Love & Ice Cream

My mom tells the story that when my she and dad had two children (and a third on the way), one night they had ice cream for dinner. And that was it. Money was tight, and so, for one night anyway, ice cream was not only on the menu – it was the menu.

Perhaps you haven’t ever had only dessert for dinner – but have you ever had dessert before dinner? The idea there is to start with the best.

There is something to be said for that; especially when we are talking about a list. If you are going to start with a list of what matters, start with what matters most.

I think that’s what my favorite list does, found in the Bible in Galatians 5. It lists the Fruit of the Spirit. And the first on the list is the best; the harvest you most need to demonstrate in your life. It’s love – the choice “to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves,” as Jean Vanier was to have written.

Love is the firstfruits of the work of Jesus in a person’s life. Love is what we do, how we live, what we choose, who we are. As Eugene Peterson has said, this kind of love chooses to love “without regard to shifting circumstances, hormones, emotional states, and personal convenience.” And let’s be truthful about what that means, Peterson continues. “It’s a risky business. We can be taken advantage of; we can be betrayed. Jesus was….”

So, when I am changed by Jesus, I begin to look like him. And looking like him looks a lot like love. And look where love got him!

But when I begin with love, then the other aspects of Galatians 5 also take shape in my life. The fruit of love begins to look like joy, and patience, and kindness, and faithfulness. In fact, it’s not fruits of the Spirit; its Fruit of the Spirit. It’s one fruit, not many. For these fruit are nine bites out of the same apple, if you will. And love is the core that holds it all together.

If you are a part of Fern Creek Christian, we will studying the book of Galatians on Wednesday nights (beginning Aug 13) – a study that will lead us to look at what it means to be free in Christ. And that freedom starts with, and looks a lot like, love.

So, how fruitful are you?

The Best List Ever

Have you noticed how lists are so much a part of our lives? The Bible starts with a list, and our country was founded with one.

But there are also folks out there making lists who surely can be doing something better with their time. Instead, they are giving us a list for crazy conspiracy theories. And one for the most influential candy bars of all time. And if you have lots of free time (and I do mean lots), Rolling Stone has compiled a description of the 500 greatest albums ever.

The most influential candy bar of all time!
The most influential candy bar of all time!

What is it about lists? Why do we love them so? Well, in an attempt to answer that question, there is, of course, a list – a list of the top ten reasons we love lists. A list about lists.

One of the reasons the list says we like lists is this: lists help give sum things up. A list gives you everything you need to know, and when you get to the end of the list, you’re finished. A list has a clear beginning and ending. Certainly, lists are helpful. Most days, I have a to-do list somewhere nearby – even if it’s just in my head. But lists aren’t everything. As the top ten list about lists says, if you ask an artist when she will finish the painting, she might say: when it’s done. List-making isn’t the same as life-making.

But used correctly (and not simply to discuss bizarre Bigfoot theories), lists can summarize and point us to what matters most.

In fact, the Bible has plenty of lists. There are the famous ones (like the Ten Commandments, a list of Jesus’ disciples, and the Beatitudes). There are some lists in Scripture that are harder to read (the kings conquered by the Hebrew people, and the exiles returning from Babylon). And then there is a great chapter in the Bible, Proverbs 30, which includes these lists: four things that are never satisfied (perhaps it should be five, and include teenagers), four things difficult to understand (can I add teenagers?), and four things that have wisdom contained in small packages (um, not teenagers).

But I think my favorite list in the Bible is found in Galatians 5, because it is a list that points to life. For teenagers. And the rest of us. If you haven’t read it recently, you might dive in. It will take you all of 10 seconds to read, but a lifetime to learn how to apply. For while It’s one of the shortest lists around, it’s also one of the hardest to live. Because, in a way that only the best lists can do, it both summarizes what matters, and points how to get there. fruit of spirit

So, go ahead. Refresh your mouth (and your mind) with the Fruit of the Spirit. Then come back next week, and I’ll share some thoughts on its purpose and its power.

5 of the Best Things about The Church

Last week, I wrote about getting together with my larger family. This week I want to write about the same thing, only bigger. I want to talk about getting together with the larger church family.

I love the church where I serve, Fern Creek Christian. I love the diversity of folks. I love the opportunity to share life. I love how we are able to grow and serve together. But it’s also good to think about the fact that church is much bigger than just the people I see on Sunday. The Church is so much bigger, and makes more of a difference, than I can see — because the Church is so much bigger than just you and me.

Shine your light - at the North American Christian Convention
Shine your light – at the North American Christian Convention

I got to experience this, once again, at this year’s North American Christian Convention. The NACC is a gathering of several thousand folks who are striving to simply be Christians — followers of Jesus. At the NACC, we worship, we we are challenged & encouraged, and we see old friends and make new ones. In a nutshell, we are reminded that Christ’s Church is alive and well all over this country, and the world.

And as I reflect on why I love (and need) the larger church family, let me share these five things:

  1. We are family, no matter what. Our church family belongs together, because we need each other. Is life always easy, just because we follow Jesus? No. But we find ourselves needing others for the journey, precisely because it can be difficult. Church is the one place we should expect to experience love (even if it has to be tough love) — because family loves each other, no matter what.
  2. What unites us as a family is more important than what divides us. In church today, it is pretty easy to focus on the things we disagree about. The list is endless. But what holds us together must be stronger than what would pull us apart. Church is the place where we drawn together — and held together — because of Jesus. And Church must also be the place where what pulls us apart — our preferences, our wishes, and our feelings — never comes before the unity that we have in Jesus. What holds us together is not that we agree on everything; it’s that we agree on our need for Jesus.
  3. It’s really cool watching the church family grow. Is there anything more exciting than someone in your family having a baby? Is there anything more exciting than seeing a church give birth to new life in Christ? There is simply something wonderful about seeing new life begin. Church is that place — where we get a front row seat to watch people begin a life in Christ, and then watch them grow — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  4. Life is better with others you love. And Church is the place where we get to learn how to walk in the way of love. Can you think of any better thing to “walk in”?
  5. Laughter and joy should come naturally. Who has more reason to live life joyfully, full of hopeful laughter, than Jesus-followers? While at the NACC, I saw Tim Hawkins in concert. And I’m not ashamed to say that I laughed til I cried. Do you need a smile (or a belly laugh)? Give Tim a try. Life is meant to be joyful. Sure it has its times of sadness and pain. But faith recognizes that there is something deeper, something more meaningful than our hurt. Joy does not ignore life’s struggles; it simply knows a deeper truth — that we do not face the worst alone. We face them with Jesus in us and his people beside us.

If you’ve read this far, you might notice that my five points are exactly the same as in my previous post. (Just scroll down a few inches and you’ll see what I mean.) That’s because Church, when done right, is family. Church is not simply like family; it is family. For it is the place where we experience grace and love from God, and from each other. And by that love, we are changed.

The 5 Best Things about Family Reunions — and Families

Last week, my family got together for a family reunion. But this was no ordinary get-together. It was extraordinary because all 31 in my family were there — my parents, their five kids and spouses, and all the grandkids and great-grandkids. And it was even cooler because of the reason we gathered: to celebrate my parents’ 60th anniversary.

Mom & Dad on their big day - August 1, 1954
Mom & Dad on their big day – August 1, 1954

It was a fun weekend. The food was good; the weather was nice; and my team even won the Ultimate Frisbee game we played. But more importantly, this was the first time all 31 of us had been in the same place at the same time. And it was obviously the first time my mom and dad had a chance to celebrate 60 years of marriage.

I love getting together with my family, for special occasions or for just run-of-the-mill visits. And as I reflect on why I love (and need) family, five things come to mind:

  1. We are family, no matter what. Family is a place of love, no matter what we face — for family is the place where we are meant to face whatever we face, together. Is this always easy? No. Does it sometimes require hard choices? Absolutely. But family should always be the one place (even if it’s the only place) where I can be loved. No matter what.
  2. What unites us as a family is more important than what divides us. As I think about all the people in my family, there are some noticeable differences. Some worship at churches very different than what I am used to. Others look at life differently, or have everyday lives very different than mine. But what holds us together is not that we agree on everything; it’s that we are family. No matter what.
  3. It’s really cool watching my family grow. When we gathered, I got to meet my six-month-old great-nephew, Hudson, for the first time. And see his big brother Caleb for only the second time. Wow, had he changed! Is there any better place than family to watch others grow — physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Day after day, year after year, decade after decade — it is in family that we get to watch growth, and walk together through the growth that comes through the long journey of life.
  4. Life is better with others you love. Need I say more?
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    Never too old for a selfie; my folks, one of my daughters, and me
  5. Laughter and joy should come naturally. And in family they do. It was fun watching my kids laugh with their cousins at our family reunion. I loved seeing my dad tease my children — and having them see that my sense of humor is a genetic condition. It was cool watching the grandkids reenact how my parents met and got married. And I loved hearing my six-year-old great nephew tell me repeatedly how great it was that our team won the game of Ultimate Frisbee. Life is meant to be joyful. Sure it has its times of sadness, grief, anguish. The wise person doesn’t overlook those. But joy says there is something deeper, something more meaningful than our deepest pain. An insightful person once said that at the heart of the universe is laughter — the laughter of a God whose crazy, extravagant love meets us where we need it most. And oftentimes, the place we see this most clearly, is in family — when we share the joy of the journey with each other.

So, even when my family faces challenges (as they all do), I want to remember these five things. How about you?