The Starbucks Dilema

To be honest I have been reading a lot about some guy somewhere who is mad at some company because they are using red cups this year rather than specially decorated holiday cups. I hear people of all walks of life weighing in and making much ado about nothing. Other ask why he is getting press at all. Here's my thoughts, he gets press because we keep giving him a place to speak. I have no relationship with the guy and could care less as my faith doesn't hinge on any of this. Red cups, blue cups, one cup, two cups! My life and my understanding of this season has nothing to do with decorations, trees, or cups. In fact if I had to guess, I would say Starbucks​, they are red because it is cheaper to print a solid color than a special design and in this economy I would rather the drink be less costly than a merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, or whatever cup. It's the coffee I am after I throw the silly cup away after I am done. It's not like people go home and lovingly cherish the silly cup! Is there a Starbucks museum somewhere in a church, synagogue, or temple that proudly displays the last 10 years of holiday cups? I go to Starbucks for the coffee and the fellowship of those I take with me. It is the sip and the savor and the conversation that is important, not the cup. Therefore I really don't allow it to affect me.
I think that is part of the problem. We as a society have all become so sensitive that no one can say anything without causing an offense which in turn causes offense at the offense and so on. In my day we punched bullies in the nose and they quit bullying, we allowed people to have different views and just kept going. Now we are scared to offend and offended we are offended. Teachers can't say or do anything, parents can't say or do anything, the rights of the individual trump everyone else's rights until we are offended and then our rights are the only ones that matter.  How much better if we as Christians and non-Christians alike took a page out of the bible and just treated people with dignity, respect, and genuine care? How about we think about and speak about what is good, noble and life giving rather than constantly tearing each other down? How about we lift one another up? You don't have to be a Christian to get that. It's just decency at its finest.
I follow Jesus because I believe in the center of my being that I was created by God. I have a unique design, better than any Starbucks cup could ever be, and a destiny that he designed me for. I follow Jesus because when I look at the world that continues to fall apart around me, he is the one constant that never changes. That though I am not worthy of the love of the creator of all things I have been told I am not worthless. That I am loved and that causes me to change my thinking and my focus from a me-centric world view to God centered world view and no cup, tree, light, or decoration or lack there of, can ever change that.
Here’s my challenge this Holiday season. Instead of getting offended at every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there for saying or not saying “Merry Christmas,” how about we make it a Merry Christmas and a beautiful holiday season by smiling at everyone we meet. How about we slow down and be thankful for all that we are blessed with. How about we realize that out in the world there are millions who don’t have a cup at all, don’t get Christmas gifts and have never seen decorations on a manufactured tree. Let’s make this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. Simply being the best Christ followers ever telling people the good news of great joy. That Jesus came to live and die that we might be free and the peace would be over all the earth and all man on whom His favor rests!  Merry Christmas everyone!
P.S. If you really want a festive Starbucks cup, go to their website  and look at the great collection of festive drinkware complete with an Advent Tree!  

A Card that Made my Day!

In December I lost my Dad. It’s been hard to admit, but that loss affected me in a really profound way. Our relationship over the years was not one of excitement or closeness. In fact there were times when I could have cared less if he drove his truck off a cliff.  In the past five years though a lot of that changed.  We talked, grew close and spent more time together than we ever did when I was growing up. I saw him change his life, and give himself to Christ.  He became the groundskeeper at our church, served on our ministry council and I personally helped to baptize him.  It was really awesome to witness that transformation.
Since his passing I have pretended that I am ok.  I acted cool, collected, as though I had it all together, but in reality I have really struggled.  I buried myself in work and my classes.  I have kept a smile on my face so that people would think I was good.  The truth though is it has been tough.  I have spent time asking why, been angry, and been difficult to deal with at times.  I have also spent a lot of time blaming myself. If only I had gotten him in earlier, if only I had made him… You get the point.
God though has a weird way of knowing what we need and ministering to us in unique and amazing ways.  As I have been working through my grief He has been working behind the scenes.  Close friends continue to check on me and my wife recognizes when I am struggling.
The other day though an amazing thing happened. I finished mowing my lawn and several others, (see my last blog) came home and started going through the mail. There in a stack of bills, ads, and junk mail was an envelope with my name on it. Inside was a card from a group of ladies 1500 miles away. The words inside were expressions of encouragement and blessings.  It was amazing and I must confess I really needed that! 
That’s what missional living looks like on a larger scale.  I have no idea what the reason was or how my name came up, although I hope to discover some of it.  The reality is that I received some awesome words of encouragement in a time when God really knew I could use it.  Being missional starts in our community, but it so much more than just the front door. It means connecting with and being a part of a community that is so much bigger than we can ever imagine.  Being missional means that we pray for those in our family, our church our community and then extends outward even to the very ends of the earth.
My challenge today is to ask, how can we be a blessing for someone else even if they are a long way off? Let God bring people to organizations to mind and then, do something about it. Write a letter, a card, send a text, a check, etc… God has connected us in a family bigger than we can imagine!
God is so good and I am thankful that He remembers me even when I am not always thinking of Him. Thank you so very much to the ladies of WMS at Park Street Brethren Church.  I really needed that encouragement and blessing!

Personal Missionality

Personal Missionality
Yesterday I was out mowing my lawn. Yes it was finally able to occur now that the snow is gone and the sky finally turned a brilliant blue. I looked across the street at one of my neighbors (Bob) home. I had remembered a brief conversation the other day with Bob, and learned he had been in the hospital for several days.  His legs hurt like crazy and it was a chore just to walk.  He was frustrated as he loves being independent.  With all the rain we had been getting he had no idea how or when he was going to be able to even mow his lawn.
As I finished my green space that conversation occurred to me and on a whim I promptly walked over with my mower, fired it up and went to work.  It was hot and I was sweating, but I was also smiling. I really enjoyed being able to help. I finished and noticed his neighbor was also starting on hers.  So I kept going. We had her lawn done in record time.  We finished up and talked for a few moments. Then I headed back home.
Bob never did poke his head out of the door, and I am not sure if he was even home.  However, the truth is that I didn’t mow because I wanted thanked, or paid, or even acknowledged. I did it because God called me too it. It was that still small voice in the back of my head that reminded me of that previous conversation.  I did it because He was calling me to be on His mission. 
People think that being missional is about doing these huge projects that get all sorts of press and accolades from others. Missionality starts by simply being open to God’s voice and doing the simplest of things.  Things that by themselves look small, even insignificant.  Sometimes it might involve big projects with lots of people, but usually it comes down to us as individuals living out what we say we believe day after day. It doesn’t seem like all that big of a deal, over time though, as evidence of a missional lifestyle builds, those little things have a huge impact! 
So my challenge today, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, is to do something for someone else. A random act of kindness that comes from no thought of self, rather from the small voice of God.  If we each do this today and then tomorrow, and the next day, what then will our communities look like a year from now?  How might God be praised and His name made famous?
That’s what being missional at the personal level is really about.  Listening to God’s voice and then doing something about it.  Not just once in a while, but lived out in a daily lifestyle.