The Sin of Deflection

deflectionAnother year, another incorrect prediction of the world’s end.

I often wondered how these predictors interpret their constant misses, until I went on the internet and saw for myself.

They deflect.

Instead of acknowledging their error and apologizing to those they mislead, a lot of these people simply hide behind the sins (or perceived sins) of others. They accuse you of unbelief. They speak of the “mockers” and “scoffers” outside the kingdom who will get their “just reward” when Christ returns. As if any of this somehow ameliorates their own false prophecies. Deflecting.

A coworker responds to correction by pointing out how awful X and Y are at their jobs, and thus how unfair the criticism is. Deflecting.

Teachers spreading poor doctrine complain of being attacked. Deflecting.

Political candidates play down their own flaws and talk about those of their opponent. Deflecting.

And I?

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Wait Gracefully

horse“Wait gracefully”.

This truth bomb was dropped on my head by Sarah over at Love/Power/Strength in response to a discussion here on my blog, and my ears are still ringing from the impact.

It’s just such a deceptively great phrase! And it applies regardless of what you’re waiting for.

Because there’s so many directions you can take the idea of “graceful”, at least in my mind. And because there’s an alternative: to wait gracelessly. I’ve done my share of that.

What could “wait gracefully” mean?

 

1. Graceful appearance

The outward appearance of our lives can be staggered, jerky, tumultuous and ungainly, or it can be smooth, tranquil, flowing, and confident – pleasing to the eye.

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The Second List Singles Should Make

listIf you’re single, you’ve probably been advised at some point to make a “list” of qualities you want in a spouse.

If you’re a Christian single, you’ve probably gotten this advice even more often, given that we Christians have added spiritual criteria to consider (must be in the Word, must be committed to church, etc.).

Lists are fun to make; they make that future feel right around the corner. And they’re valuable, with caveats. Having to sit down and ponder what really matters in a partner, what would best fit our soul and personality, and how God might want to sanctify our list – all good stuff.

But there was a pastor I once followed for about a year whose congregation consisted of singles of varying ages, and he suggested this:

Make a second list – of things you can live without.

Like, actually sit down and write that second list with the same pencil and paper.

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Pizza Lessons #4: Done with Judging

pizza3Being a pizza delivery guy can make you judgmental in a hurry.

I mean, you’re seeing everything. Being a delivery guy takes you into every nook and cranny you didn’t know existed in your own town, and sometimes what you find is ugly. Trailer courts, ghettos, drugs, serious financial problems. It’s easy to take from the surface of what you’re seeing and form a judgment.

(Personal pet peeve: the husband/boyfriend/whatever who sits on the couch watching TV while the woman answers the door trying to juggle a baby, a receipt, and the pizzas I’m handing her. Dude. Help out.)

Or here’s a classic: maybe if you weren’t ordering pizza four times a week, you’d be doing better. I could feed myself for a week on what this is costing you. Heck, McDonald’s is cheaper!

And sometimes I might be right.

But I’m not so sure that that’s the goal anymore.

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Pizza Lessons #1: The God Who Keeps No Score

pizzaSo I traipsed merrily into my evening job (pizza delivery) one evening a few months ago, expecting a night of the usual bizarro shenanigans, and stopped dead in my tracks.

Filling an entire wall in the driver’s station was a big-screen TV I’d never seen before, displaying a map of our town dotted with numbered car icons crawling across it, and on the side, a list of the drivers’ names corresponding to each number.

That’s right – we were now being tracked. We’d been given a new set of car toppers, each carrying sensors that recorded our location, speed, acceleration, deceleration, and turning rates, all factored into our “score” for the shift.

Big Brother, thy name is P…

Nah, I’d better not specify which chain I work for.

One driver quit as soon as he saw the new system. I didn’t, but I was a little incredulous. Do we need to be babysat?

But then I considered the legends of other pizza drivers I’ve known and concluded, Yeah, probably. It was embarrassing to get calls from customers asking if it was our policy for delivery guys to almost drive into their living rooms. It was frustrating when drivers visited their girlfriends for twenty minutes while on a run, leaving a handful of us to drown in dough back at the store during a Friday night rush. I could see the logic behind the system.

But still…a score?

Then it occurred to me: I’m glad God doesn’t score me.

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God’s Not Done with Your Dad

Father’s Day isn’t a holiday that I get to celebrate with quite the same gushy giddiness as my friends.

My father and I have been estranged for…gosh, it’s been 16.5 years now. The reason isn’t important at the moment. Over the years, there have been halting efforts at reconciliation; the last couple years have been mostly good. We had a nice conversation last night that highlighted how good God has been to both of us in the last year.

And that’s the thing – God’s gone right on being good to him.

You see, Level One of Father’s Day blog posts is to talk about how great your dad is. Level Two is to talk about how to handle things if your father perhaps made some mistakes, to extend sympathy, to make sure the fatherless are not left out of the blog audience, and to glorify God as an unfailing father. It’s important to let the fatherless know that their pain and lack is seen and cared for by God.

But Level Three – to which God has leveled me up in the last few years, somewhat against my will – is recognizing that God’s grace extends to your father.

That can be a gigantic stomp on our pride. When we feel our fathers have not done right by us, we retreat to a place of safety in which God is on our side. There is good in that, at first. God does take umbrage over this stuff.

But eventually, God turns his eyes on us. He starts asking whether we have forgiven. And we must ask ourselves, what right do I have to hold against my father a sin that God has forgiven?

That was a difficult moment for me. I preferred my safety and injured pride. There was a moment when I thought I’d never speak to him again.

But I saw God working in my father’s life. He was continuing to bless him (though his life was not perfect). He was gaining wisdom. He was fiercely committed to God’s Word. He was even using his experiences to counsel others. He’s still a good man, in many ways. It was humbling – and awe-inspiring – to see that God was not done with my father. I couldn’t ignore it. I had to respect His work. God was being generous, and I had two options – get with the program and learn about God, or walk in ignorance and be the lesser servant.

It’s hard to know what our future relationship will look like. Obviously, it will never be quite the same. But things are looking better.

Most importantly, my perceived horizons of God’s grace have widened, stretching across the Montana sky. He is truly amazing.

When Good Theology = Good Feelings

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

One thing I’ve discovered about God: he’s offering a great deal more “good feelings” – more joy, peace, serenity, and even enthusiasm – than most of us are experiencing.

The explanation for the disconnect is this: we are not receiving it.

Why not? Possibly because we’re never told it’s available.

Discernment bloggers love to tell us that good theology isn’t about good feelings. I appreciate their vigilance. Good feelings can come from bad sources – promises of earthly wealth, skewed talk of miracles, or even just an unhealthy focus on good feelings – and we must be aware of such deer trails. It’s a cross, not a bed of roses.

But what about Philippians 4, which promises “a peace that transcends all understanding”? Or the repeated command to “rejoice” in our sufferings? Or God’s offers of inner healing (Psalm 34, Isaiah 61)? Or, oh, I don’t know, the promise of heaven? David seemed stoked out of his mind by, of all things, God’s commands. That’s almost weird. My generation prides itself on being more drawn towards God’s compassion and love than his commands. Yet Psalms 119 shows a man absolutely head over heels in love with God, giddy, intoxicated, elated.

There’s more to this “Christianity” thing than some of us know, methinks.

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