get the promotion.  Let’s have a drink.

Alcohol is the prescription and the accepted response for all life’s experiences, even opposing ones.  Part of this is cultural.  But most of it’s human.

We are born two drinks shy of happiness.  Two drinks gets you to what feels like the natural starting line of life.  It’s a warm restoration.  A velvet womb.  Easy, free and a transceiver of love.  But if you’re unlucky, it gets harder to hit that target of two-drink contentment.  Soon three is not enough and four is too many.  Then five is not enough and six is too many.  And so on.  Managing the alchemy can be exhausting and futile.

When you’re young, sailor drinking is expected.  In bikinis and frat houses, prodigious bouts of drinking result in proudly retold epics.  But when you’re not young, but just want to feel that way, prodigious bouts are retold by loved ones that hush when you enter the room.  You start off drinking out of the bottle and at some secret point it starts drinking out of you.  It’s not everyone, but it’s enough.

If he’s lucky the drinker will quickly figure out that his two-drink deficit can’t be slaked with actual drinking, or drugs, or adventure, or money, or sex, or the approval of strangers.  He’ll still envy people who can have one glass of wine a night, but not as much as he’ll envy those who can have five.  There are many who feel that as long as they are a functioning alcoholic, they’re not an alcoholic.  That’s the sad logic of the besotted mind.

Not all alcohol consumption is bad, but most of it remains unexamined.  How many bad decisions have been made under the fuzzy blanket of alcohol?  How many mornings have been salted with the detective work of piecing together the previous night?  How many afternoons have been christened with new drinks to swallow old shame?  It’s a carousel that some stay on because they think carousels are fun.  Maybe they are, but they don’t go anywhere.

It’s Friday, and once again the lure of the Party Coves of North Texas is calling.  To many, this past weekend’s toll is already a forgotten news story bearing someone else’s name, and the party will go on.  Most of the lake drinkers will be young and will survive the delicious pleasures of an unwise youth, but some will be those older drinkers carrying nervous kids with watchful eyes.

We still have a lot of summer left and a lot of beer.  I just hope we, I included, enjoy it with a splash of moderation.  It may be a kill-joy virtue but it’s also a certain salvation.  For our light drinkers, I feel gratitude and hope.  For my fellow heavy drinkers, I fear most of us will tread water a long time before we’re hit with the illumination that means rescue.”

Well, those are words spoken like someone who has been on the devastating end of the drug.  Unwilling to ask others to completely abstain lest they too feel the heavy hand of addiction, he pleads for moderation.  That’s fair.  I guess the problem is that none of us know in whom that biological switch dwells that the first drink flips.  Then its “Game on!”

Seems to me the better part of wisdom is to simply abstain.  Then that switch never has the chance to get flipped.

I don’t know, if you are two glasses short of happiness, you might want to begin looking for the reason rather than trying to achieve it by artificial and potentially devastating means.  I’m just saying….

Choot Em!

Recently a friend gave me a tee shirt with just two simple words written across the chest. “Choot em!”  That’s from a very popular reality TV show called Swamp People.  Its stars are some southern Louisiana Cajun folk who go out into the swamp and hunt gators!  When they get a big one next to the boat you are liable to hear someone shout out, “Choot em!  Choot em!” in that unique Cajun vernacular. 

Well, recently I read a “Choot em!” story that really caught my attention.  I’ll let her tell it in her own words.

“While walking along the edge of a bayou in southern Louisiana with my soon to be ex-husband, we were discussing property settlement and other divorce issues.  Suddenly, we were surprised by a huge 12-foot alligator lunging out from the murky water and charging us with its large jaws wide open.  The gator must have been protecting her nest because she was extremely aggressive.  If I had not had my little Beretta Jetfire .25 caliber pistol with me I would not be here today!  Just one shot to my estranged husbands kneecap was all it took.  The gator got him easily and I was able to escape by just walking away at a brisk pace.  It’s one of the best pistols in my collection!  Plus, the amount I saved in lawyer’s fees was more than worth the purchase price of the gun!”

Now I know that wasn’t exactly the ending to the story you were expecting.  When I read it I certainly wasn’t expecting it.  But it did ring a certain bell in me.  Not that estranged wives should shoot their husbands and leave them for the alligators, although some might like that part of the story.

