New Year, New Post

Happy New Year!

As there are two people who follow me, only a couple will be confused when they see my name pop up in their feed. Greetings!

For everyone else in the ether who may stumble across this post, also Greetings!

Heather and i have been evaluating where we’re at and where we want to be. Some (Ha!) of my life goals aren’t simply going to happen due to good fortune. They will require commitment, persistence, and hard work that accomplishes steps along the way towards that goal. Practically, I simply need to start writing. Serious stuff. Nonsense. Theology. Fiction. Personal thoughts. Anything and everything. It is now Jan 1 – that perennial date to start NOT doing something new. Like so many sheep, I will make a New Year’s resolution: In 2017 I will post thrice weekly on my blog in the hopes of fueling book writing, published journal articles, and/or making somebody feel better. 2017, you’re on notice, and I’ll be letting everyone know about it. Like so few black sheep, I will buck the trend and make something happen that is out of the ordinary. May it be so! (Lord, give me strength.)

Duck Hunting

Duck Hunting, A leadership principle by Keith Drury.

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Re-discovered this piece from a professor of mine. I sure remember my singular form of duck hunting experience, and it was a huge bummer when I missed any. Perhaps that favorite game of yesteryear was a bit of a mis-leading experience when discussing “duck hunting” as a leadership principle.

So often a leader, or anybody with some form of influence, gets their ego hung up on what they’re missing out on. Especially in Christian leadership even one soul won for Christ is a victory, but so many pastors are more concerned with the numbers they missed that day than what they had. Sad but true.

I find this to be true of myself. My ego often got the better of me and let Satan trip me up with thoughts of inferiority when my other thoughts told me I was destined for greatness. I can tell you stories of Duck Hunting gone wrong, and I can back those stories up with personal data of what happens when a leader doesn’t keep their ego in check. Needless to say, I’m glad that I’m much appreciative for what I have these days.

What do you think? Do you focus on the ducks you hit or the ones you missed? Or would you rather talk about the NES game? You can comment here, but I’m sure Coach would be thrilled if you commented directly to him: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633

Thanks!! Go with GOD.

Time and Chance

11 I have seen something else under the sun:
 The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
 
12 Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come:
 As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so men are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
– Ecclesiastes 9:11-12
 
My grandpa is a great man! He has raised six kids and has too many grandkids and great-grandkids to keep track of. He was a farm boy scouted by pro baseball teams. He was a horseman. He was an insurance salesman. He taught me how to golf. He made me think that if I ever decided to smoke it would be a pipe like him (with Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco only, thank you very much). He doesn’t have a theology degree but knows more about the Bible than I do. He takes care of his family and presides over it well.
 
But like Solomon discovered and recorded in Ecclesiastes, time and chance affect us all, whether we’ve lived a good life, a hard life, a long one, or a short one. The great equalizer, cancer, has caught up with my grandpa. It began as pancreatic cancer, but despite his pancreas being removed it has metastasized and is spreading to his liver and beyond. Time and chance…
 
In the last few years my grandpa and I have grown apart – not through any intention on either of our parts. It just gradually happened. Time and chance…
 
I hope to rectify that. We can’t go golfing, but we can still sit and talk. It almost feels awkward at this point. As though I’m ashamed for what I’ve missed by letting us grow apart. I understand lots of kids grow up and just get involved in their own lives. However, I sure didn’t think I could be that selfish. Shame is a good word. And yet if you’re feeling shame don’t let it control you or dissuade you from doing what you know is right. Time and chance may take their toll too soon, and then you’ll have to live with the compounded shame of never doing anything about your shame in the first place.
 
Life really is too short. Time and chance don’t help the odds. So get out there and do some living!
 
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The Ultimate April Fools’ Prank

I’m a huge fan of April Fools’ Day. In fact, I am the type of guy who loves seeing the faces of people who just got pranked. Whether it’s America’s Funniest Home Videos, Punk’d, or Wipeout, seeing people get gotten is a favorite past-time of mine.

One year for Halloween I made a scarecrow and set it on my grandmother’s porch for a week or so before trick-or-treating would happen. Then, on the night of candy collecting I put on the scarecrow’s outfit and placed the candy bowl in my lap. You guessed it! Those grubby little paws would reach in, and I would scream till they reached their cars and drove off! TOO FUNNY!!

This year provides us April Foolers with a very unique opportunity, however. The funnest atheist holiday (as a great friend of mine called it) is combined with one of the holy days of the Liturgical Calendar, or Palm Sunday. I actually asked my pastor what he was planning for Sunday, and he said palm branches… I was floored! He is one of my fellow, prank-loving April Foolers! Perhaps he’s just throwing me off the trail though…

But as I got to chewing on the idea of these two divergent holidays converging this year, a thought occurred to me. Jesus was the greatest April Fooler of them all! I mean, if you’ve ever gotten mixed up in pranks you know how addictive they are. Once someone gets you then you want to turn around and get them back, only bigger! Then it just goes back and forth until somebody’s wife gets fed up with it!

Imagine this: It’s the first Palm Sunday (not that the ancient Jews called it that) and the people are basically coming out in droves for a huge welcoming party that they’re throwing for Jesus. If you close enough you’ll see the Pharisees there in the back. Those sniveling creatures are wringing their hands incessantly because they’re supposed to hold all the religious (and by extension social) power in the community, but here is this upstart on a donkey with the crowds throwing down robes and palms for his mule to walk on. They’re hanging on his every word. The Pharisees are furious.

John 12:19 says, “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’”

So one of them gets the bright idea: “Won’t it be a great idea if we get all these worshippers and partiers to turn on Jesus by the end of the week?”
And another says, “What a great idea! He’ll never see it coming!”
Then a third says, “Maybe we could get them so turned around that they want to kill this one they’re calling the Messiah?”
There are cheers all around and much back-slapping. Well, except for that one guy who spends a little too much time actually living with the Scriptures rather than just proof-texting them, “Wait, guys… won’t that just fit into the prophecies?”
Guy #1 chimes in, “Oh you old so and so! Go back to your studies. Let the big boys make the devious plans.”
Cue snide laughter that goes on for a few seconds more than it should.

By the end of the week, of course, they succeeded. This triumphant entry became a huge defeat for Jesus’ followers and a huge win for the plotting Pharisees and their pharishcemes. From palms to Pilate, Jesus made it all the way into the hands of the Romans and death on a cross.

Ugh! Such arrogance! If only they had listened to this man they hated so much (but what villain ever truly listens to their adversaries??)! They would have heard that for at least a while Jesus had been planning the greatest April Fools’ prank that the world has ever seen! Early in His ministry Jesus went to the Temple before Passover and saw money-changers and merchants in His Father’s house of prayer. With a whip and a fiery spirit He cleared them out, so of course they whimpered about all the money they were going to lose. “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’” (John 2:19).

That right there! That moment! That conversation is when He let them know exactly what He was going to do! But they didn’t believe Him. So they thought for sure their prank would be better. They pulled off something unheard of! They ran one of the first successful political smear campaigns and in less than a week (and without the aid of the internet or John Stewart) got the King of Man a thorny crown.

So I can only imagine the party they were throwing for themselves as the disciples (well, those who hadn’t fled) lowered His body from the cross and laid it in a tomb… their precious Lord… I’m sure the champagne was flowing and the matzo balls were rolling. Like any good prankster, Jesus knew to wait to strike until they least expected it though. I’m sure that one Pharisee was keeping an eye out, the studious one. He tried telling them, but it’s hard to hear the shofar of your own impending doom when the harps of joy and arrogant victory are going strong.

True to His Word, three days after Christ died He took the shaped boulder blocking His grave and rolled it away in a blaze of radiant glory (it was blazingly radiant in my head anyways). From death to life He came forth! Up from the grave He arose! Victorious, powerful, and full of the Spirit He ascended back to life from the underworld with the keys of Hades and of Death in hand. The Temple was rebuilt in three days, just as He promised!

