In My Undies

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All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.  –Psalm 22:17

It’s a recurring dream — you may have had a similar one.  I’m walking through a school or a church, rushing to get somewhere, and I realize I’m wearing only my underwear!

The rest of the dream is spent desperately trying to find something else to wear, and failing spectacularly.  Sometimes people notice, point, and laugh.  Always I feel extremely vulnerable.

I think that’s the point of that particular dream.  It’s a subconscious reflection of me feeling vulnerable about something.  My near nakedness in the dream symbolizes an inability to hide myself from others.

Dreams of being naked or near naked frequently make Top 10 lists of common dreams.  We have these dreams because many of us share that same fear:  Forced to reveal ourselves more than is comfortable.

This is not just physical, having our “bones on display”.  It’s more mental or even spiritual.  Having our inner most thoughts, fantasies and fears displayed for others.  Near panic at the notion of people knowing the real us.

What would have to change to make all those scary dreams go away?  Could the world decide it’s time to shed any unneeded clothes and walk around just as God made us?  Or if we all took a couple years of therapy could we develop a healthier self esteem, with no need to hold back who we are?

It just seems such a shame that you and I, created in God’s Image, have to spend so much energy trying to obscure ourselves from others.  It must be some consequence of our sinful nature that our very thoughts and traits can seem unsuitable for public viewing.

This is something we can work on.  We can seek to be more transparent, less terrified of being vulnerable.  We can admit our faults, be faithful with our gifts, and trust to be covered by Grace when our undies are showing.

Come to think of it, many of the people I most admire are those whose soul shines so brilliantly, I don’t even notice how much they’re covered up.  These are the people whose faith helps them clothe those around them in Christ.

I want to be one of those people.  The more aggressively I practice this kind of faith, the less I’ll have that dream.  That’s the premise I’m adopting, anyway…

If that takes stripping down to my spiritual skivvies, so be it.

As for my physical body?

That’s, for now,

a subject I’ve thoroughly covered.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

Tired of being slowed down at airport security, Vince began to travel in only a pair of Speedos.

 

 

 

Hypocrite in Untraining

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“I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites.”  –Psalm 26:4

“Yes, you do.”  –Mitch Todd

Is it true?  Are Christians hypocrites?

To find out, I followed someone home from church this week, just to see how hypocritical they actually were.

Here’s a summary of my findings:

  • On Sunday they were a model citizen, until they started shouting obscenities at the game on TV.
  • On Monday, they told their spouse about something from work, and made it sound like they were the hero, when they really weren’t.
  • On Tuesday, they turned the channel away from one of those “starving children” commercials, so they wouldn’t be convinced to give.
  • On Wednesday, they went well over the speed limit.
  • On Thursday, they didn’t tip a waitress, because she brought them the wrong drink.
  • On Friday, they visibly tensed up when someone who didn’t look like them brushed past them at the store.
  • On Saturday, they made a little too merry, and said a few things they probably shouldn’t have.

Nothing earth-shattering there, but everyone of those actions represents some type of hypocrisy.  As Christians, we’re not supposed to exaggerate, or turn a blind eye, or break the law, or treat others rudely, or act out of fear, or over-indulge, or speak carelessly. Right?

That (imaginary) church member should know better!

Every day we have an opportunity to represent Jesus Christ in this world, and every Sunday we declare our desire to do just that. And every week, in small ways and great big ways, we fall short.  We all do this.

Most of our shortcomings are the kinds of minor things anyone might do, but when Christians, who proclaim to live according to a higher authority do them, it’s a glaring misstep.  It’s hypocrisy at its finest.

Here’s the deal: Despite what many might think about our religion, we haven’t arrived at some perfect destination.  Rather, we’re on the journey of a lifetime.  A journey to become more and more like Christ.

Methodists call this sanctification.  To be made holy.  The journey has twists and turns, road-blocks, U-turns and slowdowns, but God willing, we grow in our faith.