What rung my bell is that so often that is exactly what we do to other people to protect ourselves!  We “Choot Em!”  We do something that we know is wrong and when we are in danger of getting caught we place the blame on someone else.  We “Choot Em” and walk away. 

You know how it goes.  Well it wasn’t my fault.  If they hadn’t….If he or she wasn’t so….On and on it goes.  Pass the buck.  Lay the blame.  Dodge the bullet.  It’s always something or someone else.  It’s never me!

The truth is the most probably when you are looking in the mirror you are looking at the problem.  Or you are at least looking at the only part of the problem you can do anything about.  You.

We have a question we ask someone whenever they come to us ragging on someone else for something the person said or did.  It goes like this.  “What’s your part?”  Usually that is responded to with a “Huh? What do you mean my part?”  Just what I said.  “What’s your part?”  When you identify that, then you can begin to get to the resolution.  As long as you are laying all the blame on the other person you will never identify your part and you will never grow. 

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

So the next time you get ready to “Choot Em” take a moment and look in the mirror.  See any logs?

 

A BUG IN THE WATER

Our precious granddaughter, June Bug (who is our world), takes swimming lessons. She has been taking lessons since she was less than a year old.  She is now nearly two.  Usually there is a class of five or six children.  Some of them take to it quickly and some of them cry the entire time they are in the water with their parent and the swim instructor.

As you observe the class you quickly realize that some of the children would do fine if  none of the other children would cry.  When they see another one begin to wail they figure, “I guess I’m supposed to be crying,” so off they go to join the chorus.

June responds to the criers a little differently.  Today (of this writing) the class only had June and one other child.  They were in their motorboats (a styrofoam thingy bent into a horseshoe shape) that they drape their arms over and paddle with their legs.  Thus, they “motor-boat.”

June was having a great time motor-boating when the other child began to cry.  She sized up the situation and motor-boated over to the other child to bring encouragement and comfort.  First, she tried to give her fellow motor-boater the plastic star-fish that she was carrying.  That didn’t help.  Next she patted the other child on the shoulder in a comforting manner.  That didn’t help.  After a short time of making these attempts to bring the child into the joy of the experience, June eventually turned around and motor-boated back to her place and continued with the fun! It’s as if she was saying, “Hey I want to help you.  I want to encourage you to enjoy the water with me!  But if you don’t want to, if you would rather be miserable, then knock yourself out!   I’m not going to let you ruin the experience for me!”  Without even knowing it June Bug was demonstrating a valuable spiritual and personal truth.  The difference between Co-dependence and Christ-dependence

We are called to render aid (Good Samaritan), bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, serve one another etc.  We are also called to draw our sense of worth, value, and meaning, not from the service we render to others, but from the Savior we serve.  Not from the response of others but from our relationship with Christ. That is the difference between being Co-dependent (where you need the approval, praise, and acceptance of others), which is dysfunctional and defeating, and being Christ-dependent (getting all of those needs met by Him) which is fulfilling and freeing.

The problem is being enough in touch with your own motives and mis-steps to recognize the difference.  Here are few diagnostic questions you can ask yourself in order to find out whether you are Co-dependent or Christ-dependent.

When you serve others:

1.  Are you doing it for yourself, or for Christ?

2.  Are you serving the person or serving Christ by serving the person?

3.  Are you interested in the praise of the person or the praise of Christ?

4.  Does your joy depend upon getting a positive response from the person?

5.  Can you motor-boat back and enjoy your experience even when others don’t respond positively to you?

So the next time someone around you begins to wail away take a lesson from a “Bug in the Water.”  Offer help to others but don’t obsess over their response.  Learn when to serve and when to separate.

Be Christ-Dependent not Co-Dependent

REPAINT!

 Recently, I came across a story that not only made me laugh but made me think as well.  Now that’s a good story! It seems there was a Scottish painter named Smokey MacGregor who was very interested in making a penny where he could, so he often thinned down his paint to make it go a wee bit further.  As it happened, he got away with this for some time.   Eventually the local church decided to do a big restoration job on the outside of one of their biggest buildings.