I can’t imagine how the crow tasted as those Pharisees heard the news. The prankers got pranked.

Yes indeed. Christ’s death was the ultimate April Fools’ Joke, because no grave can hold the one who gives life everlasting. May His example be inspiring to you on this Palm Sunday, I mean April Fools’ Day.

 

 

© 2012 by Jeff Brady

Why Have I Never Heard This Preached?????

Biblical Husbandry

(This is part one of two-part series. Part two: Biblical Wifery will come next week)

Martin Luther spent his life dedicated to God. He pastored for decades, stood up to the powers and authorities of the day, and even launched the Reformation, out of which our own tradition comes. And yet, it wasn’t until the end of his life that he married an ex-nun (himself being an ex-priest, neither of whom were able to marry that day in age) that he claimed that MARRIAGE was the hardest thing he had ever had to do. It was also, he claimed, the single-most influential thing in his life that made him more mature and took him to new heights as a man.

There is a problem in our world today. Men are content to sit around and not be the husbands and dads they should be. Others are so busy conniving and climbing the corporate ladder that they’re content to ignore the family at home and pursue the next most available piece of comfort. You’ll find other men who have never grown out of the party scene. Others still are so busy tooling around in the garage, keeping up on sports, checking the DVR, or too drunk to notice they’re drunk that they still have a family.

Naturally, I’m painting in rather broad strokes, but there is an issue in today’s society. Divorce is on the rise, living together before marriage is seen as a viable choice, and teenagers are no more knowledgeable about how to become a man than their own fathers. This post isn’t about digging down for that key historical turnaround, and this post won’t directly solve all of these problems, either. But I believe, at least in some way, if you men follow some of what’s laid out here (or if you women pass it along to your husband) that it will have a profound impact on your marriage, family, and life.

Ephesians 5:25-28, NIV: 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

A dear friend of mine once told me that, “In marriage you should expect a 20% return on an 80% investment.” And after many changes in my life I can say that I’m finding it to be true. However, it is the sweetest, most wonderful arrangement I could imagine!!

While Jesus was preaching to his disciples one time he shared with them, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” When we then see Paul specifically ask husbands to be willing to go these lengths for their wives, just as Christ did indeed go to these lengths for all of us, there is a certain requirement of historical knowledge. A majority of ancient texts said that husbands were merely to provide. It was not a requirement upon husbands to love, nurture, comfort, or show any sort of emotion with his wife (or wives) – he merely needed to provide.

Paul, here, turns that on its head. It is not enough to provide. He must love. It is not enough to love. He must be willing to die. It is not enough to die. He must be willing to lay down his life in order that she may be cleansed and purified.

I propose that it is not so much a physical death to which Paul refers, although if it came to that the husband should be willing. No, Paul is challenging all of the conventions of the time by saying the husband’s love should show itself in a lifestyle of sacrifice. It should come in an entire series of a lifetime of choices that the husband is making for his wife. As Christ died for us he provided justice for humanity, and so there is also justice for the wife in the actions of the husband. In his book Wild At Heart, John Eldredge proposes that men were created in part to battle for the beauty in their lives (their wives). We are to fight. “And it’s not just once, but again and again over time. That’s where the myth really stumps us. Some men are willing to go in once, twice, even three times. But a warrior is in this for good.”

It is through this repetitious fight for the love, honor, beauty, and essence of our wives that the husband repeatedly dies to himself, just as Christ did. He refused to cheat the responsibility His Heavenly Father had laid on Him, and so should husbands. Rather than pursuing their selfish desires or merely thinking food and shelter is all he should provide for his wife, a husband is to sacrifice these motivations for the goal of justifying, cleansing, washing, and purifying his wife. The war here, though, is not just physical. Note in Eph. 5:26 that this cleansing comes through “the Word” and in 5:27 that it will make her “holy and blameless”. This battle that men are fighting, this self-sacrificial way of life on the husband’s part for the sake of his wife, is firstly a spiritual war. It is a battle fought on one’s knees praying to keep the spiritual powers of Satan at bay from his wife and his marriage. It is a battle fought with every choice of a man’s mind or every action with a member of the opposite sex who isn’t his wife… it is a frequent battle of sacrifice in order that his wife may be lifted up, rescued, and cleansed.

