What I Meant to Say Was

I’ve been known to blurt things out.  Not something that I’m absolutely proud of, but it happens. One time at a baseball game, I called Franklin Stubbs, Dodger first baseman, a “sad sack of groceries.”  Don’t even know where that came from.  People laughed, but our seats were close enough to the field to where he ACTUALLY HEARD ME.  I felt awful.

As it turn out, I did it on my keyboard yesterday.  Many of you probably read my Facebook status: “Any “religion” that discriminates against LGBTQ – or any other people group for that matter – can go ahead and die now. Christians, PLEASE: we are called to love.”  It caused quite a stir.

There were many folks who read it to mean “people who discriminate should die”.  Quite literally, and grammatically, that’s not what I meant.  I was referring to the practice of a religion that would intentionally put a wedge between itself and the very people they are supposed to reach out to.  Here’s what I mean:

If you know me at all, you know I’ve spent most of the last 10 years in vocational ministry. Everything I did was directed at telling people about the love of Jesus Christ.  I poured my entire being into this vocation, because it’s something I believe in with my entire heart. Jesus Christ has the power to save people.  He saved me.  And I’m not talking about the salvation  where “now I get to go to heaven when I die.”  (We can discuss ‘salvation’ in more depth at another time – and I’d love to have that discussion!)  I’m talking about the “I was a WRECK of a human being.  I served only myself.  I was ugly on the inside and it manifested itself on the outside – by now I’m completely different” sort of salvation.  The salvation that leads to abundant, fulfilling life, here and now.

Reading through the gospels (the first 4 books of the New Testament) changed the trajectory of my entire life.  I saw how Jesus treated people – especially the marginalized – and I knew it was good.  I saw how he loved people – especially the ones who were deemed “unlovable” by society – and I knew I wanted that in my life.  Jesus healed people, he did miracles, he welcomed children, he touched lepers, he spoke with prostitutes, he ate with tax collectors.  He did the very things the religion of the time would condemn.  He loved people in such a sacrificial way; quite literally, actually, when he was crucified.

I cannot get away from that love.  I can’t shake that from my bones.  It’s part of me now.  And if you believe what the bible says about that, it means the VERY SPIRIT OF GOD HIMSELF now lives within me.  This does NOT mean I am God, but that somehow He chooses to manifest himself within me.  And sometimes I get in the way of that.

Here’s what I’m getting to: When Mississippi passed legislation a couple days ago to “protect” religious freedom, what I really saw happening was a group of people condemning another group of people. And I was SO discouraged.  If Jesus did anything during his time on earth, it was to love the outsider and include the marginalized.  He told people THEY were a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, and somehow the “sinners” around him were drawn to him.  The legislation passed, in my opinion, does the opposite of that.  It says to an outside group “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME.”  And as much as we want to protect our families and our way of life and our religion, what we are really saying is “you are not deserving of my service, my time, my consideration, or my God.”  This is the very antithesis of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

While my post may have been poorly worded, I stand behind the meaning.  I want churches to welcome LGBTQ folks with open arms, to tell them the same words people have told me: “There is nothing you could do that would make God love you less.”  Let’s allow the Spirit of God to be just that – and see what happens in the lives of the people around us.

And if you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll also accept my apology for a generalized message, and for alienating people I consider brothers and sisters.

I’m trying my best, as I’m sure you are, to figure out this life.  And I want to love people well in the process.

 

The Kingdom of Heaven Wears Pink

We’ve got it wrong, guys.

You’ve heard recently about the Starbucks red cups and the war on Christmas. It’s stupid, really, but it’s a pretty good barometer for where are heads and hearts are. To be fair, most Christians I know don’t give a crap whether or not Christmas is represented at Target or Starbucks or Wherever. The fact that #merrychristmasstarbucks is actually making its rounds on social media sites indicates, however, that some do. And I would argue that we’ve missed the point entirely.

If you’re familiar with the Bible at all, you may recall Jesus saying things like “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” then sometimes finishing that thought with some obscure, insignificant piece of evidence that nobody would really care about. He says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, and he says it’s like yeast. He also says the Kingdom of heaven is like a pearl, or like a treasure hidden in a field. He says anyone who does not accept the Kingdom of Heaven like a child will never enter it.

