Saturday, August 12, 2017

"There's Gonna Be a Great Day!"

When I was much younger I had a favorite audition song entitled "Great Day." I loved the upbeat tempo and message: "When you're down and out, lift up your head and shout, there's gonna be great day. Angels in the sky promise that by and by there's gonna be a great day."

I didn't know much about being "down and out" when I was young.  At this stage in my life I see how "down and out" it is possible to get. I live in this traumatic time with many people. Some are family. Some are friends. Some are members of the congregation I serve. And some are strangers, at least until they walk into my study at church.

One visitor was an older man, unemployed and disabled, a single parent to a teenager. He needed a gas card. He told me how he sometimes made money singing and playing his saxophone.  I invited him to audition for me in the sanctuary. So, there the two of us were, in a dark sanctuary, he singing a song he wrote and I serving as audience and potential employer.  After his audition  I gave him the gas card and invited him to perform for our congregation.  After a long discussion he stunned me by handing back the gas card. He said, "I'll be back for that when I come to sing in your church." 

A second visitor was a tall, fit man who looked for all the world like a "success".  What I found out was that he was recently "down-sized" when his position was eliminated. He was married and has seven children.  But, he wasn't there asking for anything from the church. Rather, he was using his time ("all I have is time right now") to explore how he and his wife could best use their "God's Storehouse" fund. On top of their tithe to their church, this couple took extra money, bonuses or gifts, and put them in a separate account to bless people in need.  They had vowed to never use it for themselves. So, though he was unemployed, he was looking to give his savings away.  Rarely have I met a better example of a person who lived out his belief that, though he was presently down and out,  "angels in the sky promise that by and by there's gonna be a great day."

The ultimate "great day" is  going to happen when Gabriel blows his famous horn.  Until then it takes a little effort on our part, and probably a shift in vision from “down” to “up”, to make a

day great. What step of faith are you willing to take today to prepare yourself to receive the promised great day?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Lesson From 'The Mooch'

Your mouth is a window to your brain (and maybe a doorway to your heart).

When you work for the President of the United States of America, and when your job is to be the lead communicator of the White House’s ‘message’, what comes from your mouth really matters. So, if you display a ‘potty-mouth’ to the world, well, you get the picture.  You won’t be the mouth of the office of President for long because when you speak it is not just your own voice the world hears, it is also the voice of the ‘Leader of the Free World’ and all that that description entails. From Australia to Zambia, the world hears the string of expletives and wonders.

The lesson for those of us who claim to speak for God is a very basic and simple one: “remember who you are.” I borrow this idea from John Stott in his commentary on Romans 6.  Stott writes, “It is my conviction that our heavenly Father says…to us every day: ‘My dear child, you must always remember who you are.’”  His point, and mine, is that our conduct, our language, as people who claim to represent God matters, to all who hear us, especially to God.  God is not going to ‘fire’ us as his children, but he very well may ‘fire’ us from being his spokespersons.

I suppose it could be argued that the language of Mr. Anthony Scaramucci (the ‘Mooch’) was excusable because he didn’t understand he was on the record, and he was angrily defending the President. I don’t buy it.  What comes out of your mouth should not be measured by whether you are on or off the record, because, frankly, with God you are always ‘on the record’. There are proper ways to be forceful in the defense of the one we serve.  A profanity-laced tirade is not one of them. So, I applaud the President and his Chief of Staff for sending the right message: he doesn’t speak for this office.  Should he be forgiven for his indiscretion? If he is remorseful, sure. But actions have consequences, as they say, and now he lives with those.

I know that the use of profanity, especially words based on sexual acts, has become a ‘normal’ way of speaking for much of society.  However, of this I am sure, God is not impressed.  If your goal is to ‘fit in’ with society then you need to decide how to do that in a way that doesn’t reveal that you have forgotten who you are: a child of God, sent forth into the world not to ‘fit it’, but to redeem culture for the One in whose behalf we speak.

Or, to quote the children’s song: ‘Be careful little tongue what you say…”  Remember who (and whose) you are.