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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The Winter Stream

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I took this picture on my recent flight from Kansas to North Carolina.

Look at all those tiny boxes.  Each of them a mile-wide pasture.

From the air, you can clearly see the structure and order that humanity superimposes onto creation.  And it’s beautiful in of itself.

But what is truly breathtaking to me is the river.

* * *

When I was 10, we lived in the country, outside a little town called Saline, Michigan.

Winters there were pretty heavy duty.  We’d pull on our snowmobile suits, build snow forts, go cross-country skiing.

Snow was everywhere.  White like the surface of the moon.

One year, out in front of the yard, in the large ditch by the dirt road, the snow began to melt.  There were still big piles of the stuff everywhere else, but as the sun passed overhead on that late winter day, a single stream of water began to form.

How can I describe the magic of this next part?

There in the ditch, the tiny stream pushed back the snow, and wound its way back and forth around tiny trees. stones, and discarded brush.  My friend and I watched it work, and nudged the dirt here and there to help it expand and stretch.

There in that desolate-white landscape, we were staring down at something that was Alive.

It was revelatory for us.  Almost incarnational.

We were caretakers of that stream up until darkness came, and we were called in for dinner.

* * *

Back in the airplane.

Take another look out of my window seat, above.

See that S-like line weaving its way across the middle of the picture?

When I saw it, some 10,000 feet overhead, I instantly remembered looking down at that winter stream, some 35 years ago.

I love how it winds its way across the landscape, charting its own course, crossing all boundaries.

It is clearly Alive.

Streams of living waters, Jesus said. Yes.  A living Spirit of God that nurtures and refreshes.

I wonder.  Is this how God views God’s self at work?  Staring down from on high?

Is this the perspective of Creation?

Lord knows I’m still just an ant,

but I have seen the winding snake, and the living water.

I have drunk deeply from the winter stream,

and I have believed.

* * *

Have a great week,

Mitch

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How Deep Is Your Love?

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Is your love shallow?  

Some rivers are little more than streams across the dessert.  Drizzles of water that spill aimlessly, and dry up too soon.

To love like this is to hardly love at all.

Is your love winding and twisting?

Some rivers curve around wildly, with no sense of direction, making it hard to stay oriented. Almost impossible to navigate.

To love like this is to love without focus.

Is your love a raging torrent?

Some rivers run fast and violent.  Sure, there’s the thrill of the white water, but almost too much too handle.

To love like this is to to love with no peace.

Is your love a lazy stream?

Some rivers take their time.  Floating along with barely a current, enjoying the scenery.

To love like this is to love with no passion.

Is your love deep?

Some rivers stand the test of time.  Carving out a legacy.  Majestic, mysterious and awe-inspiring.

To love like this is to love completely.

How deep is your love?

I’ve decided. I want the deep deep love of Jesus.

I want a river of life, pouring out of me.

Is this what you want?

If so, then let’s go deep.  Let’s seek God in our very depths.

Let’s be open to love with a direction and purpose, and a sense of reverence.

Let’s soak ourselves in passion and peace.

Let’s be nourished by water and the spirit.

And then,

Let’s make our marks on this world,

criss-crossing and creasing

and quenching the dry places,

until the whole world says:

“Ahhhhhhhh”

and “Amen”.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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There’s a hole in your bucket list

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? –John 4:11

* * *

What if I told you there was a hole in your bucket list?

That’s right. All the unfulfilled wishes, hopes and dreams you’ve been carrying in your bucket…they’re slowly dripping out and drying up.

Like water draining out of a bathtub.

Would you panic? Would you rush out into the street to find a Karaoke bar where you could sing “Hey Jude” — because you always wanted to? Would you charter a plane to Nepal so you could climb Mt Everest? Would you get that tattoo of Conan O’Brien on your shoulder?

Or, just possibly, would you feel relieved?

