How the tools of His trade would one day be the tools of His death

Apr 19

How the tools of His trade would one day be the tools of His death

He learned the trade from his father who probably learned it from his father. The tools were simple.  Wood.  Nails. Hammer.

Wood shavings crunched on the floor, trod by leather sandals. The smell of lumber filled his nostrils. Banging. Scraping. Sawing. The workshop was continually busy. It was all in the life of a carpenter.

There was something satisfying about taking raw lumber and forming a piece of furniture, a shelf or a tool. But then there was the unspoken destiny. Driving a crude spike into the green flesh of the fallen tree reminded Him of the dark days to come.

Jesus the Carpenter

Photo by Secret Mink

We often think of Jesus in strictly Holy terms. The mental images are created by paintings or movies or pictures in the back of the Children’s Bible are clear. Walking among throngs with a lamb draped across his shoulder, or smiling at the man begging by the side of the road, or heaven opening up with a dove, a light shining down on His face. But a carpenter?

Rarely do we imagine The Holy One, the promised King, as a common laborer. I have never given thought to the sliver in his thumb. The shards of primitive iron scraping the skin. The calloused fingers.  It’s all so menial.

But this is the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world, and he’s a common carpenter. He should have had an easier life. He could have been a farmer, a goat herder, or a fisherman. He could have made shoes or worked with fabric. He could have done a hundred other things – but Jesus chose the life of a carpenter.

And this fact was not lost on Jesus. He knew that one day, his human life would end with the very tools of his trade.

“If it be Your will, take this from me.” But it wasn’t. Every nail reminded him that the prophecies would be fulfilled.  Every piece  of lumber shaped would remind him that he would be draped across a timber one day. Every hammer swung would remind him of those who would take his life one day. Yet he went about his duties performing a job that would foretell his death.

How could he not think the wood, the nails and the hammer.?

And how could I ever I forget?

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The roots of misconception

Apr 10

The roots of misconception

Think about all of the tall tales you were told as a child; that touching a toad would give you warts; that lightning never strikes twice; that going out into the cold will give you a cold.

We all have an image of George Washington walking around with wooden teeth, like a walking lumberyard. But the truth of the matter is that his dentures were made out of ivory, lead, gold and even a little donkey tooth.

We’ve all heard the great Chicago fire of 1871 was caused by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over a lamp. 

However, it

Misconception was a newspaper writer who invented the story to make colorful copy and sell some newspapers in the wake of a terrible fire. George Washington Carver didn’t invent peanut butter. Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the flush toilet. Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile.

Somewhere in the recesses of our minds we still believe many of these stories – these misconceptions. For some reason I thought a Twinkie had an indefinite shelf life, especially since the label was full of full of unpronounceable ingredients. I thought the snack would last forever. That’s why when I bought the last box of Twinkies off the shelf before their bankruptcy, I was confident I could snack indefinitely. Unfortunately, six months later, it was little more than a stale, inedible cake.

Like you, the movie Jaws probably rattled you. But did you know there have been just 152 reported Shark fatalities since records began in 1580? By comparison, there have been twice as many deaths from alligators in the U.S. than by sharks. Meanwhile, dogs are responsible for more than 200 human fatalities. And bees are responsible for 500 deaths worldwide on average every year.

See where misconception can lead us?

The lack of understanding has led bitter divisions of people groups, neighborhood feuds, wars, divorce, and even loss of life.

Companies have misconceptions about what motivates their employees.  Why won’t they do what we want them to? 

Couples have misconceptions about each other. Why doesn’t he understand? Why won’t she listen?

We have misconceptions about God. He is punishing me. Why doesn’t he care?

Misconception about faith is driving the gay debate right..and a host of other issues. It’s easy to slip the word “hate” into an argument and that changes the entire trajectory.

So, I’m interested. What are the misconceptions in your life? Have you recently learned something different about a long-held belief? Does someone have a misconception about you?

 

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What’s trendy today might be ridiculous tomorrow

Apr 07

What’s trendy today might be ridiculous tomorrow

 A few nights ago we had a discussion about harvest gold. You might remember those days when appliances, countertops and small mixers all came in this color.  And avocado green was popular too. Around the table we laughed at all the things that were supposed to be cool, forever.

hARVEST GOLD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was supposed to define a new generation of home fashion. Today it defines a generation of home remodelers.