A child. A mustard seed. Yeast. These are things of seemingly small, if any consequence at all. But Jesus uses them to describe the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, before I go on, I should be clear about something. When Jesus says these things he isn’t talking about heaven as in “a place I go to when I die”, but rather “a place where the perfect will of God is done”. Those are completely different things, and I would argue that Jesus was much more interested in the latter than the former. So, why the obscure analogies?

I think Jesus wanted us to pay attention to something that we wouldn’t normally. I think, by using these weird examples, he wanted us to hear that God’s perfect will can and should be found in very unexpected places. The mustard seed, Jesus explains, turns into a giant tree where birds can come and find shelter. The yeast? It infects the dough, actually, and spreads all the way through it. There’s not going back from that.

It’s not what you’d expect “the Kingdom of Heaven” to be like.

My 6-year-old, Carina, has been wearing pink all through October for the last 3 years. It started as something cute, actually, sort of a passing remark. She saw some of our firefighter friends wearing shirts at a pancake breakfast that said “Heroes wear Pink.” Carina, 4 at the time, announced, “I want to be hero.” And that was the start of it.

She learned that the firefighters were raising money for breast cancer, a disease without a cure that affected women all over the world. And she learned that the more money raised, the more chance our doctors would have at finding a cure. And she came up with a completely absurd and illogical way to help. She would wear pink, and people would have to sponsor her.

That’s insane. That’s like saying the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed.

This year Carina wore pink all through October. She hosted a pink lemonade stand at the firefighters pancake breakfast. She made the cutest, most adorable pitch in front of her entire school’s staff – teachers and administrators – and left the room in tears. She made a goal for herself to raise $500. She raised over $1100. She is SIX.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a place where God’s perfect will is done – where there is love and sacrifice, where people who suffer get relief, where things that ought-not-be come undone. While others out there are fighting a culture war that they will never win and doesn’t even matter, my little girl is helping to advance the Kingdom of Heaven. Yeah, I’m proud of her.

Can we, even if we don’t even call ourselves Christian, follow Carina’s example? Can we care about the things God cares about, love others well, and prove it by our actions?

Carina is my hero, and I want to be like her. And I want someone to say of me someday, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like that.”

Seconds and Centimeters, Amen

“They called us the Amens.” Maya said this after we were all safe and sitting on the side of the road. “The firefighters.  I heard them on the radio.  They said the Amens are all ok.  No injuries.  That’s what they called us.”

It happened before any of us could think.  A driver headed east on SR 129 fell asleep at the wheel, veered off the road and smashed head on into a power pole.  As we drove west, we watched it happen in front of us, her Jeep breaking the pole in thirds, the top of which swung across the highway as we locked the brakes and watched our friends – pulling a travel trailer directly in front of us – begin to jackknife, the trailer sailing by shards and pieces into the air.

When we all finally stopped moving, my truck and utility trailer were off the road, near a drainage ditch in one piece.  But the power pole that had broken was dangling in the middle of the road, supported only by the tension of the live wires from each adjacent pole.  We were trapped – power wires and tension cords lay on the ground next to the truck and dangled perilously over it.

I told my family to stay in the truck, not wanting them to endanger themselves any further.  As I looked back at the Jeep, a mother and a teenage daughter crawled out, crying, but alive.  They hugged each other and the mom yelled, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry!  I’m so sorry!  I love you!”  They were ok.

I turned back around to see my friends were safely getting out of their car – 1/3 of a trailer still attached somehow perpendicularly to their SUV.  They were ok.

There were, by now, strangers on the scene, barking directions. “Don’t get out of the truck!!  Those are LIVE WIRES!! Stay away from them!!”  But my family was still in the truck.  If anything else caused those already-compromised poles or cables to move, they would literally end up laying across my vehicle — with my family inside.

Stepping over a wire, I opened the doors and told everyone to get out.  I grabbed the baby, Alyssa grabbed Carina, and Maya came out front. We walked over and under the wires to the side of the road and to safety.  We were ok.

Since Sunday, that scene has played itself back in my mind almost constantly.  When I’m not focussed on the immediate present, my mind goes there.  We are alive, by the grace and protection of God.  My friends, the Taylors and the Gilbertsons, share the same sentiment.  We’ve talked about it – what we saw, what we heard, and what could have been.

“If the first cable had missed our trailer, the entire thing would have hit you guys,” Jason says.

“If it had been one inch to the right, it would have gone through your vehicle, not your trailer,” I reply.

