Thursday, November 13, 2008

Openin' Day

November 15th is this Saturday. Back in my home state that is a very important day—the opening of firearm deer season. The roads heading north (where there are more deer than people) will be filled with men and women ready to locate a majestic, beautiful trophy buck. And shoot it dead.

When I pastored in the Great Lake State there were a few years, when I went out with some fellas on the holiday known simply as “Openin’ Day.” My intention was never to shoot one of God’s creatures; I went more for the coffee before the “hunt” and the stories of misses after the “hunt.”

Someone would loan me the necessary hunting items: a gun; a bullet to keep in my pocket like Barney Fife; and an orange hat (When I protested that orange is not my color, I was informed that state law required every human in the woods to wear orange. The thinking is that a deer would not be caught dead wearing orange, hence if a trigger-happy hunter saw something moving and it wasn’t wearing orange, it must be a deer. That was mostly bad news to rabbits and raccoons who rarely dress in orange unless they were still wearing their Halloween costume.).

I never used my bullet. Never shot a gun. Never killed a deer. (Please know that my not shooting a deer is not because I am a card caring member of PETA and think there are some moral issues with shooting a deer. Some of my best friends love hunting. Love eating venison. Love the thrill of being in the woods on the hunt. Love the camaraderie of deer camp. I have no problem with any of that—I’m just not a hunter and venison makes me puke.)

But I did like hanging out with my friends. So they would take me to the woods and set me up in a prime hunting spot. Usually I would take a pocket full of candy and my Bible and while I waited for Bambi, I would pray and sing and read and munch on chocolate bars and hope that everyone else in the woods could see my orange hat.

There was one occasion when (what I can only I assume) a deaf and blind deer walked within a few feet of me. I could hear her coming through the woods, so I sang a little louder (that has been known to send humans running for cover. Maybe I should have started preaching… she would have fallen fast asleep), but she kept coming in my direction. With my heart beating a mile a minute, I had a decision: Will I live and let live? Or will I be like Dirty Harry and say, “C’mon Doe Make my Day.” I put down my candy bar and Bible, located my gun—it was on the ground covered with candy wrappers, grabbed my bullet, wrapped by finger around the trigger and …. couldn’t do it. Even though the whole purpose for me sitting in the woods wearing a dopey orange hat was to shoot such animals, when the time came, I just couldn’t do it.

I think there are plenty of times we have the goal within our sight, our finger is on the trigger, but for whatever reason we can’t pull it. Unfortunately, this happens in things that matter a whole lot more than a freezer full of venison.

We know we need to start exercising or start attending church or start tithing or start eating better or start reading our Bible in a more consistent way or take steps on improving our marriage or call a friend and ask forgiveness or call a lonely person and offer encouragement, but we just can’t seem to “pull the trigger.”

In most cases, this is not a decision that we even have to pray: “Is this God’s will?” Of course, it is God’s will to live healthier; of course it’s God’s will to reconcile relationships; of course it’s God’s will to make improvements in our Christian practices and disciplines. The question isn’t “does God want me to do it,” but rather “am I willing to do it”. Am I willing to step out and do what I know God wants me to do? Am I willing to see the goal and move forward in faith?

The Bible says: I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it. (Philippians 3:14-16. The Message). Like Paul let’s determine to stay focused on the goal and when opportunities to move forward and improve our walk with God arise, we will pull the trigger and do what we know is best!

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Bad Day

I had one bad day! (Well, actually it was a bad 42 hours— which technically is more than a day).

My bad day started when we returned home following dinner with friends, and discovered that all the technology stuff in our house had gone “kapooey.” (“Kapooey” is not a technical term, but I think it adequately describes what had happened. Nothing was working). No Phones. No Internet. No TV. No problem, right? I called our technology provider and they told me that a fine technician would be at our house the next afternoon. I can live without phones until the next day I assured myself. It’s not so bad, I said. In fact, I might welcome the silence.

The next day, a fine technician arrived at my door ready to restore all of our missing services. (Here’s a handy piece of information: If a computer technician shows up at your house sporting a college baseball hat, it is preferable that the college of choice would be Stanford or MIT or Harvard— a school that knows a thing or two about technology. You do not want the technician wearing a hat from a certain school south of here that is known for football, paying recruits under the table and hog tyin’. You guess it. Not only was my tech wearing the afore mentioned school’s hat, I think he might have been the “hog tyin team captain). Even still, he assured me that he would have our phones, TV and computers “up and runnin’ in no time.” Well, to quote the famed theologian Meatloaf, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” Our TVs and phones were up and running quickly— but our computers were another story. He worked. And worked. And worked. Until Karla came to me and said those fateful words: “Rob, the tech guy just crashed your computer.”

NOOOOOOOOOOO! That is bad.

And it was true. My computer that contains most of my life from the last three years crashed. By the way, it appears it crashed really bad, really, really bad. This was no fender bender. This was a full blown semi truck meets Ford Pinto type of crash. Best Buy’s Geek Squad couldn’t fix it, neither could the “disaster data recovery guys,” (if the guy whose job tile is: “disaster recovery guy” can’t fix it…. Then my friend, you are in trouble. Make that, I am in trouble!). So as I type on my makeshift computer, my real computer is at some mysterious lab undergoing some top secret computer recovery procedures. They tell me I will know in a week what (or “if” something) can be recovered.

If you are keeping score at home— that’s one crashed home electronics system and one crashed computer. It gets worse.

The next morning I went to the ATM machine to get out my weekly allowance. The ATM machine informed me that my card had expired. Like a scene from a horror movie, the machine laughed at me (well, it seemed like it was laughing) and said in a voice that sounded eerily like Newman from the old Seinfeld show, “There’s NO MONEY FOR YOU. HA HA HA….”

I went to the church— with no money for my morning coffee. No money for lunch. It gets worse.

Speaking of lunch, the staff went to a local eatery. Of course, I had no money so I used my credit card— which I promptly forgot to take with me when we left the restaurant. After much worrying and searching I finally remembered where I had last seen Mr. Visa. I guess I will know in next month’s billing cycle if the fry cook was an honest fry cook after having my credit card for about 30 hours. I sure hope he was an honest fry cook.

Still keeping score? One crashed system. One crashed computer. No working ATM card. One lost Credit card. It gets worse.

After the grueling day, I was ready to go home. My sermon preparations were not going great. (Hopefully, by Sunday it will have gotten much better). The news on my computer was not great. My back up computer did not allow me to receive e-mails or print or have some necessary programs. My gluten free diet must not have been gluten free enough— I was having some tummy troubles. The election talk was getting me down. My dentist called to remind me that this week he is going to “crown me with many crowns.” My head was hurting. Enough is enough, I figured. I just needed to get home— at least at home my family would remind me that none of that stuff matters. That stuff is just stuff and it’s relationships that matter. So I slowly walked to my car, a little beaten up maybe, but not knocked out. I got behind the wheel, turned the key….. and nothing. That’s right— my car would not start. Like Howard Cosell in the Thrilla in Manila, I think someone was yelling, “Down goes Prince. Down goes Prince.”


Ever have a day like that? Nothing seems to be going right. Everything that could go wrong does go wrong. You’ve told yourself, “Nobody died. No one is in the hospital… things could be a whole lot worse. Blah. Blah. Blah.” Still the day stinks, stanks, stunk. Yea, we’ve all had days like that. So what do we do? Go home, get under the covers and say: “Wake me up next Tuesday”? I suppose that’s one option.

I have a better idea. How about focusing on my favorite Bad Day Bible Verse: Isaiah 41:10. It says: “Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” It’s good to be reminded that we are not alone. When cars and computers breakdown— we are not alone. When things are lost and trouble mounts— the One who created the Universe is close by. We all need to be held up by God from time to time. We all need to be strengthened and reminded to not fear. Isaiah 41:10 is a good reminder that even on the lousy days God is still God and He is still Good.