Smokey put in a bid, and, because his price was so low, he got the job.  He set about erecting the scaffolding and setting up the planks, buying the paint and, yes, I am sorry to say, thinning it down.  Well, Smokey was up on the scaffolding painting away, the job nearly completed, when suddenly there was a horrendous clap of thunder, the sky opened, and the rain poured down washing the thinned paint off of the church and knocking Smokey clear off the scaffold to land on the lawn among the gravestones.  There he lay surrounded by telltale puddles of the thinned and useless paint. Smokey was no fool. He knew this was a judgment from the Almighty, so he got down on his knees and cried: “Oh, God, Oh God, forgive me; what should I do?”  From the thunder, a mighty voice spoke, “Repaint! Repaint!   And thin no more!”

Now that’s funny, I don’t care who you are!  But it isn’t just funny.  It’s insightful as well.

You see, sin is really a “thinning” of God’s purpose.  The paint that Smokey bought was meant to be used at its manufactured specifications.  When he “thinned” it he distorted, degraded, and de-valued it.  That’s what sin is!  It is a distortion, degradation, and de-valuation of God’s purpose.

So what does God want us to do?  Repaint!  Do it over and do it right this time! That is actually in a sense what the word repentance means in the original language of the New Testament (Greek).  It’s a compound word of two words that literally mean to “change the mind.”  Change your mind about how you paint!  Change your mind about “thinning” out God’s Word, His Truth, His Will, and His Way in your life!

So the next time you decide to “thin” what God has said He wants you to do and be in attitude or action remember His words to Smokey.  “Repaint!  Repaint!  And thin no more!”

REAL HEROES

What is a hero?  Is it a professional athlete that performs well on the field of play?  Many seem to think so.  We can certainly appreciate the ability but I don’t think that’s a hero. Is it someone who makes millions of dollars in business or the stock market and so others look up to him or her?  Many seem to think so.  We can appreciate their shrewd and strategic thinking, but I don’t think so.  That’s not a hero.

A hero is someone who does something heroic for someone else, at his or her own peril.  Being a hero is about personal sacrifice. 

Just this week we have seen it happen in two places in America.  Some coward planted two bombs near the finish of the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding hundreds more.  Heroes?  Those runners who immediately stopped and helped others.  Those onlookers who stayed to help others.  Those officials, who, rather than running from the blast, ran toward it to help the hurting.  Those are our heroes.

Then just the next day a fertilizer plant caught fire and then exploded in the small community of West, Texas, just north of Waco.  When the fire began those first responders, volunteer firemen and officers, began moving toward the fire, knowing this was a fertilizer plant and what the potential was for an explosion.  Sure enough, before the fire could be extinguished, a massive explosion went off, immediately killing at least five of the first responders.  Heroes?  Without a doubt.  They went toward the danger for the sake of others and in this case gave their lives in the effort.

So often the true heroes aren’t the ones who are widely known or recognized.  That’s true in the Bible as well.  The Bible has many heroes who one could immediately identify as such.  It has a few that you wouldn’t immediately think of in terms of a hero.  Nevertheless they are, because of what they did for the sake of others and the Gospel.

This week I heard a speaker at a banquet speak about one of those unusual heroes.  He did so in a humorous way, and it is in some ways humorous, but it is also incredibly indicative of the heart of a hero.  His name was Timothy. 

You see Paul was getting ready to go on a missionary journey and the discussion was being held about who would accompany him.  Someone mentioned Timothy.  A young man, perhaps at the most, thirty years of age.  A Godly and committed Christ follower.  Paul agreed that would be a great choice.  There was only one problem.  Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and a gentile father.  Because of that, he had never been circumcised.

Now Paul had already dealt with this issue, that it wasn’t necessary to be circumcised (to first become a Jew), in order to become a Christian.  But he also knew that as a practical matter, he would be going into the synagogues of the Jews to preach Jesus and having an uncircumcised person with him would be a stumbling block to the Jews.

So he asked Timothy to be circumcised.  Timothy, a grown man, understanding that it had nothing to do with his spiritual standing in Christ, agreed to be circumcised in order to promote the Gospel among the Jews. 