These are the things that go through our minds now – the seconds and the centimeters, the ifs and the thank Gods.  If the other driver had fallen asleep a second later, her car would have hit one of us head on.  If the wooden power pole had broken lower, or higher, the wires would have laid differently around – perhaps ON – us.  If our brakes had stopped us any later, we’d have been entangled in electric cables.  If we’d have veered right, off the road by 6 more inches, we’d have ended up in the drainage ditch we skidded by.  A second here, a centimeter there.  By the grace of God, I can tell this story.  Amen.

And I tell it not so you can feel sorry (or any other emotion) for me, my family, or my friends.  I tell it for perspective, so you know the seconds and the centimeters count.  Since Sunday I’ve had an acute awareness of this, which I’m sure will wane as the distance between the accident and the present increases.  But while it lasts, I will pay attention – to the laughs of my kids, to the words of my friends, to breathe in deeply and hold my wife tightly.  I don’t want centimeters to separate me from living life fully, or seconds to pass without fully knowing I’m alive, by the grace of God.

4 Things You Should Know About Your Pastor

I have experienced a strange phenomenon lately.  I don’t know that it has a name, and I’m certain that it isn’t anything new, but it has manifested itself before me in the last 2 weeks maybe more than any other time in my life.  Here it is:

When I tell people I work at a church, our relationship changes.  Either a) they have assumptions about me, my behavior, and my religion that aren’t necessarily true, or b) they think they have to change their behavior, language, or ideas because they are now talking to a “pastor”.

It’s weird, guys.  And I don’t like it.  I’d like to think (and I’m certain I’m naive to this point) that I’ve never put off a vibe that says, “Hey guys, I’m better than you.  Shape up.”  I’d like to think that I’m a fairly regular guy who does regular things.  I understand the very nature of my job comes with certain connotations and assumptions.  That being said, however, I’d like to set the record straight.  Here are a few things I think you ought to know about most pastors…or maybe just me…

1) You can cuss.  It’s ok.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about music.  We were listening to Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk” (judge me all you want) and it was the first time my friend had heard it.  Now, I’ve known this guy for 7 years.  I’d like to think we are pretty close.  About halfway through the song he looks at me and says, “This song is FUDGING BUMPIN’!”  Only he didn’t say fudge. (If you didn’t just immediately think of “A Christmas Story” I’m not sure if we can be friends.)  But he said it.  The dreaded F word.  He immediately said, “Sorry, that just slipped out”.  He was embarrassed, obviously.  But so was I.  Not that he said the word, but that he thought he couldn’t just be himself around me.  Let’s be clear, I don’t necessarily condone the word. I would never allow my kids to say it, for instance.  However, I fully understand that adults use this sort of language.  As a youth pastor for the last 7 years I heard this EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE, and now, as a coach at a CrossFit gym I hear it just as regularly.  The bottom line is that while it isn’t a word I use with regularity, I, and most pastors I know, would seriously rather you just be yourself around us.  If your everyday vocabulary includes swearing, please don’t pander to us and act like it isn’t.  We will like you anyway.

2) We like beer

I got the amazing opportunity to perform a wedding a few weeks ago for a great friend of mine.  She was in the very first youth group I ever lead, and she was 16 when I met her.  Great kid then, great woman now.  Anyway, I was invited to be a part of a fantastic wedding, a super fun rehearsal dinner, and a SLAMMIN’ wedding reception, at which there was a pretty good selection of microbrews (it was Portland, don’t know if you can beat that place for microbrews).  My wife and I drank a few beers and danced our socks off with 25 year olds (yes, we were the old folks on the dance floor) who had been in my youth group when they were 16 years old.  We had an absolute blast.

The next morning the wedding party got together at a brunch, to which Maya and I were invited.  One of the girls made a comment to the effect, “I can’t believe we were partying with our youth pastor!”

I get it.  And I didn’t take any offense to it.  Church people are supposed to be boring, right?  Well, I really hope not.  I hope Christ followers can be the life of the party, the ones who can cut a rug with the best of ’em, the ones who can tell the difference between an IPA and a Lager.  Let’s not forget – Jesus was accused of being a “wine bibber and a drunkard”.

Most pastors I know enjoy a good beer, maybe even a good bourbon.  This isn’t to say the goal is to get blitzed, but it is certainly a part of enjoying life with friends.