We’re hypocrites in “untraining.”

It’s like a sign I made years ago. It said,

“Yes, I’m a Christian.
Yes, I’m a hypocrite.
Yes, I’m working on it.”

When others look at me, I want them to see a reflection of Christ.  But when I fail at that, I want them to see someone humble enough to admit it and try again.  Worship at its best instills in us that kind of humility.

On Sunday morning, when you come to church, don’t pretend to be something that you’re not.

Admit it–you’re a hypocrite!

But take a look around…

you’re in good company.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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NOTE:  As we continue prayers for Texas and the Houston area, I invite you to donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief.  This organization is among the first on the ground and the last to leave when disaster strikes.  Donate through them by visiting UMCOR.

 

EVEN

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As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.
Psalm 71:14

Don’t despair.

Even if the world today seemed to conspire against you.

Even if the work outweighed the play.

Even if it seemed nobody spoke your language.

Even if the Kingdom seems farther away than it did yesterday.

And don’t give up.

Even when you were embarrassed or shamed.

Even when the nightly news cut you to the quick.

Even when the momentum is pushing in the wrong direction.

Even when everything just hurts.

For the Lord is our God

Even at the gates of destruction.

Even at the end of time.

Even at the darkest dusk.

Even at your side.

And our God is good!

Even in spite of it all.

Even in your heart, and mine, and theirs.

Even in this very moment.

Even in ways you cannot fathom.

Rejoice!  Do not despair!

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Advent Psalm

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Oh Jesus,

I know why you were born 2000 years ago, instead of today.

Things were simpler then.

 

No cell phones distracting conversations.

No media spinning things left or right.

The whole world was just a few hundred miles long.

You came to a world that rejected you, but at least you could get a word in.

 

Oh, we’re just as stubborn, but also fragmented and polarized.

Oh, we still have poverty — we pretend not to see it.

Oh, we still have illnesses — and we still have outcasts.

We still have passion — greatly outweighed by our apathy.

 

 

Oh Jesus,

If you came today I fear your voice would be lost.

Your miracles would be pooh-poohed.

And your leadership would be questioned.

Or maybe what I really fear is that the

IMMORTAL AND LOVE GIVING POWER OF THE UNIVERSE

might not cut it in today’s broken mess.

Which is silly.

Just because I cannot picture a God powerful enough to enter into this world does not make it impossible.

It makes it miraculous.

 

Surprise me, then, God of Advent.

Do your very best.  And I will remain in awe

that some 2000 years after your incarnation

you can work another Christmas miracle

For We. Here. Now.

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Boo You

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Have you ever jumped at your own reflection in a mirror?

It’s kind of funny when a puppy does it, not so much when it’s you.

The whole notion of scaring yourself seems impossible–to be both the frightener and the frightenee at the same time.

But it happens.  And not just when you catch your reflection across the room.

Sometimes we can freak ourselves out by assuming the worst about things:  “Somebody has stolen my wallet!  Somebody has—oh, here it is.”

Sometimes we scare ourselves by looking up strange symptoms on Web MD, or by reading too many negative Facebook statuses.

And sometimes we scare ourselves into thinking we are utterly alone in the universe.  That there is no God.

Ever do that?  It can happen.

It’s like Belief is one side of the coin and Doubt is the other, and if we get flipped the wrong way…

BOO!

It’s okay, you know, to have doubts and to wonder.  It’s okay to ask “what if?” about difficult faith questions.

But when you start to freak out about the existence of God, I recommend reading Psalm 139.

Here, I’ve copied it below.  Read it slowly:

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

– – –

Okay, verses 19-22 are kind of extreme, but read verse 23 again:

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Maybe this Psalm was written by someone who had been scaring themselves about God, but found a way to “flip” things back into a faithful perspective.

Perhaps these words could help you the next time you freak yourself out, or you could take a few moments to simply put into words what your faith tells you.

