Going Freestyle

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So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Exodus 15:24

Let me tell you. Olive Garden will refill your iced tea quicker than you can drink it.  Carlos O’Kelly’s has gigantic 32oz tumblers that they’re more than happy to fill with Diet Mountain Dew.  A Route 44 Arnold Palmer from Sonic never fails to hit the spot.

Good stuff, one and all, but these can’t compare to Freestyle.  It’s been around for about a decade, I’d guess, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen it.

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It is, as I like to call it, an amusement park for thirsty people.   And I am a thirsty person.

Freestyle boasts 100+ drink options, and I’ve likely tried them all. The possibilities are only limited by the room my internal organs can set aside for liquid.  Let’s see…

I’ll start with something fruity and exotic, maybe Dasani sparkling cherry&Minute Maid lemonade&Fuze unsweet tea.  Ahhh.  Then something a little more traditional:  Coke Zero&Barq’s crème soda.  Nice. And then, something in the flavored ginger ale oeuvre.  Freestyle is a marvel of the modern world.

I should mention, however, that there is no Living Water button on the Freestyle.  So if you’re looking to meet a spiritual thirst, you may be out of luck.

Where today can somebody get their hands on Living Water?  The Hebrews complained about it enough so Moses gushed some out of a rock.  Jesus offered some to the woman at the well.  And whoever wrote the 23rd Psalm sounds like they got good and quenched.

What about us?  It’s funny, but when I think about Living Water, a spiritual experience of the Holy Spirit, Freestyle seems just too….Freestyle to me.  Too much flexibility, and sugar and aspartame and caffeine and weird stuff I can’t pronounce.

When I think about whetting my whistle with Living Water, interesting places spring up in my mind:  1)  Drinking from a Garden Hose, as a kid.  2) That 1-in-a-thousand drinking fountain with the perfect combination of temperature, pressure, and arc.  3) Cool water from a mountain stream, drunk right from my cupped hands. None of those places were labeled “Living Water”…but I just knew.

What about you?  Where have you found Living Water?  I suppose it doesn’t have to be water, we’re really talking about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but my thirstiness ties the two notions together for me much like the scriptures do.  So where you do you drink of the Spirit?

I realize that what my life needs is to be Structured, more than Freestyled.  That doesn’t mean I’ll give up the occasional Lemonade&Raspberry PowerAde&Mello Yellow concoction.  It just means that, deep down, I’ll pay attention to my thirst for the singular, elemental, spiritual guidance of God most of all.

It comes in just one flavor:

Holy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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MY BOOK!  A collection of my favorite devotions from over the years, complete with study questions.  Perfect for individual reflection or group discussion.  Get yours on Amazon!

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Uniquely American

OscarMayer_MiniWienermobile

This year, for the 4th, I’m planning to celebrate in ways that are Uniquely American.

Here we go!

1.  THE HOT DOG!

What could be more uniquely American than the hot dog?  Globs of mustard and relish dripping off onto your fingers. Grill marks searing in the flavor.

But you know what? The Frankenfurter (and the Wiener) are distinctively German innovations, from back in the 13th Century.

So…let’s try something else.  How about…

2.  FIREWORKS!

There’s nothing that says “The 4th of July” like big booms and bright flashes. The kind that sizzle and cascade.  The kind that expand and blossom. All the colors and the sounds of the holiday.

Of course, not only were those fireworks probably made in China, but fireworks, themselves, were ACTUALLY made…in China.

Fireworks date back to the 7th Century in China, where they were used to celebrate all kinds of festivals, long before July 4th was anything but just another day.

Hmm.  That’s disconcerting.  What about…

3. WAVING THE FLAG!

Even moderately patriotic people are known to fly the flag for the fourth! It may just be a piece of fabric, but it stands for a people, and an ideal.

Actually, people have been waving flags since the time of the Roman Legion, back in the time of antiquity.  And Denmark has been flying its country’s flag from as far back as the 13th century, a powerful symbol for her people.

Well, this is getting hard.

Wait! I know!

4.  ICE CREAM!

You want uniquely American?  Here you go! Ice Cream is the official dessert of summer, right?  Put a couple scoops on my cone and I’m a happy camper.

But wait!  The Persians were making their version of ice cream as early as 400 B.C.!!!!

400 B.C.?????

HEY!  ISN’T THERE ANYTHING UNIQUELY AMERICAN WE CAN USE TO CELEBRATE THIS 4TH OF JULY?

I know…

WHAT ABOUT GOD?

We sing “God bless America”, or “God bless the U.S.A.” all the time.  We talk about being in “God’s Country” or even this being “The Promised Land”.

Doesn’t that mean God is an American?

I say Yes.

But not uniquely.

As we celebrate this wonderful country of ours this week, let’s remember that God is the God of the Persians.  And the Chinese.  And the Danish.  And the Germans.  God’s Grace shines upon all of God’s children, and that’s perhaps the most important thing we could ever celebrate.

As for the 4th of July?  I plan to eat my hotdog and my ice cream.  I plan to set off some fireworks, and wave my flag.

I plan to celebrate everything and everyone that has gone into making our country so great.

Then I’ll ask God to bless us.  All of us. 

I’ll raise a toast to the world, my cup overflowing with Coca Cola, which is, I’m happy to say…

Uniquely American.

Have a great 4th!

Mitch

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Have a Church and a Smile

Our Communications Team is looking for a new slogan for our church.  Something we can put on t-shirts and hats, something that gives people a glimpse of why church is important.   Here are a few I dug up.  See what you think:

  • “The Closest Thing To Home”
  • “Enjoy Life”
  • Church “is your kind of place”
  • “Where there’s <church> there’s hospitality”
  • “I’m lovin’ it”

You might not have recognized the first four, but I bet that last one rang a bell.   These are all slogans from McDonalds or Coca Cola from the past 100 years!

As I sat around the table at the Communications meeting last night, it dawned on me that McDonalds and Coke have stolen all the good church slogans.  “We Love To See You Smile”, “Coke adds life”,  “You deserve a break today”, “It’s the Real Thing”.   I could go on and on. So what’s the deal?  When Christians come up with slogans for their churches, are they “selling out” and acting like advertising companies?

I don’t think so.  Not at all.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Remember that great song “I’d like to Teach the World To Sing?” The first time I heard that was in church.  It wasn’t until years later that I found out it was a jingle for Coke.   What Coca Cola had done was to take all the feelings, importance, and meaning of a world in perfect harmony, and then attach them to a product — Coke!  When you see a car commercial on TV with the slogan “DRIVE = LOVE”, that’s somebody’s attempt to make you think that an automobile can make you feel love.

But that’s not true!  God is the source of Love.  We’ve been telling people that for millennia! God is the reason for hospitality and why the whole world will one day sing in harmony.  The reason churches do marketing is because we want to help people connect with the real “Real Thing”.  It’s not a misrepresentation, and it’s not a manipulation.  After all, “God” really does = “Love”.  

So we’ll keep working, looking for a few choice words that speak to what it feels like to be part of our church.   In the meantime, allow the words of this devotion to invite you to visit us for church this Sunday.

An added bonus?  This week we’re having communion!  Or as I like to call it…

Happy Meal.

Have a great week,

Mitch