Have you ever played that game where everyone says something true about themselves and something that's a lie and the rest of the group has to guess which is which? I recently shared the truth about being a debate team member in college. Some people didn't believe it. They've never been in an argument with me.
You see, I really love to be right. (Anyone with me here?) And I love to win. (Still with me?) So, debating meant I could win by being right- or at least convincing others of this. The convincing had to do with using logic and witty one-liners. The most fun ever! But the truth is that usually in debate we lost track of whether what we were saying was right and we could never consider whether we really believed what we were arguing. That would be a losing strategy.
I quickly (maybe not quickly enough) learned that the tactics that earned trophies in debate were not winning strategies in real life. Friends could be hurt by the quick comeback meant to destroy their argument. Arguing for the sake of arguing might even convince someone to believe something that I didn't believe at all. When I made deeper commitments to living a faithful life, I knew that the debater would have to go. What might have been an "asset" in a future as a politician or television personality had to become a loss for the sake of Christ. Paul (Philippians 3:7) understands this. What the world values doesn't lead to knowing Christ. Everything lost is nothing compared with the gain that is found in Christ.
So, I was given a very exciting gift this Christmas- a Starbucks giftcard! (Yes, I know that local is better, but you don't live where I live. Coffee Bandits on Main St. may change this reality- my first mocha there was very pretty, an important quality in a mocha.) The thing I love about my gift card is that it fills a household budget void and makes me feel like I now have the power to make any day special. And with the average cost of the drinks I choose, I have the power to make about 10 days special.
For some of you, this may seem ridiculous that a cup full of chocolate milk and a little bit of coffee can make a day special, but a while ago my family decided to focus our resources on what really matters. The resource of my time was reallocated so that more was spent with little ones and less was spent earning dollars. The resource of our money was reallocated so that debt could be eliminated and freedom to follow God's call wherever could be gained. These weren't decisions I would have been able to make 10 years ago (when I was working more and racking up all that debt- wait, how does that work??).
But someone must have been praying for me like Paul prayed for the church of Philippi. "That your love may become more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9-10 Common English Bible
Now, I'm able to decide that mochas and turbo-engines aren't what really matters. Neither do popularity or perfect skin. What really matters are the things that free us up to share more and more love, more and more of God. What really matters to you?
Cheers- to a special day!
This is one of our Wesley House students after 36 hours of no sleep. Literally. And after that drink I'm not sure he could sleep if he wanted to. He's a hardworker (and fun to be around even when lacking sleep). Many students are. This is the season of exam after paper after exam after paper... you get the idea.
In the midst of all the sleepless nights and stressful days it can be difficult to make space and remember that "Who you are becoming is more important than what you are accomplishing." I have this on my fridge and hope someday to have learned this lesson well enough to pass it on to others. For now, it stays put where I see it every day.
At the Merced College Bible Study the students have chosen the book of Ecclesiastes to guide us. This Biblical voice adds a very different perspective to the conversation. "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent doing it, and again, all was vanity and chasing after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun." (Ecc. 2:11) and we continue our search for meaning and meaningful work.
This may make me a dork, but sometimes I like to read different translations of the Bible just for fun. A word translated slightly different can open up a passage in a new way- even one that I have heard many times. Plus it reminds me that that Bible was not written in English and that it has brought meaning to people over thousands of years, each generation seeking God's guidance for their own experiences.
Here's my favorite example for today- Matthew chapter 5 verses 14 and 16 read "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden...In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." This translation from the New International Version (NIV) makes me think, "This Little Light of Mine, I'm Gonna Let it Shine" and the candle lit on a dark Christmas Eve night that then is shared throughout the Sanctuary and leaves me with the idea that I can be that candle.
Same passage, different translation, this time from Eugene Peterson's version he calls The Message. "You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill…Be generous with your lives. By opening up to others you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."
This translation invokes images of the autumn leaves showing off in the sunlight. Without the sun shining on them, they look a bit drab, but at the right time of day they seem to dance with beauty. It's like all of a sudden they changed out of their sweats and into a sequined leotard, reflecting all of that light poured onto them.
We are called to shine on people, everyday events and interactions, so that God's generous love is known. A sparkle can be brought out of anyone when a light is shining in their lives. We can be that light, bringing out the God-colors everywhere we go!