3) We have no time clock

Sometimes I’ll be at Starbucks sitting with a college kid and will get asked the question, “So what do you do all week?”  They see me Sunday with a guitar, or they see me at college group, or perhaps even a midweek meeting with others.  But there is a perception (for some – I don’t mean this as a blanket accusation) that pastors only work on Sundays.

The truth is most pastors I know work AT LEAST 60 hours a week.  We meet you at Starbucks to talk to you about your faith, your marriage, school, work, etc.  We spend hours attempting to craft a message that will speak truth to you, help you out in some form or fashion in your daily life.  We reach out to people we don’t know.  We practice songs.  We organize people.  We lead efforts in our community for the betterment of our community.  We get texts and calls and emails at every hour of the day, because most pastors I know are trusted friends who can be called upon in time of need.

Not only that, in this business (and yes, I know, it’s not really a business), you don’t get to “check out” once you go home.  That kid who has no home support system, that man who is contemplating leaving his wife, that girl who is a serial dater because she has little to no self worth – they all come home with us.  Those are the stories I tell my wife.  Those are the people we pray for and grieve over together.  It’s not something one can simply turn off.

4) We have doubts, too

Yes, we speak in certainties and assurances.  Yes, our messages are filled (hopefully) with hope and grace, and point to something bigger than ourselves.  But, if I’m honest, I have doubts all the time.

I don’t fully understand God.  Anyone who says they do is a liar or a sociopath, or both.  I’ve read the bible, lots of times, actually, and it’s lead me to this…  There is truth and beauty in the world.  I believe that comes from God through Jesus Christ.  But I also fully admit that God is bigger than the bible, bigger than my personal faith, even bigger than our collective experiences and faiths together.  Guess what that leads to?  Questions.

I don’t know why there is cancer.  I don’t know why there is genocide.  I don’t know why there is racism, poverty, injustice, and sickness.  I don’t know how big the universe is.  I don’t know anything about string theory.  I don’t know why mosquitoes exist or why peanut butter tastes so dang good.  I don’t know why I cry at the end of “Field of Dreams”.  I don’t know much about other religions, even.  Heck, some of my closest Christian friends disagree with my theology and how life works.

That’s ok.  I actually think it makes us more human – which is, after all, exactly what God made us.

I guess what I’m saying in all this is that pastors are people.  Just people.  We mostly are regular guys and gals with an acute desire to make the world a better place and an extreme affinity for Jesus Christ.  We mess up, we get stuff right sometimes, too.  My hope is that you can see us for who we really are, and that we would be closer because of it.

Ferguson and you and me

I’ve watched and listened the last 24 hours.  I’ve seen the riots at the hands of looters who have no idea at the damage they’ve caused and are causing.  I’ve heard every talking head, from those still screaming injustice to those who say he got what he deserved.  I’ve read tweets from people who confidently shout their righteous indignation at a system still stacked against black men, or from those who proclaim, in not-so-many words that if you act like a thug and live like a thug, you get treated like a thug.

And you’ve seen them, too.  I’m confident you have a confident opinion about what’s right and who’s wrong.  You may even have statistics to back up your claims, or anecdotes about your friend who is in law enforcement or your friend who has been a victim of the injustice or that one time you got pulled over because of your skin or that one time you saw how those black guys acted or… or… or…

I’m tired.  And I don’t have any good answers to any of this.  And I don’t have a side to stand on, which puts me firmly in the minority.

The only thing that has come to my mind, and repeatedly so for the last day, are words written 2,000 years ago.  They haunt me as I try to wrap my mind around an incomprehensible situation, to put my heart in the place of parents who lost a child, or an officer who may (or may not) have feared for his life and did the only thing he could think to do.  Here they are:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning….14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

There is a beautiful story, for those who believe it, that Jesus came to earth – from HEAVEN of all places – to live among people who were not worthy of his presence.  The term (which I learned in seminary and you will forget as soon as you’re done reading) “Incarnational Witness” means that Jesus left absolute perfection to become flesh, to make a home here on earth among the prostitutes, lepers, liars, beggars, cheaters, gossips, and murderers.  He came willingly, to live in the brokenness, to offer people life.  Even if you don’t believe the particulars of the story, you have to agree the sentiment itself is quite incredible.

