Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Problems

"I am SO tired...and I still have 2 more rooms to clean before company comes!"

"I don't know what to buy my parents for Christmas."

"Daggone it! I lost my cell phone."

"What a time to have my muffler fall off! This is the busiest time of year and I have to do without my car all afternoon!"

"Ugh. The thing I hate most about Christmas is taking down the decorations afterwards."

"This cough. If it doesn't go away, I'm going to have to go to the doctor and get another prescription."

Problems. Do you know what kind of problems they are?

Rich people problems.

Say what????

Yep. Everyone of those statements could only be made by one of us rich people. Yeah, I hear you. You say you aren't rich, and it's getting worse with everything the government is doing with medical care and taxes. I totally get it. My husband and I are in the age bracket that's getting hit incredibly hard. With extra taxes and less medical care, our income is dropping by thousands in 2014.

But, still--you are reading a blog written by one of the richest people in the world, and you, my dear reader, are most likely one of the richest as well. If you have an annual income of $25,000, you are in the top 10% of the entire world. If you earn $47,500, you are in the top 1%. Amazing.

I should mention, even though I am so rich, I drive a 1999 used Buick, my husband drives a van with 246,000+ miles on it. But we drive. We have cars. Only rich people do. And I forgot to mention, we have a garage they both fit into so we don't have to scrape windows in the frigid mornings. We're so crazy rich we not only have a house WE live in and decorate for the holidays, we have a special place for the CARS to live in. Is that nuts or what??

I lose my cell phone on a daily basis. But Charlie and I both have cellphones. I can be in constant contact with my other rich friends and family members because they all have phones.

Most medicine I need is right in my medicine cabinet. Did you hear that? I am so rich, I can afford to keep enough medicine on hand that I designate a cabinet to keep it in. Mind blowing.

I have enough clothes that I have to make a place in my bedroom to hang them all, and the floor of the closet is covered with pairs of shoes, when I only have 2 feet. I have some articles in my closet I haven't worn in months. Crazy to be this well off.

We have a refrigerator in our house stuffed with food and drinks that need to be kept cold, and shelves for other food. But just yesterday I came in from work and asked my husband, "Is there anything to eat?" I am so rich, I can afford to be picky.

I have friends who have enough money to disagree how they spend it, and they end their marriages over it. That's too rich. Way too rich.

So many of the people I have met in this world are not rich like me. They don't have rich people problems. Their issues sound like this:

"There isn't enough water to wash the clothes. We could only carry enough to drink." And the water is brown.

"Are there any shoes in that bag that could fit Simo? He hasn't had any this year."

"Oh, Jesus! Please make my baby well! Everyone is dying! Please, not my baby!"

"Just beans or rice today. It's almost all gone."

Yet they sing "Joy to the World, the Lord is come!" with gusto.

Me and my rich friends--well, we sure are happy that Jesus came. But we need Santa to come, too. You understand that, don't you? And, for real--Santa needs to put some thought into it. The right gift shows you care. Lots of relational problems develop over a disappointing Christmas.

Yep. Me and my rich friends. We sure have problems.

Pray for us, won't you?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Love My Job......

I love my job. I love the people, the atmosphere, the challenge, the rewards of transformed lives. I love finding diamonds in the rough, and being part of the process of shaping and polishing them into 5 carat jewels.  It's more than a job, however. It's a calling.  If it was simply a job, when the rewards were slow and low, the challenges high and many, and I had unrelenting pressure from a part of the job that kept me awake nights, I could just change jobs. Get a new one. Go someplace else. But the call of God is not like that. Ask Jeremiah. Ask Hosea. Ask Paul. Ask Jesus. Part of the job for every pastoral leader, a person who leads people in the Kingdom of God, is to be a prophet.

Typically we only think of prophets as "foretellers", people who tell the future. But a biblical prophet is a "forth-teller", one who rings out the unchanging word of God and the truth of God in the midst of the chaos of change. One might think this would be an exciting and fulfilling opportunity. After all, we all love the truth, don't we?  And Jesus said that the truth would set us free, didn't he? Well, yes, he did. But the overlooked fact is that in Jesus' ministry to real, live, human beings with the personal will and freedom of choice, much of the time, hearing the truth made Jesus' hearers miserable first. Truth is, being the Truth and telling the truth got him killed. It's an age-old problem. I love MY truth, not necessarily THE Truth.

It was that way from the beginning. When God called Ezekiel, he was absolutely candid about the prospects. "The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words...Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people." (Ezekiel 2:4-6)  The Apostle Paul, one of the most stellar leaders of all time, spoke from personal experience in leading from an unchanging truth base. He encouraged the Hebrews, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you." (Hebrews 3:17)

These instructions speak to both the pastor and the people over whom he/she has responsibility. First, truth is not a majority decision. God says whether the people mostly listen or they mostly don't makes no difference. There is no referendum on truth. It is unchanging. Our listening or not listening to God's truth makes a statement about US, and OUR hearts, not on the truth. Second, fear is the reason truth is so hard. We fear rejection and loss. We fear retaliation. We fear misunderstanding. We fear we will not ever be proven right. God is plain that all of us we need to hold HIM in reverence more than we fear the disapproval of others. As others have said so well, we primarily play to an audience of One.  Third, if I am placed in a position by God to be the truth-teller and I DON'T do it, I am rebelling just like the disobedient people to whom he is wanting me to speak.

Paul adds such a tender note to all of this. Truth-telling was never designed or desired by God to be a fire-breathing, eyebrow singeing process. He pictures it as a part of the responsibility of a very loving, responsible leader, who is guarding and protecting the eternal souls of people, knowing they will answer to God for how they handled their responsibility for those beyond precious commodities.  And I love his last words. When we are "watched over" by someone who cares for our souls, he urges us to cooperate with them and the process so that it is a joyfilled undertaking, not filled with loss and grief. He says that there is no profit to those who need the truth without this right attitude. 

So, back to the beginning. I do love my job. I do love my calling. I have a double-sided responsibility. I am not only IN authority as a caretaker of souls; I have those who watch over me. I freshly commit to receiving the truth and counsel God gives them for me. Joy to the World! The TRUTH has come!