Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hanging On To My Clunker

I read this morning that nearly 700,000 cars were sold during the Cash for Clunkers program. I have a clunker and I am hanging on to mine. It has 200,000 miles, uses a bit of oil, but still gets me to the church on time.

I love getting all I can out of whatever I buy. Some people call me "tight" or "cheap", but I just enjoy seeing how long things will last. I have items in my garage that I have had for more than three decades - they work fine. What is wrong with hanging on to things instead of constantly feeling compelled to get a new gadget or new toy or new computer.

I could go buy a new car or new boat or a new bike but after the first ride it would be used. Things always lose their newness - one or two times on the road and the car is just like all the rest - it's used. The word "used" is not a negative term to me.

I like keeping things that have some miles on them - I have friendships that have a lot of miles on them and they are more valuable to me than ever. My sweet wife and I have been traveling life together for 35 years and it is a great road trip - I want more!

I saw a news item about a woman that had been driving the same old Mercury sedan for 40 years - she had over 500,000 thousand miles on this simple but reliable old car. There is something magic about that to me. In a world where everything is so disposable, it thrills me to see people who enjoy taking the long way home.

Just thinking, Steve

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jesus at the Window

I stopped by a local fast food place on the way to work today to pick-up a nutritious breakfast - a biscuit with grape jelly and a medium diet coke. Good stuff. As I pulled up to the window I was shocked to see who was working the drive thru this morning - Jesus had the morning shift.

The young man gave me a warm smile and my breakfast and there on his name tag was his name: Jesus. This is not my first time to meet someone with the name Jesus - when I was in Junior High I played basketball and football with Jesus. He would never let us call him Jesus - he went by Jesse but his Christian name was Jesus - it was on his birth certificate, I am sure.

I am curious how it feels to be named Jesus. Can you imagine going through life with your given name being Jesus?

The truth is that the name Jesus, made famous by Jesus of Nazareth, my dear Lord, was a very common name when he received the name so long ago. It would have been like naming your son, John or Bill or Joe - it was a household name. What transformed this common name was the remarkable life of one person who lived nearly two millenniums ago - this name was never the same after he made his earthly journey.

I am understanding it more clearly all the time that being a follower of Jesus is really about trying to be like him - full of grace and truth and a blessing to our world. I have so much to learn and my failings in being like him are in stark contrast to his beautiful life but in my heart I desire to be more like him each day. There was a time when I wanted to be a "great preacher" or "a great Christian leader" but what I sincerely desire now, as I have matured a bit, is to simply be more like Jesus day by day. Jesus said the greatest are those who learn to serve others.

I am glad my Mom did not name me Jesus - Steve is fine for me. I do admire the young man wearing the name "Jesus'" on his name tag who smiled broadly this morning - he was kind when I asked for an extra grape jelly. I prayed a little prayer for him as I pulled away.

Just thinking, Steve

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reflections from the Quiet Places

I have been enjoying a Sabbatical this summer. This is my first experience with the idea of a Sabbatical. I have been engaged in my current job for 24 years this summer. In all I have been in the same vocation for 34 years. Work is something I have been doing since my first part-time job at 12 years old. I worked through High School and College and have not stopped since. Work is my comfort zone - I love working. So the idea of taking a "sabbatical" is a shock to the system, but a much needed one.

The word sabbatical literally means to "cease from tending your fields". So that is what I have attempted to do, even though I did do my yard on occasion. Yard work is recreation for me not work. Much of what I have attempted to do while not doing my normal work, is to be quiet, to listen, to be attentive. Guess what? This has been hard work: to stop, be quiet, listen, and pay attention.

One of my, favorite pictures of the way people live their lives in today's world, is that we "live like tourists, not pilgrims." Pilgrims are on a journey drinking in all the experiences of life, while tourists are just sightseeing enslaved by their itineraries.

I have always loved the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10 - Jesus and his disciples come to visit and Martha is having her "19th nervous breakdown." There is work to do and Mary is not helping - she is just sitting at Jesus' feet listening, being quiet, and paying attention. Martha, being the "good Christian" that she is, wants Jesus' to get Mary told and tell her get up off her duff and get in the kitchen and help! Jesus loves Martha so much but on this day Martha is wrong. She is "worried and upset about many things". When I read that I think about how we often live our days - we live worried, anxious, upset about a long list of things - this is not just an occasional occurrence for many but a way of life. Not good. I want to say to Martha - "Martha, Jesus is in the house - what are you thinking!" Jesus makes it clear - "only one thing is needed."
Take that in for a moment - one thing is needed. In a world filled with constant distractions, endless text messages, vibrating cell phones, ton's of "Twittering", and flocks of friends on Facebook, CNN, Fox News, Headline News, and hours of screaming A.M. radio talk show celebrities, who has time for "one thing."

One of my buddies told me that his "life is a distraction".

As I reflect on my time of rest and time for quiet, I know now that I am so much poorer when I am distracted and so much richer when I am attentive. Depth speaks to depth. Distraction keeps us in the shallow places. Deep things open themselves to deep places in the heart.

One of my personal goals is be less distracted and more attentive than ever before.

Listen. See. Think. Act.

Just thinking, Steve