What I’ve learned further, especially over the course of almost 10 years of doing ministry, is that model is the only one worth following.  Here’s what I mean;  if I call myself a Christian, a “little Christ”, then I do my best to emulate what he did. The way he talked to people, the way he treated people, the way he listened – EVEN WHEN THEY DIDN’T DESERVE IT.  For Jesus, people were people, created in the image of God and made to live life abundantly.  He didn’t come to earth because he agreed with how they lived, but he positioned himself as a servant so people might understand how, perhaps at a very basic level, to operate.  He listened to the woman at the well, he asked the little children to come to him, he physically touched (and healed, I may add) lepers and those with physical and psychological abnormalities.  He made himself less so others might be more.  He loved to the point of his own death, all the while, being completely innocent of wrong doing, and only guilty of loving those who were “unworthy” of that love.

I am far from perfect.  I am not nearly loving enough.  I judge and criticize and gossip.  I try not to, but I do.

But here, in the wake of one of the defining moments of our current culture, in the shadow of the words “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”, I want to attempt to act the same way (I believe) Jesus would.

I want to listen and not condemn.  I want to hear the opposition (whichever side that may be) at face value, and maybe invite them to dinner.  I want to enter into this conversation, at whatever level I may be allowed, and help to bring healing to the brokenness (because we can ALL agree this situation is absolutely broken).

And whatever else may happen, whatever else people may say, I want to offer peace, reconciliation, hope, and love.  But I’m only me.  I have a good number of friends and I have this blog, but that’s about as far as my social resources go.  I’m inviting you, and anyone else you may know, to go there with me – to stop professing to know all the answers and to be able to fix all the problems, and to love my neighbor as myself, which means understanding my neighbor as myself first, whether my neighbor lives right next door or in Ferguson.

There are, however much we don’t want them around, those times when words aren’t enough.  You know these times, because we’ve all experienced them, right? …When friends are hurting, when life seems to be suffocating, when too much is happening that you can’t control? Of course you do.

I’ve sat and listened to friends this month, probably more than anytime in my life, where all I can do is stare blankly back at them and say, “Wow.  That’s awful…I’m so sorry.”  And I hate that.  Mostly because inherently I just want to fix things for them.  But I can’t.  My words feel empty and useless.

For example; one of my friends was admitted to the hospital this last month and stayed there for 5 days with pneumonia.  She’s a very active mother of two young kids, and is still doing her best to recuperate. It’s been extremely hard for her, and for her husband and kids.

Another one of my friends shared the process of knowing his father in law would die any day, and as he finally passed, the grieving process that has no formula.

Some of my close friends got news recently that their baby boy is autistic, and would need to be placed in home care where he could get the best access to the type of help he would need.

Another friend, a single mother of a high school girl, called me on the way home from Stanford after an appointment where she (for the second time) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which she thought she had beaten.  At the same time, in a different room at Stanford, her sister was being diagnosed with blood cancer, and would be admitted the very next day.

These are just a few of the stories I’ve heard this month.  They are hard to hear.  They are proof that life never comes at us neatly, and is harder than we can handle sometimes.

What sort of response gives justice to those sorts of injustices?  I could think of none other than to pray and say, “Oh man, I’m so sorry, what can I do for you? Please tell me what I can do to help…”  I’m guessing that although I am friends with all these people, and genuinely desired to ease their pain and hurt, to remedy the situation, that my words fell like dead leaves against a reality as heavy and cold as winter.

I’ve struggled to make sense of this, to see what (if any) good can come from this.  I’ve wondered, although I know the seminary answers, at the problem of pain, and how God redeems even the bleakest moments.  I believe that all of life is sacred, even when the moments feel vile, and that God is present even when we don’t recognize his presence.  So where are you, God, in all of this?

…………………………………………………………..

The other morning as I was dropping off Sophia (my 5-month-old) at my parents house, Carina (my 4-year-old) jumped out of the truck to go say hi to her grandparents.  As I was pulling the car seat out, Carina yelled, “Daddy!  DADDY, LOOK!”  It was all urgency and excitement, and for a minute I feared there might be a stray dog making his way close to us.  But when I turned around, Carina was standing in the middle of my parents’ front lawn, completely amazed at what she had found.  “It’s so PRETTY,” she exclaimed. Some of the small purple flowers (a google search revealed they were “creeping mazus”) that were supposed to stay in the flower bed, cut off from the rest of the lawn, had managed to find their way into the grass.

To anyone who cares in the least what their front yard looks like, these “flowers” would be considered a weed.  They infest the green grass and spread quickly to every area.  If these are in your lawn, it isn’t because you want them there, but because they have decided, with no regard to your lawn-management, to creep into your orderly business.

