BABY STEPS

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Proverb 16:9 says,  “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.”

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LET US PRAY:

FIRST STEP:
Dear God, please help [this thing] to happen.

SECOND STEP:
(a):  Thank you for it happening!
or  (b): It didn’t happen.  You must have your reasons.

Ever pray like this?   You lift up a prayer, and if it’s answered you praise God.

And if it isn’t answered, you praise God anyway.

Well, now, in some ways that sounds pretty good.

I mean, on the one hand, there’s something nice and neat about this kind of prayer.

No matter the outcome, your faith remains unassailed.

God is still in charge.

It feels safe to pray like this, I know, but something is missing:

Human Agency.

Remember?  God allows things to happen.

Allows us to happen, live without a net.

God is like a parent, guiding an infant taking their first steps.

We still may fall, as we make choices and learn and grow, but we’re never alone.

When you find yourself praying for something to happen in your life,

don’t forget that some of the most important steps,

however timid,

may be yours.

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Have a great week,

Mitch

Literally.

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You know what I’m a little tired of?

The word “literally”.  I am literally tired of the word literally.

But so is everybody else.  Especially when it’s misused.

“It was so funny I was literally dying!”   No you weren’t.  You were laughing.  Use better English

So yeah, overusing “literally” in common speech is annoying.

But you know what concerns me even more? (And will possibly get me some hate mail…)

Overusing “literally” when talking about faith.  More specifically, the Bible.

There are many Christians who read the Bible “literally”, like a book of facts.  Like the answer key for everything.  A Book that has no discrepancies and no falsehoods.

I understand  why people are attracted to that form of faith.  It means putting your faith in one source, one place in the whole world where human infallibility can’t corrupt.

The Bible becomes an anchor of singular truth, cast down from God to keep the faithful from drowning in a world of chaos.

I kind of get that.  It sounds easier than the doggy paddling my faith must do from time to time.

But here’s what I wonder:  What use is imagination if the Bible requires none?  Or doubt, for that matter, in the face of the literal truth?  Why did God give us discerning brains but then lay it all out for us at face value?

Why, after all, do human beings need the Bible to be, from cover to cover, literally true?

I, for one, think the Bible is indeed inspired by God, but written through many different people, in a variety of cultures and settings.

I think the Bible contains life shaping instruction and wisdom, but that it has to to be fleshed out with my whole being.  My mind, my traditions, even my experiences.

I don’t think of the Bible as a Fact book, filled with one unerring detail after another, but rather as a Truth book–to be uncovered and interpreted–even argued with!

By reducing my use of the word “literally” when talking about the Bible, it means the Good Book is to be used in conjunction with the rest of my life, not hovering over it, set apart from it.  It becomes the supreme faith tool, not just an answer key.

Living faithfully without the “literal” tag means a life with more uncertainty, more wrestling, and more searching for God throughout the world.

And I literally wouldn’t want it any other way.

Have a Good Week,

Mitch

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(YOU) the grouch

A wide berth.

That’s what I’m tempted to take around you, today.

You know why?  Because today you seem to be a little…

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GROUCHY!

Fair enough.  I have my Oscar the Grouch days, too.

But why?  What causes us to prickle up and bristle like a porcupine?

What flips that switch that causes us to take everything the wrong way, to roll our eyes and speak in a rough voice?

Is it job stress?  A messy house?  An unpleasant phone call?  The cold?

I don’t know, but it can really hit us this time of  year.  One minute we’re fine, and the next…

We’re GROUCHY!

Wait, now I’m grouchy, too.  Thanks a lot.

This stuff is contagious.  If we went out in public we could start an epidemic.

Is there a cure for grouchiness?  Is there an antidote, or must we slump down into our trash cans and sigh with exasperated resignation?

Hmm.  Maybe that’s it.

Maybe Oscar is always grouchy because he lives in his own trash.  He refuses to separate himself from the thoughts and feelings that are making him grouchy.

Here’s a verse from Ephesians 4:31-32:

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Maybe that’s what makes us grouchy.  We forget to take out the trash.  

It couldn’t sound simpler — when grouchy (or worse) thoughts and feelings come, we’re supposed to throw them away and get rid of them.  They’re not useful or helpful.  Grouchiness is not something to embrace!

Or it shouldn’t be, but this kind of trash is sticky.  Like gum on the bottom of your shoe.  All too often, just like Oscar, we choose to just live in it.

The antidote, as Ephesians describes, is kindness, forgiveness, and tenderheartedness.  With each other, ourselves, and God.  How could we have forgotten that?

Okay then, grouchy pants.  It’s time to take out the trash.  And I’ll do the same.

The next time we run into each other, let’s be living in God’s love instead of our trash cans.

Acting out of kindness, rather than grouchiness, can be a tough role to remember to play sometimes,

but you’ll be happy to know that the more you play it,

the less you’ll deserve an Oscar.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch