Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lifeline Timeline

Isaiah 64:8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. (NIV)

It is an interesting exercise to do a timeline of your life. There is the basic timeline of the high points, i.e. birth date, school milestones, college, young adult milestones, marriage, children etc. There are other more specific timelines which could be your career, family or spiritual timelines. The older you are the more time you have to chart, or the more explicit you want your timeline to be, can cause your timeline to be very long, and/or, full.

I did this exercise shortly after my Parable of the Two Salads event. That was almost nine years ago. All of these timelines would have more moments to record or new titles for some events. Hind-sight allows for additional, in-depth reflection and a different point of view often brings different perceptions.

A Lifeline Timeline can be a useful tool. It provides a glimpse into the production of your life. Looking over your timeline you view patterns, talents, good-decisions and bad-decisions. You get a broader view at the direction you are going, where you might be heading or where you would like to end up.

My only child will be leaving for college soon. The requirements in the life of a 24/7 mom are about to change drastically. In order to embrace this change I've begun looking over my timeline to glimpse any discernible re-direction.

There are well traveled paths I would never have predicted nine years ago. I visibly see what God has been doing in my life and how I got where I am today. There are discernible paths moving forward, some traveled and some untried, but apparent.

Lifeline Timelines are a good exercise for reflection or confirmation or determination. It is a snapshot journal, a quick look at where you've been, where you are and where you are headed. It is a look at who has walked with you and when you have walked alone. A Lifeline Timeline is not the end product but a tool to see clearer the production of you.

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      Thursday, May 13, 2010

      Backyard Gethsemane

      Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

      In an effort to keep up with what my son is learning in school and help with homework I read the books required for his literature class. While on vacation, the current novel was Life of Pi by Yann Martel. An interesting tale with much to recommend it.  Following is a passage worth remarking on. 

      On our Christian walk, we come across moments of doubt; situations in our lives that make us wonder and question. Yann Martel addressed the topic from an interesting perspective:

      “Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” Life of Pi, pg. 36.

      Doubt is inevitable. When it visits it must be recognized and addressed but it cannot be allowed to stay. Faith cannot grow when doubt is present.  One is essentially the opposite of the other. Doubt hesitates to believe where faith is belief based not on proof. 

      The last line of Yann's quote is the pivotal statement, "To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation."  Faith moves us forward towards the work Christ calls us to do and doubt keeps us standing still questioning the call. As mature Christians we know that God is going to call us out of our comfort zone.  He will move us forward but He also gives us the choice to stand still. 

      We can move forward because of the assurance of the Holy Spirit.  John 14:16, 26 16"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." Don't let doubt lock you in place.  Don't deceive yourself into thinking that your doubt is deepening your faith. Christ understands our frailties and has provided the Holy Spirit to see us through our doubt. 

      Be sure of what you hope for, be certain of what you do not see; have faith.

      Check the health of your spiritual heart.

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      Sunday, May 9, 2010

      They'll Know We are Christians . . .

      This past holiday season television shows and commercials, once again, brought to my mind human action and Christian inaction.  This particular issue glares brighter under the lights of the holiday season likely because goodwill is brokered so openly.

      I watched two television series do their Christmas shows, a situation comedy and FBI/pathologist series. Both had many individuals with varied religious/non-religious beliefs. Each person showcased their opinion about the holiday and how they would, or would not, be celebrating. Although the overarching theme was traditional Christmas pageantry the story lines and dialogue were almost the opposite.

      When it comes to the selling of ‘gift giving’ and goodwill holiday commercials can be the most disturbing. In particular, there was a gift card advertisement that leads toward an selfless, philanthropic outcome. Flashes of people exhorting us to “give”, give without boundaries, give unselfishly and the last “give style” with the plug to purchase gift cards that can be spent anywhere in the mall. Jewelry commercials tend to paint females as mercenary, diamond mongers who will not be satisfied if her gift does not come from a renowned jeweler.

      It would be easy to sit in disgust of the worldly ways of the media and shake our heads in shame at what evil is being fed to us and our children through the television. Instead, I have to wonder why the Christian community has lost so much. The easy answer is to blame “them” . . . who is anyone but “us”.

      Western Europe, once a cornerstone of Christianity, has been closing churches and declining in membership. 
      The United States appears to be following hard on their heels, but why? What are we doing, or not doing, that diminishs the kingdom?

      In Rome during the persecution Aristides, an official, wrote to explain how difficult it was to punish people who acted in the way of the Christians. These Christians were known by their actions. They were easily identified because they “acted” so completely different than the surrounding culture and community. They were known because they showed love, kindness, patience, the fruits of the spirit, when all others were not. They were acting in a way that brought people to them. People who wanted to know what they had and how they, too, could participate.

      Can you identify a fellow Christian by their actions? Do Christians act any differently than the surrounding crowd? Is there such a display of the fruits of the spirit that you can be identified as a follower of Christ? What difference does it make what the media displays if we do not act differently?

      From the hymn “They’ll Know We are Christians” the verse says "they’ll know we are Christians by our. . .” what? How do they know you are a Christian? Is it our fault that Christianity is diminishing?  Is it due to our own apathy and lack of commitment to the kingdom?  Do we provide examples that draw others to Christ; live in such joy that people want to know what we know? What are you known for?

      The blame cannot be placed on media or other religious/non-religious groups alone. Be angry at our tepid community of faith. Do your part. Display the fruits of the spirit, live a life of joy in Christ, act like the child of God you are called to be and the rest of world will want to follow. 

      Proverbs 20:11  Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.