It isn’t too much a leap to say sickness and hardship do the exact same thing.  While we are busy planning and making sure life has structure and balance and any sort of other word you can think of that wraps it neatly in a gift box for us, the weeds of life make their way into our business.  It happens all the time. They never come when we are ready for them, nor do we greet them with a warm welcome.

As Carina stood in the middle of my parents yard and marveled at the beauty of these plants nobody wants, I began to be amazed at her insight.  She had no idea these tiny purple flowers weren’t supposed to be there – that they were an infestation on an orderly and well-maintained lawn.  She only saw what they were in that moment; pretty little purple flowers, and they made her smile, and that made me smile.

I doubt any of my friends who have experienced hardship these last couple months are able to look at sickness and death and say, as Carina did, “How pretty.”  I don’t expect them to.  How absurd that would be.  How insane to ask these friends to look at the world through rose colored lenses and ask them to be naive about the gravity of life.  To do that would be insulting.

But what I have prayed for my friends is exactly this:  That God would take something awful and turn it into something good, because that’s his business, and that’s what he loves to do.   I pray that my friends have the minds to look at what life has given to them, and expect God to show up in places they would never truly expect to see him.  I pray they receive, as Isaiah 61 says, “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair.”

While I know that in the moment of our dire circumstance, the thought that God is willing and wants to do something incredible is hard to come by, I thank God for the moment he gave me the other day with Carina.  Because it will come for me, the part of life that I won’t be able to handle alone, the part that seems bleak and desperate.  I pray that I remember even then that there is beauty if I am willing to see it, that I cannot control what life hands me, but I can trust a God who knows me and desires to hold me close.  I know that even in these circumstances, God is there, sometimes showing himself in ways I would have never expected.

“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome this world.” – John 16:33

 

 

The one about lawn care and cancer

How I Got Rich

It’s pretty incredible to think about, actually.

I work for a church, and have been a youth pastor for the last 8 years.  And as much as I LOVE that job, it’s not glamourous by any means.  I don’t get paid a boatload of cash at the beginning or end of each month.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely make enough to help take care of my family (let’s be honest, my wife brings home the majority of the bacon), and the church has ALWAYS treated me as well as they have been able to.  That being said, I don’t have a ton of expendable cash.

But I am so rich.  And so are you.

If you are reading this, you have internet access, which means a) you pay for it yourself at home, or b) you are sitting in a coffee shop drinking a $4 latte.  How does this make you rich?  Well, here’s the first part – the MAJORITY of the world lives on less than $2/day.  You read that correctly.  There are BILLIONS of people on earth, and most of them live at a level of poverty that you and I couldn’t even fathom.  You and I laugh at $2.  Most of the time the tooth fairy leaves (at least) that much under the pillow. So theres that.

I don’t mean, however, to beat you into feeling badly (or any other emotion, for that matter) for having money, whatever amount you may have.  I just mean to tell you being rich is about perspective.

A little gem popped out at me yesterday as I was reading some Proverbs.  It goes, “One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.”  

Ha.  We are all pretenders, and I’m case study number 1.  “I’m just a poor youth pastor,” I say (mostly in jest).  What a fraud I would be if I actually meant that.

What happened yesterday as I read this?  I began to realize all the ways I am rich.  SO rich.  I have a wife who is faithful and loving, who supports me even when I’m neurotic, who I can lean on for strength, and who I look to for wisdom.  (She’s also DDG…drop dead gorgeous.  Yep, I just made up an acronym.)  I have FOUR kids who give me joy and make me laugh, every single day of my life.  I have friends who love and pray for me.  I have a mom and a dad who would (and sometimes did) give up their WORLD for my brother, sister and me.  I have church brothers and sisters who don’t know me well, but would show up on my doorstep if I asked them for help replacing my garage door (see what I did there?  My garage door is broken, you guys).  

And I pretend to be poor.

I suppose that’s better than the alternative, right?  I mean, who wants to pretend to be rich but actually have nothing?

If any of this is poking you at all, I’d encourage you to do 2 things.  First, admit you are rich (because you are).  Then, take inventory of your riches.  What do you have in your life that makes you wealthy, that provides you with joy, and that gives you riches you could never put in the bank?  If you’re at all like me, you’re going to realize this sort of perspective makes one’s day better.  Suddenly the fact that your garage door is broken isn’t as important as you thought it was.  

So, let’s do it.  Let’s get rich together.