Growing up, our house had paneling – of course – and it kept the basement “cozy.”

And don’t forget the wallpaper. The more flowers and colors, the groovier it was.

paneling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shag carpet. Of course I wasn’t going to overlook you. I ran my Hot Wheels through your long fibers, ate crackers when mom wasn’t looking, and lost my tooth in you clutches.

There was the hair, the crazy mustaches, the bell bottoms and mini skirts, and the flowered patterns.
We laughed about them all. And then it hit me — all of the things I pursue, all the possession I must possess, all the things I desire — will not last into eternity, let alone the next decade.

I’m chasing obsolescence.

So, it makes me wonder, what trends of today will be passé tomorrow? What “cool” things of today will look ridiculous?

No doubt, I follow the trends of the age. I have ditched my short-shorts (my kids begged me), trimmed my hair, and updated my wardrobe to at least 1995. I drive a stylish car, have a newer phone, and make sure my family is “keeping pace.”

Is all this running with culture is an empty pursuit. There are some who literally must fit in and will sacrifice their time, their very souls to fit in. They must have the latest technology, use the newest devices, and engage in the culture’s latest trends.

Then tomorrow comes, and the cycle must begin again.

What He Said: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (I John 2:15-16).

The lust of the flesh.The lust of the eyes. The pride of life. Foolish.

In your opinion, what trendy things of today will look ridiculous tomorrow?

 

Well, I feel 
Like I have to feel 
Something good all of the time 
With most of life I cannot deal 
But a good feeling I can feel 
Even though it may not be real 
And if a person, place or thing can deliver 
I will quiver with delight 
But will it last me for all my life 
Or just one more lonely night 

The lust, the flesh 
The eyes 
And the pride of life 
Drain the life 
Right out of me

-– Michael Roe, The Seventy Sevens

Linking with Laura…

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Playing it Safe: Why Mediocrity Will Never Change the World

Mar 31

Playing it Safe: Why Mediocrity Will Never Change the World

The dust swirled in the hot humid air as I trudged home from school. I slipped the report card next to Mom’s purse, hoping she would just sign it and give it back with cool indifference.

No such luck.

In our home, earning a mediocre grade was a major event, close to dental surgery or transmission work.  She saw the “C” in social studies. My reasoning is that the grade was “average.” But for an hour it seemed, I was on the receiving end of one-sided conversation about what that word means. There would be no average in our family. We came from a proud line of immigrants who fought and struggled to survive. The men in the family were sailors and farmers and gas station owners. None of them were rich, but “none of them were average.”

(For the exciting conclusion, won’t you head on over to The High Calling , where this piece is featured today?)

Feel free to leave any comments over there or here about Mediocrity.

perfectionism mediocrity

 

 

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Divided We Stand: How To Reach the Other Side

Mar 18

Divided We Stand: How To Reach the Other Side

I’ve been thinking divisions lately, since they seem to be so prominently highlighted in conversations, the media, and politics. Really, we divide  our world into two basic groupsUs” and “Them.” That’s it.

There’s the “Us,” which is the socio-economic group we identify based on what we think is important. Things like race and culture and gender and religion factor into the “us.” And other things like sports allegiances, dress standards, or homes also create groups we can identify with.

We are often identified by the part of town in which we live like:

  • The North Side
  • The Valley
  • Hillside
  • 14th Street Subdivision  

There’s a huge swath of the world we simply don’t identify with or understand. That’s the them.  This is a realistic chasm.  Our known community understands our preferences and the perception is that the other side has “no idea.” They are different.

Too often, those allegiances and distinctions create an us versus them separation.

We like to be around people who are like us. That’s one reason why churches some 60 years after integration are still basically color-same. That’s why some people never moved to another part of town because they’re uncomfortable with the thought of “them.” It is really “divided we stand?”

The value of different thought

But having people around us who are not like us can be rewarding. And it’s stimulating intellectually, spiritually, and mentally to purposefully reach out and engage those who are not like us.