It may not be poetry,

but you never know what can happen when you paws to reflect.

Have a good week,

Mitch

 inqDog2

That’s a Deep Subject

S-122-09-6Well, well, well.

I’ve been preaching on the story of Joseph the past few Sundays.

(The one with the fancy coat, not the one with the fancy Son.)

I keep coming back to the moment when Joseph, rejected by his brothers, is thrown into a cistern and left for dead.

Or would have been, had some slave traders not come along.

A cistern is a hand dug well.  This one in particular was dry.

Can you imagine Joseph crying out to his brothers?  Slowly realizing they weren’t joking.

Contemplating his own stuck-ness.

If Joseph is at all like me I’ll bet he tried to attract attention, tried to climb out, maybe threw a temper tantrum or two.

I’ll bet he moved from frustration, to realization, to desperation.

And then, when he finally realized how deep in trouble he was, then, perhaps, he earnestly prayed to God.

One of my favorite Psalms describes such a prayer:

To you, Lord, I called;
    to the Lord I cried for mercy:
 “What is gained if I am silenced,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
    Lord, be my help.”
–Psalm 30: 8-10

It’s a sad, but deep truth:  Few of us truly appreciate our purpose in life–to proclaim God’s faithfulness– until we are at risk of losing it.

Fortunately, this wasn’t the end for Joseph.

Call it a “death bed conversion” (I prefer a “deep well revelation”)  –but Joseph’s whole outlook and purpose seems to come into focus only after this cistern experience.

I’m glad for Joseph.  But what about you?

Are you ready to commit to a life of faithfulness, or are you waiting until you hit bottom?

You may find your way to God regardless,

but to get the most out of the life you’ve been given,

Praise God today!

(Don’t wait until you’re six feet under.)

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Vulnerable Vanity

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How comfortable are you at being vulnerable about your shortcomings?

Well, have I got a deal for you.

In this (imaginary) arrangement, you will NEVER have to pay your car tags and taxes again!

And you’ll never have to wait in line at the DMV again either!  And you’ll get your very own personalized vanity plate!

Pretty good deal, huh?

Well, there’s always a catch, and here it is:

You don’t get to choose what goes on the vanity plate.

Your new plate will come in the mail, and you will be required to affix it to the back of your vehicle.

And that vanity plate will say something that points to your deepest fears, shortcomings, or problems.

For the whole world to see.

Interested?

Well, before you make up your mind, here are some examples of the kind of license plates you might look forward to.

Take a look:


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mLx7y74Cf657V7ncUsAcVqA

P00703g

392rear

b018ce9ab915728de724ea5679170eef

1599-8955

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22

1770

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Those are just a few options.

You’ll receive the plate that makes you feel the most vulnerable.

I’m curious.  If this was a real deal, would you take it?

I’m sure the owners of the cars above would.  Heck, they paid their own money to advertise their own shortcomings.

Some of them even seemed proud of their brokenness.

Kind of a “vulnerable” twist on “vanity”, huh?

If that kind of sacrifice seems helpful to you, I suppose it would make for some interesting conversation, in the least. Go for it.

But Psalm 51 says that the kind of a sacrifice God is looking for is brokenness and a contrite heart.

That means you know your shortcomings, and are vulnerable to God about them, and have a sincere desire to grow in faith.

No extra advertising required.

Now, I firmly believe that sharing your growth areas with friends and family, or a 12-step group, or a covenant group is immensely helpful.

If nothing else, it reminds you that you’re not the only car in this race, and not the only one who’s license plate could tell a story.

So, how about we pick out plates that encourage each other, and acknowledge our humanness, and remind us of the love of Jesus Christ?

Whew, that’s a lot to fit on one vanity plate.

I’d pay good money and wait in line for something like this:

md5dtreXcEahwtbEsxqmXgQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

(But Good God it’s FREE!)

 

Have a great week,

 

Mitch