At the risk of being proof-texty, I would also remind my readers of another example of how far Christ went for us so that we can guage how far husbands should go for their wives: Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45

I recently finished a book called The One, by Ben Young and Dr. Samuel Adams (no, really). Though the book itself was rather dry (as in I don’t think I’ll pick it up again), I did love this quote: “Marriage is a 24/7/365 marathon designed by God Himself to knock off your rough edges and reform your selfish nature in order to make you holy.”

The idea that “love is a choice” comes into play here. At the root of these actions is the idea that if a husband truly loves his wife it will show itself in a daily and frequent choice for her and her benefit, even at the expense of himself. This not only gives the beauty the opportunity to feel loved, but as it is a spiritual battle that he is waging for his wife, it purifies and cleanses her… as though a refiner’s fire is burning away all impurities. If a husband can do this he is on his way to emulating Christ’s example and loving his wife as Christ loved the Church.

Why would the husband do all this? Not just because he loves his wife or wants to keep things happy. It is in these ways that a man is showing that he loves himself. If he loves himself and has the respect and the goal for self-fulfillment, it will ironically be fulfilled in loving, choosing, and fighting to sacrifice himself for his lover, his wife. It is in this way that we show Christ’s love, and perhaps show a truer form of worship than is possible without the true love between a husband and a wife.

And so, in this way, I propose a solution to the aforementioned societal problems. At its root, men and husbands no longer see themselves as the leaders of their homes. Like it or not, men, we are in the driver’s seat. Although there is compromise and we’re yoked together and all that, the success of our marriage rises and falls on our shoulders and nobody else’s. I mean, we could go on like Adam blaming our wife for our failure (“That woman you put here with me, she gave me the fruit!”). But if we’re going to man-up, then we’re going to start from this moment on (if we’re not already) by courageously leading AND accepting responsibility for the successes and especially the failures in our marriages.

So, men. Are you sacrificing? Are you loving your wife as Christ loved the Church? Or are you skating by? Coasting on the happy trails that have been previously paved? Believe you me, I’ve been there. I’ve scooted down those slopes until all of a sudden I was careening downhill at break-neck speed and nearly lost everything I held dear. Men. It is time to rise up. It is time to be intentional. It is time to be the men that we’ve been called to be, take responsibility for our own lives and marriages, and at the same time bow-low “to make her holy.”

28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

– Proverbs 31:28-29

**For those of you wondering where the wife’s role is in all of this, we’ll get to that next week. The syncopation, love, and amazing wonder of a marriage working as God intended it to is an amazing thing, and can get to a point where it does feel nearly effortless. Don’t forget, though. It takes a lion’s share of effort and more. The rewards are just so sweet!!**

Fish are friends, not food.

“Look, Papa! I can jump really high!”

A beautiful fish the color of rusty fall foliage jumped out of the water and landed with a playful splash. It gracefully swirled into circle after circle and jumped again with another burst of water.

“Aren’t you going to join me?”

“Ok, Son.”

The bigger fish swirled into view and disappeared again behind a pile of old rubbish. He poked his navy blue head out and took a loop around the pile and again. “Come catch me!”

A game of tag as boisterous as though an entire school of fish were playing broke out. Up, down, in, out, over, under… but all the while closer to the heart of the other. Inseparable, thick as thieves… father and son.

“Papa, you’re the best fish I knowed! We’re best friends!”

“That’s right, Son, we are.”

It’s truly amazing what two wash rags can become in the bathtub.