While some claim Christianity is exclusivejudgmental, and even racist, the very basis of the faith paints an entirely different picture.  Galatians says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The known dividers of the day when this is written are taken on, one-by-one

  • Racism
  • Religion
  • Slavery
  • and Sexism

They were all destroyed with a single verse. “You are all one in Christ.

This is the real diversity, the real inclusion, the real unity. 

divided rock

The challenge

Just because we’re different doesn’t mean we are divided. The media loves to dig up differences. Politicians like to pick at the scabs we are trying to heal. So, I’m different than someone else. I take great umbrage at the general characterization of my attitudes simply because of my position in life. Just because I am white, doesn’t mean I’m racist. Just because I’m Christian, doesn’t mean I’m homophobic. Just because I’m American, doesn’t mean I hate Muslims.

Admittedly, I’m comfortable with my own people. Government worker. Christian. Suburban. Middle-age. But I confess my need to stretch my mind and my spirit. I’m going to purposefully find ways in the next few months to connect  with “Them”  and see if I can jumpstart my soul. I do so not out of guilt or the need to make penance, but to see if there is something new for me to learn.

What suggestions do you have?  Have I oversimplified the issue? And how about you?

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Idolizing our scars – It’s Time to Break the Rope of “Can’t”

Mar 10

Idolizing our scars – It’s Time to Break the Rope of “Can’t”

I was recently reminded of a story about holding on to old perceptions as retold by my friend Dan Black. 

If you attend a circus you’ll see elephants walking in meek compliance. If the trainer wants to keep them in an area, they tie a simple weak rope to a pole and walk away. It’s crazy. These massive creatures could break just about anything humans could engineer. Why don’t they just run? 

This is accomplished through careful training. They secure the baby elephant with heavy chains. Every time the little guy tries to wander away, he’s violently pulled back since he doesn’t have the physical strength to break the chain. After a few futile tugs, he simply quits in frustration. It doesn’t take long, and eventually he gives up even trying. He gives in. 

As the elephant grows older, the chain is replaced by a simple, cheap rope. And the elephant never bothers testing the strength of the rope because the desire to run is gone.

Isn’t that just like us? We are captive by our past, by the limitations we once had. When they define us, they hold us back. We become our limitations.

We idolize our scars

I have a friend who fell off a roof in a horrific construction accident. He lost the use of the lower half of his body. But he, of southern grit, figured it out. He went on to continue his construction career, learning how to manage projects. He lives in rural Wyoming and drives a snowplow to clear his driveway and brings in firewood and even skis with a unique contraption. I’ve even been hunting with him on a four-wheeler.

His past didn’t define him.

I have another friend who fell off a deck at almost the same time frame. Same result. But her outcome was far different. She essentially holed up in her home, refusing to come out. Others had to bring her groceries and check on her. Tied to a measly string, she retreated inside her injury.

While I don’t want to diminish her injury, seeing these two people side-by-side was stunning.

Elephant run

 

You probably have some old injuries you are carrying around. Someone said something to you or did something to you. Maybe as a child you were told you were dumb, or you couldn’t sing, or you were ugly. Maybe a parent crushed your enthusiasm or a trusted elder took advantage of you sexually. Maybe you had a major illness. Maybe your heart was broken.

And the result is you never tug at the rope that holds you back. If you did, it would break and you would be free.

What is most interesting is that we prop up these past injuries, we given them prominence. We idolize them. We are Divorced. Broken. Abused. Hurt. And that label becomes who we are and who we worship. These labels are often rooted in the past – old animosities carried like a beat-up Samsonite. And that’s where they should stay.

My friend Jennifer Lee wrote about this in her brand-new  book, Love Idol: Letting go of your need for approval and seeing yourself through God’s eyes. Long book title, short answer. “Crush it.”

So tug a little. You’re “preapproved,” forgiven and totally free to not only roam, but to run!
 
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Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Mar 03

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

He is a true craftsman. He smoothes clay into bowls and sinks and cups. He hollows out the mud and fires them in a kiln. He paints and glazes and creates beauty.

As a potter, my friend has some beautiful work. I don’t know pottery. I don’t know all that goes into the craft. I don’t what it’s like to spin a bowl, only to have it come it misshapen. I don’t know what it’s like to burn my fingers or see a crack after a cup has cooled. But I do know beauty and I can appreciate what he does.

William was a potter by night. During the day he worked at a small operation that made dentures. That’s right. Someone has to craft Grandma’s chompers and my friend might have been the one to do it. He would use his artistry to create teeth, making them realistic so people could  chew, and eat, and smile again. It was righteous work and he was compensated for his skills.

At night he would fire up the kiln and spin the lathe. He would dab paints on hardened clay. On the weekends he would sell his goods at craft fairs and community gatherings. Groups of old women would gasp to each other at the bright colors and unique designs. Wives would tug at their husbands sleeves to slow down. He sold enough to support his hobby and he had great joy.

Pottery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to grow to despise your art

But someone planted the idea in his head that should quit his job making teeth and pursue pottery as a full-time job. He could pursue his dream.

He finally did it and made the plunge. William borrowed money against his credit cards, bought a bigger kiln, a trailer to haul more of his work to shows, and paid entry fees to more prestigious shows.

He worked hard, putting in 70 hour weeks, enlisting his wife to help, and pushing every creative envelope. But the credit card bills came calling. The orders were there, but they didn’t quite pay for everything. He had to sell his car. Then move to a smaller home. The burden of paying the bills became paramount.

His great love for pottery became a burdensome beast. Instead of pursuing his art for the love of it, he had to produce.  William confessed to me that the joy he once felt from creation suddenly felt like a job, because the love was replaced with need. He grew to despise his gift.

I come into contact with a great many artists – lovers of words, of dance, of painting, of theater, of music. Many of them are trying to find a way to convert their passion into their vocation. I don’t begrudge my friends who are making a go of it full-time. I applaud those who can make it happen.

Unfortunately, in this economy, it seems external market forces often trump true artist expression. So artists start bending their message to make it appealing. The passion gives way to  the need to make money. 

Painter

Confusious said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I say, “balderdash.” Sometimes, you have to work to pay the bills. That’s the way life is. No one ever said artists or creatives should be compensated for their work. We do it for love and if money comes our way, then that’s just an added blessing.

There is some creativity in all of us – from the accountant to the executive, from the day care provider to the customer service rep. Many of us have dreams of chucking the 9-5 and doing what we love full-time. But I have this message I so desperately want to give you. Don’t quit your day job.

If you want to keep your art passionate, and pure, and lovely, and innocent, keep it your hobby. If you are paid for your efforts, then praise be to God and use that money for something that brings you joy and the world some good.

To keep your passion, give it away

Write until midnight, working on your novel. Offer to help write letters for those who are looking for jobs. Strum your guitar on the couch. Offer to play at a friend’s wedding. Sing at church for worship. Paint on the weekends and you’ll have the best presents you can ever give. Try out for Community Theater and make others laugh. Give your gifts away because God gave them to you.

Just whatever you do, unless you are so gifted and so good that money just finds you, don’t quit your day job. Because if you do, you will despise the gift because it is no longer free.

Do you have a gift and aren’t compensated for it? Will you be happy the rest of your life if no one ever pays you a nickle for it? What do you think?

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The Spin Cycle of Truth

Feb 20

The Spin Cycle of Truth

If you were around in the 70′s, you’ll never forgot the movie Jaws, adapted from Peter Benchley‘s book. Let’s just say it wasn’t beach reading.

The premise was frightening. A eastern seaboard resort town. Families on vacation. Sun. Laughter. Swimming. And a killer shark. 

Much of the movie centered on the cover-up by the city officials who didn’t want a little thing like killer sharks ruining their summer tourism season.

Who can forget Amity Mayor Vaughn, at a press conference, who said this, “I’m pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But, as you see, it’s a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time. Amity, as you know, means ‘friendship.’”

Jaws

There is a tendency to cover up the bad. We see it all the time. If you follow Wall Street, you know that companies who give their annual reports find the one bit of good news and leap on it. If revenue is down, they’ll still point out that Widget A increased sales among 50-54 males in Maryland. And that’s supposed to help us feel better.