Having a bucket list brings some pressure with it. All those years of “I never” gathered up and carried around. It gets heavy, you know, sloshing that bucket around everywhere. Or maybe it would be sad to see those “I wish-es” go down the drain. Maybe you’d be able to rescue a couple dear ones, as the others evaporate.

Would you be mad? Take a couple deep breaths before you answer, because I have this theory…

I think God put the hole in your bucket.

Scandalous as it sounds, I think God is doing us a real favor, making our buckets leaky.

See, dreams can turn stale and even brackish when they sit in one place for too long. They become baggage. Heavy and unmanageable.  Hopes and wishes are meant to be acted upon, to be lived out, not to be collected and harbored.

I’m convinced God knows the limitations of buckets, when it comes to our aspirations.  Buckets are for storing water — or dreams — and God wants to see our water/dreams flowing freely.

That’s why, one day at a well, Jesus offered a woman something called Living Water. It was the kind of water that has no need of a bucket. It was the kind that flows through the heart and soul. This Living Water is the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is ever-flowing. Active, adventurous, passionate, transforming. It is the perfect companion for you and I as we pursue our dreams. It is not about stagnation. When we match our dreams with God’s power, love, and energy, we can accomplish a whole list of amazing things in God’s name.

The moral of this story?  If you have a bucket list, you might want to feel a sense of urgency about it. Live the dream now. Don’t store your hopes away. Live as if today is a fresh start for your dreams…

the ones that are ready to pour out of you.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

God Has A Big Nose

They offer to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt-offerings and fragrant incense  — 2 Corinthians 13; 11a

Hearing.  Seeing.  Tasting.  Smelling.  Touching.

If you had to lose one of your senses, which one would it be?   I’ve thought about this before, and for me the answer is always the same.  I’d say goodbye to my nose.

I wouldn’t want to give up my eyesight.   I couldn’t watch movies, or enjoy a sunset.   Likewise, I couldn’t give up my hearing because I wouldn’t be able to listen to music.

Tasting?  Hey-I love watermelon and nachos way too much for that.   Touching?  It’s a more subtle sense, but it would effect everything I did.  Every embrace, every gentle breeze.  I don’t think I could give that up.

It comes down to my sense of smell.    Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of popcorn, or a campfire, or a flower, and I understand that smell effects how things taste, but if I had to give one up, that’s the one I’d have to choose.

Do you agree with my choice?  (You can vote down below)  I get the feeling God might not.

In Old Testament times the Priests thought God had a big nose.   A lot of what they would do to please God had to do with smell.   First, there were the sacrifices.   Twice or more a day they’d offer burnt sacrifices–like meat on a barbecue grill–because they believed the delicious smell would float up to God, and make God happy.  (I can certainly relate!)

And then they’d light incense, there in the temple.  The delicate fragrance would lift up to God, to delight God’s sense of smell. Apparently conventional wisdom had it that the way to God’s heart was through God’s proboscis!

Hmm.  Maybe I’ve short changed the power of smell.   I’ve read that smell is the most powerful trigger of memory.   And it’s true–the smell of the ocean breeze or a hot parking lot or the skin of a baby can evoke the most powerful responses in me.   Now I’m not so sure I’d be willing to cut off my nose to spite my face after all.

Actually, as time went on, God made it clear that the quickest way to God’s heart wasn’t just through the nose, but through faithful living.   You can only bring home a bunch of fragrant flowers to apologize so many times.  Eventually, you have to change the way you live. So, in the New Testament, the focus isn’t on pleasing God’s senses, but pleasing God’s sensibilities.

Hey, it may be true.  God may have a big nose.  But the size of God’s heart is what matters most.   The same is true with us.   These marvelous senses God gave us make life rich and enjoyable, but it’s only the connection between our heart and God’s heart that can ever truly satisfy.   I think Love might just be the 6th sense, and all the others are simply supporting players.

I wouldn’t want to do without any of them, but I do know this.

A life without love…

Positively stinks.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch