‘Tis the Season for The Grinch

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Nov 292010
 

The Grinch was on last week. Twice. I watched it both times. I can’t get enough of that story. For me, it’s not Christmas without the Grinch. Funny thing is, I can recite just about the whole thing from memory. It’s a story I used to read my daughter all the time, and I’m just now realizing that I need to rectify the fact that I haven’t read it to my son in a long, long time. Even though I know it so well, it never gets old, never gets boring, and is as much a part of my Christmas season as “Silent Night” and egg nog.

You're as cuddly as a cactus, Mr. Grinch

Even though it has nothing to explicitly do with Jesus.

Maybe that should bother me, but it doesn’t. Not even a little bit. Nor does it bother me that Christmas trees were probably pagan first, or that Jesus probably was not born on December 24th. Or 25th. None of this stuff bothers me. They’re all things that point me to God’s arrival and continuing presence in my life. The Grinch is the same way. My favorite part is:

And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling. “How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags?” He puzzled and puzzed ’til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas- perhaps- means a little bit more.

Every time I hear that I just want to jump on my couch and yell “Yes! Exactly! Yes!” Then he saves the sleigh from going over the cliff and rides into town and, well, I’m getting all choked up just thinking about it. Who care’s if it’s not explicitly Christian? It helps point me to God’s continuing presence in my life. That’s all I really care about.

God is Here, and Full of Surprises

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Nov 292010
 

God is here, and God is at work in our lives and our world, but many times that happens in completely unpredictable ways. Sometimes it is so unpredictable, so unexpected, that we miss it. Seeing God each day and being connected to God amid the craziness of life was the topic last Sunday.

Get Ready for Christmas By Opening the Door for God

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Nov 222010
 

When someone comes to visit , we get the house ready. We pick up, we clean, we make it look as nice as we can. We try to do that with God, but at Christmas God did not come for a visit. God came to stay. That changes how we view our relationship with God. This week we get ready for Christmas by exploring how we open the door for God to come and stay with us.

 

Giving as a Spiritual Discipline Podcast

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Nov 152010
 

 An important way to grow closer to God is to make God a priority. The act of financial giving is not a burden or requirement. Instead, it is an opportunity to experience and share God’s abundant life. This week we look at how making God a financial priority brings us closer to God.

If Evil Ruled

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Nov 082010
 

I realize a lot of you out there reading this are not fans of Fantasy books. At least, I expect you aren’t.  Most people aren’t. It’s a genre that a few people love and most people ignore. I like it, though, and I just read a book that did something very interesting. It’s author has sold fifteen million books, so I imagine some of you out there have heard of him. The book is called “Into a Dark Realm,” and it’s by Raymond Feist. It’s the second book of a trilogy called The DarkWar Saga, and it’s about a war involving- wait for it- darkness. And light. And all the usual good vs. evil fantasy battles and heros and villains and whatnot. 

Into a Dark Realm, by Raymond Feist

What makes this book so interesting to me is that Feist plops the reader into a world where evil rules. I thought about doing this exact thing in my fantasy novel, the working title of which is “Holy Warrior” and which I hope to have ready for publication sometime next year.  Once I sorted through the ramifications of such a world in light of the story I wanted to tell,  I decided against it. Enjoying a book requires a connection to the characters and it would be hard to find anyone with whom you can connect in a world full of evil people. This became apparent as I read “Into a Dark Realm,” because I kept becoming disinterested. Feist knows what he’s doing, though, and he plunked this evil world into a larger narrative so that the reader stays connected to the story emotionally while still getting to experience what it would be like to live in a world where everyone is evil.

The picture Feist paints is, not surprisingly, grim, but I also found it true. In the book murder is glorified. Strength is all that matters. The weak deserve to die, the strong deserve glory. Until someone kills them, anyway. The killing just goes on and on, none of it wrong. Yet inside many of the people in this evil world exists a glimmer that something is not quite right in all this. That somehow killing each other is not the way things are supposed to be. Many cannot name this feeling, but eventually we discover a group rising up to reclaim their people’s humanity (they aren’t human, but the idea is the same). 

Last Sunday was October 31, the date on which theologian Martin Luther stuck his Ninety Five Theses to a church door in 1517. This started the Protestant Reformation. One of his main ideas was that we are all simultaneously “Saint and Sinner“- we all have the spark of good inside us, and we all have the spark of evil inside us.  Feist captures that, but in his book it’s the evil that most often gets nurtured. After reading his book and thinking about our world, I have become convinced that in our world the good most often gets nurtured. It’s caused me to think better of my fellow people a bit and made me a little less cynical about the world I live in. Feist did that, incidentally, by taking me to a world that does not exist. That’s why I like Fantasy- it helps me understand my own world by taking me to others. This book left me very thankful for the world in which I live and for the inherent goodness of most of the people around me. Even the guy who was a jerk to my wife and I. After all, he wasn’t killing us. People may not be all good, but they are still mostly good. After reading this book, I’ll take it.

A Firm Foundation Podcast

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Nov 012010
 

Is having more stuff the way to be happy? Commercials and ads certainly tell us that. So how does that work for you? If you are like me, you have found that it is a lie. The bible, on the other hand, paints a very different picture of our relationship to our stuff, one that provides a real foundation. One we can build our lives on. What is that picture, and what does it mean for you today? That is the topic in the message from last Sunday, “A Firm Foundation.

Accidental Billionaires

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Nov 012010
 

Since everyone is on Facebook now (you are…right?), I thought it would be interesting to find out where it came from. Especially since everyone out there seems interested in telling the story of where it came from. Not only did Ben Mezrich write this book The Accidental Billionaires about the founding of Facebook, Aaron Sorkin wrote a screenplay based on the book which became the movie The Social Network.  Since it’s such a popular topic, I thought I would check Mezrich’s book out. I’m never one to miss a trend.

The Unauthorized (and Incomplete) Story of the Founding of Facebook

This book would have been more interesting if Mezrich had actually spoken with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Zuckerberg, it turns out, really doesn’t want to talk about where Facebook came from.  So the book has some big holes. What Zuckerberg is interested in talking about, though, is where Facebook is going, and that is what makes this book so interesting from a spiritual perspective. Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg’s life. Reading the book I became acutely aware of just how much time Zuckerberg has spent on Facebook. Twenty hour days for months at a time. My guess is that he’s still working those kind of hours. Mark Zuckerberg has given his life to Facebook, which is probably why it is so good. By all accounts, it is something to which he is delighted to devote himself.

We should all be so lucky. Sort of.

It would be wonderful if all of us could find a calling in our life to which we could devote ourselves so gladly. The problem is choosing the right thing. I see people give their lives to corporate jobs all the time. It is the most important thing in their lives. I’ve seen it with sports, hobbies, kids. I’ve seen it with drugs and alcohol. For everything that is out there, there is someone who has devoted their life to it.  Not all those things give life back though. Some take it and keep it. Give your life to a corporate job and you will find yourself downsized at age fifty with a family you barely know. It happens all the time. Give your life to alcohol and you will end up in a gutter with no one willing to help you up. It happens all the time.

The trick, I have found, is to find the thing to which we can devote our lives that will give life back to us. That is the way to be happy. And the only things I have found that give life back are loving God and loving others. That’s it. That’s that only way. Those are the only things to which we can devote our lives and, at the end, find life to have been fulfilling.

Facebook makes life better for lots of people, so that’s a great thing for us and a great thing for Mark Zuckerberg. I hope all of us can find our own thing to which we can devote our lives and get life from it. But I hope we can all find that thing in the context of a relationship with a loving, caring God, because Zuckerberg is only getting half of the equation. He’s only experiencing half of the abundant life that’s out there. Which is better than many people, perhaps even most, but I’m like Mark Zuckerberg in that I like to dream big. Except that it’s not really my dream. It’s God’s dream, for all of us. God wants us all to have life and have it abundantly, and the way to do that is to find our calling, our unique way to love God and love others that gives us life. That is God’s vision for all our lives: to have life, and have it abundantly.

May you find it.