Is It Okay To Be Content?

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12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  –Philippians 4:12-13

I had one thing on my list yesterday afternoon. I had a precious 5 hours set aside to relax and be content.

And I just couldn’t do it.

There were too many big pressing issues taking up space in my brain.  Not enough professions of faith at my church this year. The future of my denomination. The constant creep of scary political times.  The busy week ahead.

Not only did I feel plagued by these issues and more, I started feeling like it would be irresponsible to push them aside.  There are, for me, some pretty serious issues on that list.  Big problems.  Disturbances in the Force.  Valid reasons for feeling discontent.

Maybe it was wrong for me to want to be content in the first place.  To take a big sigh and forget my problems for a while.  Maybe that was a mistake.

Maybe my role as a disciple is to carry my cross, shoulder my burdens, keeping my eyes on the prize of the Kingdom come.  As long as things are broken in this world, my job is to be discontent.  Or even a malcontent–fighting the man, even if that turns out to be me.

So, no bingeing on Netflix.  No Burger King Impossible Burger.  No Lazy Boy Recliner.  And NO peace of mind.

That is the dangerous path my brain was headed down.  So many Christians have chosen to live that way .  I didn’t fully rest.  I couldn’t relax.  I went to bed exhausted.

Today, I read the scripture above, from Philippians, where Paul talks about being content.  He has figured out the secret–so much so that he can feel at peace when life is producing either a bounty or a scarcity.

The key, it seems, is what gives you contentment.  Paul finds peace in good times and bad.  There is no earthly item on his list that can sway him–because his strength comes from God.  His ongoing connection with God is the most real thing in his life, and holding tightly to that allows him to be content, even when things on earth feel dicey.

I happen to know several times where Paul declares himself to be distressed, so it’s not like he’s unaffected by the problems he’s up against.  It must be that the hope and joy of a life in God simply matters more.

I wish I could go back and live those 5 hours of downtime over again.  I would have leaned on God more.  I would have rested in the sure and certain knowledge that God wants more for me than to fret without ceasing.  Perhaps praying without ceasing would have framed things better.

That kind of bingeing…

is even better than Netflix.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Christmas Has Issues

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POP QUIZ:

What does this mean?

ISSUE     ISSUE
ISSUE     ISSUE
ISSUE     ISSUE
ISSUE     ISSUE
ISSUE     ISSUE

[The correct answer is at the end*]

But if you also thought:  “Wow, that’s a lot of issues”, you’re also right.

I notice the issues piling up especially this time of year.  I get inundated with various charities and organizations, all asking that I make their issues a priority at Christmas. Everything from mosquito nets for  people with Malaria, to AIDS work in Africa, to farm animals for poor families, to MicroLoans, to homemade crafts made by local at-risk kids, to…

(And none of that includes gift-giving for family members, for neighbors and co-workers, who have their own issues!)

There are too many issues out there!  I want to address them all, but I can’t.

And so I pray for direction:  “God, out of all these issues, where should I direct my giving this year?”

And very clearly I hear God respond:  “There is only one issue.  And only one gift.”

Of course, God’s right.  How did I forget?

There is only one issue:  LOVE

There is only one gift:  LOVE EXPRESSED

That’s all God desires, that we express God’s love with some semblance of the same passion and sacrifice that brought Jesus to our world.

Whatever that truly means to you will be pleasing to God.

So sift through the issues, friend, and choose with your heart, knowing that the burden for all the world’s problems doesn’t fall to you alone.

There are billions of people expressing their love, too.

The love of Christ.  Love Expressed.

Let’s make LOVE EXPRESSED our one and only Christmas Issue,

and share it however we can.

Have a great week,

Mitch

(P.S. How much love could you

share with those in need for the

price of a pair of tennis shoes?*)

ChristmasGiving

Duel-istic


It started last week.

I was standing in the produce aisle, inspecting peaches.   An employee standing next to me was humming along with the music from the speakers.  Absent-mindedly she said, “I just love Kenny G”.   I chuckled and said, “To be honest, I’ve never liked him.”

Almost immediately, she turned and glared at me.   She took off one of her latex gloves, and slapped me across the face with it.

“Choose your weapon,” she growled at me.   I sized her up briefly, looked at the pricing gun in her hand, and then bolted for the exit.

Two days later I was talking with somebody at the ballgame.   He said he hated the designated hitter rule.   I told him I thought it made the game more exciting.   Wham!  He slapped me across the face, whispered “Pistols at dawn”, and turned and left.  I’ve decided to start rooting for a different team.  Just to be safe.

What is going on?  I’ve been invited to four duels in the past three days!   I told someone I voted for Obama, and she pulled a sword!  I mentioned to someone else that I was against Capital Punishment and before I knew it we were arm wrestling.

Has the world gone mad?  It’s as if anyone who has an opinion contrary to yours is suddenly an enemy!  This sort of all or nothing thinking is dangerous…and contagious.

I’m worried.  This morning a parishioner told me they hated the Harry Potter books.  It took three people to hold me down!

It’s been shown time and again that dualism can lead to duel-ism.   Remember Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton?  They took their political frustrations out with firearms! While I don’t see that kind of violence on C-SPAN, who could deny the divisive, violent undertones in modern political rhetoric and legislative debate?

Come to think of it, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter came to “magical” blows during a dueling lesson at Hogwarts.  It’s true, the Slytherins and the Griffindors seem to be at odds much of the time.

What about you?  How do you respond if someone picks the other side of an issue you’re passionate about?  Do you rush in to argue? Do you challenge your “opponent” to a battle of who is superior?  Do you feel compelled to fight for what you think is right?  Hmm. But what if the fighting part is what’s wrong?

Here’s some advice from the writer of Timothy:

Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.  –2 Timothy 2:23-25

This doesn’t mean you’re can’t choose to like (or not like ) Kenny G.   It doesn’t mean you can’t choose to approve (or disapprove) of some elected official.   It doesn’t even mean you can’t state your opinion, make your case, and try to share some of your accumulated wisdom in conversation with somebody who disagrees.

But the next time you feel like it’s time to take the gloves off…

Think twice before getting Slap Happy.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch