Listening To October

Today, one of my favorite songs.  Perfect for this week.

Press Play, and listen, with a few of my suggestions below.

  • Much of this song is instrumental.  The pictures above don’t really matter, but the music does.
  • As you listen, take a few deep breaths, and picture your concerns, your possessions, your obstacles as if they were leaves, falling down from a tree.
  •  Here are the lyrics Bono sings:
    • October

      And the trees are stripped bare

      Of all they wear

      What do I care?

      October

      And kingdoms rise

      And kingdoms fall

      But you go on and on

  • As the song concludes, remind yourself what (who) is most important and eternal in your life, and rededicate yourself to God through prayer.
  • Now go and have a glorious October.

—————————————————-
Wow.  I really needed that today.

U2?

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

Worth Fighting For

asleep

 

There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. –2 Samuel:18

Can you imagine a situation where the most celebrated King in Israel’s history goes to war… against his son?.  This was the crazy, almost Game Of Thrones-ish world of our ancestors of faith. This struggle between Father and son, David and Absalom, threatened the very fabric of the Kingdom.

Today we have fathers and sons facing a very different kind of battle in the church: Whether the Kingdom is even worth it.  Family members do battle about this on a weekly basis.  Other folks grew up in the church and let it slip away.  Some just find themselves otherwise preoccupied come Sunday morning.  Countless people have been hurt by the church, or are bored to tears by it, or are excluded by it, and so their connection becomes tenuous.

Those with “casual ties” to Christianity are on the verge of becoming “casualties” of it.

I was taught not to worry so much about those with such casual ties, that they’ll  never come back.  Sometimes we call them backdoor Christians, or Christians INO (In Name Only), as if they are a lost cause.  Can you imagine how many thousands — hundreds of thousands there are out there with fading interest in the Church?  They may believe in God, but not the institution.  They may be tied up in the trappings of culture.  They may come twice a year and suffer through the boredom and think that’s enough.

What should we in the Church do about these folks, many of them family?  Just let them go?  No, here’s my suggestion. hard as it might sound:

Let’s go to war.

I can’t believe I’m even writing those words!  I’m not a “war” guy.  But those men in 2 Samuel were willing to lay down their lives.  They were invested.  This was a fight for who would be King and it mattered.

Let’s go to war.  Let’s find our friends and neighbors and missing-in-action Christians and fight for them.  Our weapons will not be guilt or coercion.   Instead, we’ll wield, with fervor–an undeniable call that Christ is our King.

We’ll have to be prepared.  With excellent worship, engaging small groups, life-changing mission and earnest fellowship.  And we’ll have to listen.  To reform, to engage, to see the church beyond how we at times have poorly conceived it.  To reach out to every father and ever son, everyone, who hears the call of the Kingdom.

We have to be experiencing the same Christian life that we advertise, which means we have to examine our own casual ties to faith.

The human expression of the Church may never reach all the goals and all the people that we have been called to.  But we’ll never get anywhere if we aren’t willing to give our all on behalf of Jesus.

So, CHARGE!!!!!!!

The battle is for nothing less than to become…

a Church worth fighting for.

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

father and son in way to church

Check out my new resource:  “barefoot.: devotions & discussions by Rev. Mitch Todd.”

130 devotions, complete with study questions! Perfect for individual reflection or group discussion. Get yours on Amazon! CLICK HERE

******

So Long John Silvers


download-11

4 days ago, I drove through Long John Silvers.

It’s one of my “been-awhile” places.  I only go there when I drive by and think, “hey, it’s been awhile since I had that”.

I got some chicken, some fish, and some onion rings, and a drink.

And it was good.  But then…

I drove by today…and the place is gone.

I mean, the building is still there, but the sign out front and the signs on the building have all been removed.  The place is closed!

After the initial shock of seeing a place suddenly un-exist, I got to thinking:

What if I was the last customer to ever drive through that Long John Silvers?

I mean, it’s plausible!  The place had been on its last legs for years.  They never got much business where they were.

Right after I drove through, the manager could have called a meeting and delivered the bad news to the employees.

I may have eaten their last onion ring.  Weird.

My mind wanders to scriptures about God pruning the vine that didn’t bear much fruit (or fish?).  Or Jesus saying nobody knows when the time is coming.

Or Proverbs 27:1 that says:

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Of course, these scriptures all point to theological concepts.  To faithfulness and alertness in the light of the coming Kingdom.

Not to the closing down of an outdated chain restaurant in the slow part of town.

Still, I am reminded of the impermanence of things.  How quickly the landscape of our lives changes.

How anything we do on this Earth we may be doing for the last time.

Is it weird that I’m kind of sad? Not about the food, really–I can eat much healthier fare somewhere else.

No, I guess I’m sad at the reminder that time wears everything down.  Even me.

But then, I catch a glimpse of the coming Kingdom. There’s a promise there.  Something eternal.  Something forever.  Something to put my faith in.

A place to strive to live in.

To quote the LJS jingle, “Sounds good to me.”

I think to myself, “So Long John Silvers”…

I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Have a good week,

Mitch

13232244784_d14d72750e_b

“Facticious”

Litany of Facts:  By Mitch Todd

Global Warming Is A Myth.  (Here, let me show you the facts.)

Global Warming Is Here! (Here, let me show you the facts.)

Republicans know what to do with our money. (Here, let me show you the facts.)

Democrats know what to do with our money. (Here, let me show you the facts.)

Eat bacon and lose weight!  (Here, let me show you the facts.)

DON’T eat bacon if you want to lose weight!  (Here, let me show you the facts.)

I could go on, but honestly, I’m kind of tired of the litany of “facts”.  After a while, it all starts to sound…facticious.

I long for the day when facts were, you know, facts.   As a kid, I believed in facts.  If a scientist or a researcher or a politician told me something was fact, I believed them.   There was something comforting about the solidity of facts.  Something that gave the world some structure.  A platform you could attempt to build a life on.

And then…I don’t know if it was just me growing up, or maybe the world drifting into post-modernism, but facts started to become slippery. Invariably, for every rock solid belief I held, there was someone else in the world holding an opposite belief just as tightly–clutching onto a different set of facts.

The same is true in Christianity.   Just look at the fracturing of the Protestant Church.  Now we have hundreds, even thousands of denominations, all claiming to know the facts about belief.   (As if such a thing were even possible!)  Even within my denomination, the United Methodist Church, individual churches and members may believe very different sets of “facts” when it comes to issues of women in ministry, homosexuality, capital punishment, salvation, etc.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe part of our job as faithful disciples, and citizens of this planet, is to sift through all the facts and come to as faithful a decision as we can on all sorts of issues.   And I don’t even think we all have to agree on everything.  But I’ve come to realize that you can stack up all the facts in the world and it doesn’t mean you’ll reach the Truth.  (Tower of Babel, anyone?)

Truth is mysterious, never fully knowable, and somehow able to transcend all the various facts we attach to it.   Truth, for me, is the reality of God’s Kingdom that I can never fully comprehend, but can pledge my every breath to.  Truth is potent and powerful.

When I live with Truth first, and facts second, I’m able to see that the person across the spectrum from me may still be in touch with some Truth that I can’t fully see.   When I live with Truth, I’m able to see The Issue behind the issues, namely the spread of God’s Love into this world.   When I live with Truth, I’m more comfortable saying three magic words:  “I don’t know”.

When I try to live with Truth, life is less about building platforms, and more about building relationships.  Facts are building blocks, and building blocks can be helpful.   But not when they’re used to build walls between people.

Still, I can’t imagine a world without facts.  I don’t think I’d want one.  Facts certainly have their place.

But a world without Truth?

The would be worse than a world without bacon.

Have a good week,

Mitch

truth1

previously published in Aug ’11

Can you pass the key chain test?

ive_lost_my_keys_to_my_house_do_i_have_to_get_new_locks_fitted_330x330

 

Okay.

This one goes to my car.
This one goes to the back door.
This one goes to the outside door at the church.
This one goes to my office.
think this one goes to my old mailbox.
And…these other two?

No clue.

Go on, try for yourself:

Pull out your keychain and see if you can identify what every key goes to.

I did this with four other people the other night.  3 of us failed.  (The other two weren’t carrying their keys with them.)

What about you?  Do you know what every key is for?

It’s so strange to think about it.

If, like me, you failed the key chain test, then you are one of millions and millions of people who carry around a tiny jagged strip of metal nearly everywhere you go, but have no idea what for!

Isn’t that bizarre?

At one time we must have thought it was important enough to put on our key ring, right?

Or someone else told us it was important.

And we carry it because we wouldn’t want to find ourselves suddenly without it, even though we’re not necessarily sure what it’s for.

Hmm.  Kind of reminds me of Jesus and Peter.  Remember in Matthew 16:19, when Jesus gives a key to Peter?

Peter has just correctly identified Jesus as the “Messiah, the Son of God, who is coming into the world”.  Jesus likes that answer, and calls Simon Peter, the Rock upon which the church would be built.

And then Jesus says, “I will give you the key to the Kingdom of heaven…”

Wow!  That’s an important key all right.

I wonder…if you and I believe that Jesus is the Messiah like Peter did, will we be given a key to the Kingdom too?

I wonder if maybe…

it’s already happened.

Maybe THAT’S what that extra key on your key chain is for!

Maybe we have already been given the key to the Kingdom, full access to the glory of God’s love and power!

What if millions and millions of us are walking around with that key in our possession, but we’ve forgotten what it’s for.

We remember it was important.  Someone gave it to us, so we’ve held on to it…

But along the way, we’ve forgotten what it opens.

Let’s change that.  Let’s dedicate ourselves to using all the keys we’ve been given!

Yes.

Today I’m going to participate in the Kingdom with all I have and all I am.

Today I’m going to celebrate that Christ gives me access to God’s Amazing Love.

Today I’m going to hold my key chain high  and make some Joyful Noise.

CAN I GET A JINGLE????

 

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

love-keys

 

 

 

 

JENGA!!!

402px-Jenga_distorted

It’s the super fun party game that is sweeping the nation!

Or did, rather, back in the 80’s.

Actually, it’s still quite popular today.  More than 50 million games have been sold.

You know the drill, right?  A square stack of blocks, and players take turns carefully moving a block from the bottom to the top.  Sooner or later, the tower becomes unstable and the blocks come crashing down.

And everybody yells, JENGA!!!

I’ve played some variations on the game over the years, most noticeably what I call “Kitchen trash Jenga”.  My wife and I will take turns adding more trash on top of an already full can.  The first one who can’t keep the trash from spilling over — has to take it out.  JENGA!

On a more serious note, people play Jenga with their lives.  Adding one more thing to an already busy schedule.  Piling more onto a precarious existence, whittling away at their stability, and hoping against hope things won’t come tumbling down.

“JENGA?”  Somehow, when your life threatens to come crashing down, it doesn’t feel like a game anymore.

I must admit that I go through phases when I look at the world through JENGA-colored lenses, so to speak.

I look at the government, the environment, the economy, and I think…are we down to the last block here?

Are we at a tipping point?  Game over?

Even in my own religious denomination I can feel that way.  Are we to the point where things are about to crumble around me?

I cringe, hoping not to hear the cry of “JENGA!” because I don’t want things to end.  And certainly not in a pile of rubble.

Suddenly the word takes on feelings of doom and desperation!

WATCH OUT EVERYONE! WE’RE ON THE VERGE OF JENGA!!!!

The problem with real-world Jenga is, it’s no fun. Not a healthy way to live.

May I propose another game to live by?

It’s called, Follow The Leader.  And by “Leader”, I mean Jesus.

Jesus is always on the go.  Into new places and old places.  Precarious places and stable places.  The perilous heights, and the rock-solid foundation.

Follow the leader, and you can’t go wrong.  Wooden blocks can be tumbling down all around you and Jesus will show you the way through.

Governments, environments, and economies can teeter, but Jesus will never totter.

Even a church or a denomination may find itself at risk of JENGA sometimes, and yet our Leader leads us onward, because the Kingdom of God will never fall.

Keep your eyes on the Leader, and you’ll go where you’re needed.

You’ll be on the unassailable path of love.  Ready to build up the Kingdom.

Things may fall apart.  They sometimes do.  But I’m done cringing at the thought of “JENGA!”

Instead, I’m loudly proclaiming,

“JESUS!”

Have a great week,

Mitch

followleader

Can you commit?

jesus-relax

Incoming message for you…from Jesus:

You, my friend, are confusing!

I mean in terms of your actions.  You’re all over the place!

Check this out:

com·mit/kəˈmit/  Verb.

  1. Carry out or perpetrate (a mistake, crime, or immoral act): “he committed an uncharacteristic error”.
  2. Pledge or bind (a person or an organization) to a certain course or policy.   (Google definition)
Isn’t it weird h0w one little word, “commit”, can point in two diametrically opposed directions? 

For Christians, to commit means either to 1) carry out a sin or 2) join a group opposed to sin.

That’s just wacky! And the wackiest thing is I’ve seen you do both!

Sometimes you’ll commit a sin, usually when you think nobody is looking. It’s as if you’re not in your right mind. You focus all your energy and effort into doing the very thing you know you shouldn’t be doing!

I once said this to my disciples:

‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)

Nothing makes me sadder than to see you enslaved to your passions, selfish desires, and so on. I wish you’d stop.

I wish you would take all that energy and passion and focus it in the direction of the Kingdom! That’s something worth being committed too.

Old Job had a rough go of things, but even so, he kept the right focus.  Remember when he said this?

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause.” (Job 5:8)

I love that. Good for him.

And what about you? You’ve got so much potential. So much to offer the world and the Kingdom. It’s so good having you committed, when you focus on Love and Compassion and Justice.

As for those other times, when you commit to the wrong things…

I forgive you. I always will.

But keep this in mind, friend:

Choosing whether to commit a sin or commit yourself to the Kingdom…

can shape the definition of your whole life.

Have a good week,

(Jesus)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eschipul