The banquet speaker said it this way.  So here is Timothy, being held down by four big men, and up steps the one who is going to do the procedure.  He has a sharp piece of flint in one hand, and no anesthetic in the other!!!  Now, I’ve got to tell you, that’s a real man!  That’s a real hero!  Timothy took one for the team!  Layed it all out on the line (or table), for the Gospel!! 

Why?  For the sake of others.  He did what he didn’t have to do, wasn’t required to do, in order to promote the Gospel among the Jews, who were the only ones who would have cared whether he was circumcised or not.

Side note here.  How would they have known whether he was circumcised or not?  Wouldn’t it have been on the honor system?  Just a thought.  Not really germane to the discussion.

In terms of our discussion of the heroes of Boston and West, Texas, Timothy ran to the blast rather than away from it.  He ran to the fire rather than away from it.  Why?  For the sake of others. 

How about it?  Are you a hero for the Gospel?  The question isn’t answered by how many people know your name.  It isn’t answered by how prominent you are.  It is answered by what you are willing to do for the sake others who need Christ.

That’s a real Hero!  Real heroes run to the fire not away from it. 

SONS OF DITCHES

Now I don’t mean to be crude with that title but I just wanted to get your attention right off the bat!  Did I do that?  Good.  I have been doing a teaching series titled “The Crazies.”  Each week I am dealing with something we ought to get crazy about.  This week the message is “Let’s Get Crazy about Compassion.”  The text is Luke 10 where Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. 

A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho down the Jericho road which was known for its danger from robbers.  Sure enough they got him and left him in the ditch after they robbed and stripped him. 

Along came a Priest who passed him by.  Then came a Levite, who was like a Temple assistant to the priests, and he passed him by.  But a Samaritan, passing by, stopped, crawled into the ditch, and pulled the man out.  Then he took him to the next place where he could be cared for and payed for his care! 

Jesus told the story to clarify for a young specialist in the Old Testament law how far our love was to reach.  Jesus had just answered the question for the lawyer, “What is the greatest commandment.”  Jesus said, and I paraphrase, “Love God with everything you are and love your neighbor as yourself.”  The lawyer wanted that definition of neighbor narrowed down a bit so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” 

So Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus made the hero of the story someone the lawyer would have looked down upon.  A Samaritan.  A half-Jew whom any orthodox Jew would look upon as less than human.  Even worse than a Gentile. The hurting person in the story could have been anyone.  Jew, Samaritan, Gentile.  Jesus doesn’t specify.  All he tells us in the story is that the man was in the ditch and needed help. 

The point?  Help him!  He is your neighbor!  Two religious people refused to help but the Samaritan did what was right.

As I thought about this story I thought, “Why would it be the Samaritan who helped and not the others?”  Well perhaps because he was a Samaritan he knew what it was like to be hurt.  He had been hurt all of his life.  Looked down upon, rejected by the Jewish population that surrounded Samaria on all sides.  In essence he was in touch with his own “ditchiness” and so had compassion on the man who was in the ditch right then.

You know one of the greatest hindrances to true compassion is when we get out of touch with own “ditchiness.”  When we forget where we came from.

Paul reminds us of our ditchiness in Epesians 2:11-12. Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ” Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands – remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

In fact the Word of God tells us that every one of us was born in a ditch! A ditch of sin and death.

Ephesians 2 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins……. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved )..”

So the next time you are tempted to pass by someone in the ditch just take a look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Why, you Son of a Ditch!”  Who do you think you are?

 

LUNCH FOR THE LION

Recently I was watching the National Geographic Channel (I know I’m a Red-neck nerd) and saw one of the most incredible things I have seen ever seen.  A wildlife videographer was in Africa where he had been following and filming a group of Cheetah’s for several months.  One day he caught on film three of the males fighting over a female.  Some serious blows were being traded.  The fracas eventually went into the bush where the female was laying down. All you could see on the film was flashes of fur, accompanied by growls and hisses and the shaking bush.  It was obvious the three were seriously going after each other.  About that time a big male lion came along and began to stalk toward the bush!  The Cheetahs were so busy with each other they never saw him.  He hit the bush on a full run.  Now there are four Cheetahs and a lion in the same bush.  One by one the cheetahs squirted out of the bush.  Three of them that is.  The fourth, the female, only appeared when the lion dragged her out with her head crushed in his mouth and dropped her on the ground.  She was dead.

Here is where it got crazy.  The three males only went about thirty yards away from the scene of the mauling and they began fighting again!  Totally ignored the lion and continued to fight, although the reason for the original brawl, the female, was now dead!

The lion began another stalk.  When he reached about ten yards from the three he launched his attack.  Now understand, a Cheetah can outrun a lion with no problem.  A lion doesn’t stand a chance against a Cheetah in a foot race.  Cheetahs have been clocked at over 60 miles per hour and they can achieve that speed in a matter of seconds.  So they all three easily scampered away to safety.  But like total idiots they only went a little ways and then guess what?  They went after each other again!  Again the lion stalked, launched his attack, and they scampered away.  On the third time this happened, he chased one of them and caught him!  The Cheetah was dead in a matter of seconds.

They played the film back in slow motion and it looked like the Cheetah wasn’t even trying to get away.  He never stretched out in that long Cheetah stride that can cover up to 26 feet in one step.  Why wouldn’t he put the peddle to the metal and save himself?  Because he couldn’t.  In the last brawl with his brothers he had been hurt.  The Lion took advantage of his woundedness and destroyed him.  This time the other two got the message and they saturated the place with their absence.

As I watched that scene play itself out I couldn’t believe it.  They were so focused on fighting each other that they ignored the enemy who wanted to kill them all.  They continued to fight each other even when the reason for the fight didn’t even exist anymore!  Because of that, two of the four became lunch for the lion.

There are so many applications that came to mind about this I can’t even begin to deal with them all.  But two applications stood out to me immediately.

1.  The enemy loves it when we fight each other

It makes his day!  Why?  Because while we focus on fighting each other we aren’t watching for him!  We make his job easy when we fight and quarrel over our petty differences and individual agendas.  If we don’t kill each other in the fight then he will come in and do it for us.  That’s why the Word of God speaks so often about how believers are to pray for one another, forgive, serve, and reconcile with one another on a constant basis.  When don’t he wreaks havoc in our midst

2.  The enemy attacks us in our woundedness

How did the lion happen to pick out the wounded Cheetah?  Was it by accident?  Not on your life.  Any wildlife expert will tell you that predators seek out the weak and wounded

and they have an uncanny ability to know which ones those are.  It was no accident that the lion chased the one who was wounded.  He knew it and he planned it.

Our enemy does the same thing.  He attacks us at our point of woundedness and our unwillingness to admit our wounds, deal with our wounds, and experience emotional/spiritual healing in Christ makes us vulnerable to his attacks.  He is a predator and all predators seek out the weak and wounded.

I Peter 5:8 Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Do yourself a favor.  Stop fighting your brothers and sisters in Christ and deal with your woundedness.  Otherwise, you might become lunch for the lion.

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME

Recently I did a wedding for a couple here at City On A Hill.  The Groom had been with us for many years but we first got to know the Bride to be when she began attending with him.  We immediately fell in love with her.

You have to know that this guy is a cut up!  About two weeks before the wedding I received a message on my phone with a picture of the two of them in front of the courthouse holding a copy of the marriage license.  He included the message, “This should make it legal for us to at least go to third base!”  I messaged back.  “Don’t even go to the ballpark!!”

So a couple weeks later, when the ceremony was over and the bride and groom had gone out into the foyer I told that story to the congregation.  Of course, everyone laughed.  Then I announced the reception which the bride and groom had arranged to be a very simple, and short event.  Then I said, “I don’t know why they want this thing to be over so fast.  I have no idea where they are in such a hurry to get to.  I guess they are going to the Ballpark!  That really brought the house down.  That evening he posted on the City On A Hill Facebook page.  Bases loaded.  Runner on third!!

We have all had a good time telling the story and laughing about it together. And even though we laughed, we all recognized that it really is about a very serious subject.  Why wait until marriage to have sex?

It seems that our secular culture has gone so far beyond that concept that to most people today it sounds ridiculous to even suggest abstinence before marriage.  They say things like, “Well you don’t buy a pair of shoes without trying them on do you?”  Recently, I came across a quote from a young woman who said, “How can you ever know if you could last with a man if you haven’t had sex with him?  I mean sex is such a huge part of the relationship.”  On and on the rationalizations and justifications go.

So let me mention just a couple of very good reasons to save sex for the life-long commitment of marriage.

1.  Because it is how God says it should be done.

Now that should be enough for a Christ follower right there.  The Bible has a word for sex outside the boundaries of marriage.  Fornication.  In Scripture it is never presented in a positive light but is always something that distorts the purpose of God for the sexual act.

2.  It reduces the chances of satisfaction in a later marriage.

Contrary to what the girl said about not knowing if you could live happily with the other person if you didn’t have sex with him before, all of the good research reveals exactly the opposite!  Couples who live together before marriage consistently report less happiness and satisfaction in their marriage than couples that didn’t live together before marriage.

In fact Dr. Laura Schlessinger in her book Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives, includes living with a man before marriage as one of the top ten!

The divorce rate among couples who lived together before marriage compared to those who didn’t live together is higher.  You just don’t do yourself any favors by putting the cart before the horse and doing it your way rather than God’s way.

3.  The Risks of Sexually Transmitted Disease.

In our day and time this is a very big issue. STD’s are at an all-time high and they are increasingly resistant to treatment.  I remember the story of a boy who asked his Grandfather what he had used back in his day to protect against STD’s.  The Granddad held up his ring finger and replied, “A wedding band.”  Not bad advice from a wise man.

Well there it is.  Wait till you get married then go to the ball park, load up the bases, step up to the plate and hit a Grand Slam!  As you trot about the diamond, sing to yourself that grand old song, “Take Me Out To the Ball-Game!”  You’ll enjoy your experience at the park much more.

SPOONIN’ AND MOONIN’

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

Last night we had our first meeting of the Purity Project For Men at City on a Hill (formerly Celebration Fellowship).  Our vision is to be Men who desire to walk in purity of mind and body.  The topic for the night was Lone Rangers.  Why do we as men think we must go it alone and what is the value of having a fellowship of other men to walk with and share with?

One question was, “When have you seen the value of having other men in your life?”  So in the interest of vulnerability and transparency I told my story of Spoonin and Moonin.

My senior year of college four (the other three will remain anonymous lest they sue me for telling this) of us who had grown up together in West Texas and now were at Baylor University, decided to spend our last Spring Break shooting the rapids on the Rio Grande river through the Santa Elena and Boquillas canyons.  We never made it to the Boquillas.  We were fortunate to survive the Santa Elena.

Because it is in the Big Bend National Park we had to check in with the park rangers before we put into the river.  He questioned us about our equipment and told us we were not equipped for the Santa Elena and once in it there was no way out but forward. The Canyon walls reach 1500 feet above the river and the river narrows at the canyon mouth creating some real rapids. Particularly in the March rains.  He told us, “Almost every year someone dies in that canyon.”

We were 22 years old and West Texas boys so we scoffed at the Ranger and went into the river anyway.  After a day of lazy river riding in our little raft we could hear the roar of the canyon entrance 15 minutes before we reached it.  When we hit the entrance, where the river narrows down to half its width, our raft was immediately flipped over and we and everything we had went into the river.  We spent the rest of the day in the river fighting for our lives.  Little did we know that would only be our first fight for survival.

We eventually found a place where we could get out of the river and take stock of our situation.  Everything was wet.  Clothes, sleeping bags (the couple that we had been able to recover).  On top of that, when the sun goes down in the desert it gets cold in March.  Thus our second struggle.  We knew we were now facing the real possibility of hypothermia.  A fun, exciting outing with buds had quickly turned into a fight for life.  We had enough knowledge of survival skills to know we had one option, and everyone was going to have to buy in.  We stripped naked to get dry and then crawled beneath wet sleeping bags and spent the night Spoonin’ and Moonin’, shivering and praying for the sun to come up in the morning.  Of course, we first swore an oath of secrecy for life.  I had the thought, “I wonder if they will respect me in the morning?”  I may now have to go into the witness protection program for ratting them out.  (At least I didn’t name them!)

The Point?  If any of us had been alone that night there is a good chance we might not have survived.  Together we made it out.

In so many ways that experience is a picture of life.  When we try to go it alone we die.  If not physically, for sure emotionally and spiritually.  When we isolate and refuse to connect with others the end result is never good.  God’s Word tells us that and it never lies.  God didn’t create us to be Lone Rangers.  He created us for community.

Sometimes it isn’t comfortable to open ourselves up completely to others.  The thought of doing it can sometimes bring a grown man to his knees in fear.  I can guarantee you that night of spoonin’ and moonin’ wasn’t comfortable.  But it was necessary and I’m thankful for the life-sustaining warmth it provided.  I’m also thankful for other men I can join with in the process of becoming what the Father desires me to be.

So get out there!  Spoon and Moon!  It may not be comfortable but the results will be worth effort!

TRASH BASKET EARS

Once a month the entire leadership team (anyone in any form of leadership in the church) of City on a Hill (Formerly Celebration Fellowship) meets for leadership training.  Last night we met and I was so proud that as a leadership team we prayed a prayer of commitment to God.  The commitment was this.  I RESOLVE TO NEVER HOLD THE WHOLE OPINION WITH ONLY HALF THE STORY.  If all believers resolved to do that it would cut the heart out of the enemy’s ability to divide relationships and hinder the ministry of the Body of Christ.

James 3:1-12 tells us that though the tongue is small it is as powerful as a spark which can destroy a forest, powerful like a rudder that can turn an entire ship, and powerful like a bit in a horses mouth.  Small but powerful. With it he says we, “Bless our Lord and Father and curse men.”  Why?  James says the tongue is a “restless evil” a “world of iniquity”, and is “set on fire by hell.”  Wow…that’s strong.  That’s nasty!  Of course it isn’t the physical tongue that is the real problem is it?  Jesus told us in Matthew 12:34 that the “Mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”  The tongue only does what the heart tells it to do.  Slanderous words come out of a slanderous heart.

This resolution was the result of a discussion we have been having about “slander” and “faithfulness.”  What it is slander and what is faithfulness in this area?  Slander is a translation of the Greek word βλασφημια.  We just transliterated that word and adopted it into English as the word blasphemy.  We can blaspheme God and we can blaspheme people.  When blasphemy is directed toward people it is usually translated as “Slander.” 

Slander by definition is “words spoken to injure or tear down.”  At the end of the day slander is murder.  It is character assassination.  Sometimes slanderous words are for the purpose of getting someone you want to harm.  Sometimes they are spoken to cover up your own culpability.  If the spotlight is turned completely on the other person, and you can turn the hearts of others away from that person, then you can skate by in your own sin.  Of course when that is the purpose the story is slanted, distorted, and at best only half told.  Slanderous words are meant to convince someone to hold the WHOLE opinion about another person with only HALF the story.

So what does faithfulness look like when it comes to slander? 

1.  When you are slandered refuse to slander back.  Stay with the truth and only the truth.  Jesus modeled that on the cross as he prayed for those crucifying Him.

2.  When someone tries to use your ear for a trash basket for their slanderous words about someone else, faithfulness says,  “I refuse to hold a WHOLE opinion with only HALF the story.”  Therefore, now I must be faithful to go to that person you have spoken about and get the “rest of the story”.  And since you are the one who said these things you need to go with me!!! Most of the time they won’t go with you.  That should tell you something right there. Taking this approach will accomplish two things.

1.  It will protect your heart from being poisoned toward the one being spoken about.  No matter how much you try to not let it happen, when those words have been dumped into your ear they find their way into your heart and mind.  They poison your heart toward that other person even without you realizing it.  There is a seed of suspicion and doubt planted.  You can’t keep it from happening.  Getting the whole story will protect your heart.

2.  It will eventually send the message to people that your ears are not a trash basket.  That people can’t just walk by and toss their trash into your ears.  They will begin to avoid you with their slander.  You will protect yourself from being poisoned by it and even becoming a party to the slander.  God hates it.  We should hate it as well.

Be Faithful!  Send out the message.  My ears aren’t trash baskets!!  

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