Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cruise Control

Have you ever been driving somewhere and about the time you hit the entrance ramp to the highway, your mind detaches and travels to another dimension where it focuses on anything and everything except the task of driving? Oh good, then I'm not alone. :-) When that happens to me, I'll stay spaced-out for a few minutes before jolting back to reality. It's usually at that moment when I realize that I'm driving somewhere between 10 mph below the speed limit and 10 mph above it--which one depends on what I was thinking about at the time.

If I was angry, nervous, excited, or really getting into a hyped-up song on the radio, I was probably going over.

If I was sad, tired, peacefully contented, or drifting into the soft tones of a gently melodic song on the radio, I was probably going under.

When I "wake up" and realize what's happening, I either punch the gas or slam on the brakes, giving myself a severe case of whiplash. (Okay, that's a bit dramatic, but you get the idea. I fix the problem.)


If I'm paying attention when I get on the highway, I set my cruise control. Then I sit back and let my mind wander through the dimensions without having to worry about it getting me a ticket. Because while my speed was formerly controlled by what I was feeling internally at any given time, with cruise control my speed remains constant because it is regulated by something outside of myself and my emotions.

If you've been waiting for the spiritual application of these ramblings, thank you for your patience. (If you've already figured it out, then clearly you are in need of a source of much deeper spiritual musings. May I suggest Here it is:

The Holy Spirit is our Cruise Control.

Think about it. When we hit the entrance ramp to life on our own each day, we often end up way off track of where we're supposed to be. We're too fast, too slow, too low, too high, too aggresive, too passive, too apathetic, too discontent, too selfish, too sacrificial (Yes, it is possible. That's for another post.), too confused, too certain, and any number of other pairs of extremes. Why? Because our "speed", so to speak, is determined by our emotions. We operate from the perspective of how we feel.

Now granted, eventually we jolt back to reality, see the folly of our ways, and punch the gas or slam on the brakes. But by then we may already have flashing lights in our mirrors, and even if we don't, who likes whiplash anyway?


If we're paying attention when we hit the entrance ramp each morning, we should be surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit of God, laying ourselves at His feet, and putting Him in control (especially since He's already in control anyway). Now, that doesn't mean the emotions don't still come. They do. We still feel. But what we feel no longer determines the speed (and often the direction) of our lives. Instead, our speed and direcion remain constant because they are regulated by Someone outside of ourselves and our emotions. We still live in the zone of what we feel, but we don't operate from it anymore. Now we operate from the zone of who He is. And that, my friends, is a steady Cruise Control.

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you...
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God."

Romans 8:5-9, 12-14

Friday, January 13, 2012

Holding Hands

At church last Sunday during the closing prayer, I found myself holding hands with a dear friend. A friend who was praying for me and my family. Physically speaking, this friend of mine is great in neither stature nor strength, but as I held her hand that morning, I felt a strength coming through it. I'm not talking about the kind of strength that people try to share. You know, when you're having a hard time and you're praying with a friend and they hold your hand really tightly as if somehow they can transfer strength to you that way. It wasn't like that. It was a strength not her own, a strength she wasn't trying to convey, a strength that flowed from Someone stronger than herself, a strength that poured into me and filled me up and urged me on. I doubt she was even aware of it. But as I sat there, I thought, "If I was hanging off the edge of a cliff (spiritually speaking), this is the hand I want pulling me back up."

Why? Why is that the hand I want pulling me up? Because it's not just a hand. It's a Hand. In my friend dwells the Spirit of the Most High God, so when I hold her hand, I'm holding more than her hand--I'm holding His. And I know His strength!

The Lord has blessed my life so richly: I have many friends about whom this could be said. When they reach out and hold my hand, I get to hold the Hand of God. Whose hand are YOU holding?

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

"Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand."
Psalm 73:23

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Communion Trays

If you're like me, you have days where you're just simply crabby. And, if you're like me, these days are often preceded by a night on which you stayed up far too late. Today was such a day for me.

It's New Years Day, so obviously I was up late last night. And, this being a Sunday, I was up early this morning and off to church. This, coupled with some unknown causes, created my crabby mood.

Being crabby makes it difficult to focus on worshipping the Lord, but I did my best through the first half of the service. Then came the sermon. Terry spoke about how God had shown him that there are two kinds of people in the church: collection plates and communion trays.
  • Collection plates are about themselves. They look for only what they can get out of church and out of Christ. They spend their time focused on their needs and their struggles and their trials, looking for people to fill them up.
  • Communion trays, on the other hand, are about others. They are made up of crushed fruit and broken bread, but they spend their time looking for ways to use their brokenness to bless those around them. Their focus is on Christ and how their lives might be emptied in order to bring Him glory and bless His children.

So, there you have it.

Now let me give you some back story to the rest of this.

There is a group at our church called Project Tulsa with a mission to serve the homeless people in our city. Since the middle of the summer, a group of us has gone downtown every Sunday afternoon with food and water bottles to hand out. We have made countless friends at the homeless shelters, and they have become a joy to us.

Okay, back to the story.

As I drove home from church, I wrestled back and forth with whether or not to come back to the church after lunch and go with the group downtown. Since I was crabby, I really just wanted to go home and take a nap. But I felt the Lord calling me, saying, "No, go spend time with your friends downtown. Go spend time with Me downtown. Quit being a collection plate. I expect you to be a communion tray." So downtown I went.

We cooked and wrapped 300 hot dogs and loaded up a dozen or so cases of water and soda, and seven of us took off on our weekly rounds.

We were at our last stop before I realized what happened. I was sitting with my friend on the bumper of one of our suburbans, each of us with a pile of hot dogs in our laps. We called out to everyone who walked past and offered them what we had. We laughed with one man who came back five times for another hot dog and teased him about the Pillsbury Dough Boy on his t-shirt. We greeted our friends and asked how their weeks had gone. We prayed with strangers. We smiled and laughed and loved. And suddenly it hit me: I wasn't crabby anymore.

How? How is such a thing possible? The wisdom of the world would tell us that if we're crabby, the best way to fix our mood is to focus on our own needs and take care of ourselves, then we'll feel better. But God's wisdom is different. He tells us to focus on others, to take what already feels spent and spend more, to take what is already empty and pour it out. And somehow, as we empty and pour and spend...we find ourselves fuller than when we started.

As we begin this new year, may we all learn to shed our collection-plate ways and assume the attitude of communion trays. May we be emptied and poured out and utterly spent for the sake of His Kingdom. And at the end of the year, may we be more filled with Him than we could ever have dreamt.

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it." Luke 9:24