Politicians spin a similar line of thinking. Yes, people are losing their jobs because of ObamaCare, but that means they’ll have more time at home.  Sure, unemployment is hovering near 7 percent, but consumer confidence is up. Manufacturing volume is down, but jobs are being created in the green industry. The rich are getting richer, but they are providing employment opportunity. You get it.

If you have watched Jay Carney, the president’s press secretary — and nearly all the others before him — you see shading of the truth in nearly every answer. It would be a very difficult job, to protect your boss through verbal gymnastics.

Professionally, I work in public relations. So I’m always cognizant about truth-telling. I want to be a man of my word and not engage in spin. I recently read a definition that was pretty good:

The techniques of media spin include:

  • Selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one’s position. Cherry picking.
  • Non-denial denial
  • Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truth
  • Euphemisms used to disguise the agenda
  • “Burying bad news”: announcing one popular thing at the same time as several unpopular things, hoping that the focus will be on the popular one.

I see me at times using all of these techniques in my own life, as I grapple with truth.

How many times have I been asked, “How are things?” My response? “Great.” “Fine.” “Blessed.” I then I spin a tale of joy and happiness to keep everyone satisfied. It’s beautiful. The beaches are open. I’m having a wonderful time.

What He Said: “Instead, let your message be ‘Yes’ for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ for ‘No.’ Anything more than that comes from the evil one.” Matt: 5:37

What’s your opinion?

Linking up with Jennifer LeeLaura BoggessEmily W, and Michelle Derusha.

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Simple Pleasures: In the end, it’s the ordinary stuff that makes you happy

Feb 16

Simple Pleasures: In the end, it’s the ordinary stuff that makes you happy

What are the things you really remember in life? What are the things that bring you the most happiness?

For about a decade, I lived in a town in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In fact, our small rented house was in what Forbes called the wealthiest ZIP code in America, until they were knocked off by a wealthier counties. In case you were wondering, we were not  — affluent that is. Working simple jobs we sponged off the beauty and the order of a wealthy town while contributing very little to it’s coffers.

Home carrots

Around spring break it was always uncomfortable for my kids, who counted Sam Walton’s grandkids and Harrison Ford’s son and other well-heeled offspring as their friends. These children of privilege would venture off to the Fiji Islands or the Caribbeans or the Hamptons for their spring break. For the Rupert family, the best we could do was the $14 a night campground at a National Forest, or if they were lucky, a couple of nights in a motel on the way to the campground

There was one vacation that was different. I designed a website for my 20th class reunion and somehow it won the grand national prize from Compuserve. We all went to Disney  World along with a Caribbean cruise. We were living large for a few days. But then it was back to reality.

I’m sure my kids at times wished their granddad had opened a string of discount stores or their mother was a famous movie star. Heck, one of the rich kid’s dad was a potato chip and snack food king. Talk about envy!  They probably felt ripped off as I put my uniform on to go to the Post Office and drove my International with smoke coming out the back.

Now that we have a few years between those days and now, the kids can say those were the best days of their lives. That big Disney vacation? They hardly remember it. They do however remember throwing rocks in the pond and the dog swimming in the lake and the time the bed collapsed in the trailer. They remember the bear raiding our picnic lunch and the moose chasing the car.  They remember playing trucks on the deck in the snow and scooping mud out of a flooded garage and the time I lost my keys while sledding. They remember the simple, the base, and the pure.

t makes me wonder how to spend the rest of our days?. Should we jump off cliffs, snorkel in uncharted waters and experience forgotten cultures? Should we lounge in luxurious resorts and dine finely? 

Culture often uses the phrase, YOLO (You Only Live Once) as a catch-phrase for doing remarkable things. “Since I only have one life, I might as well drive 100 on the mountain pass,” says the illogical logic.

You might have a Bucket Lists and have big plans for all the things you’ll do before you drop off this planet. But if you do all of them, if every single item is scratched off, are you really that happy?

Should we pursue the extraordinary, the events we can capture on our camera and show to all of our friends? Or should we pursue peace, and righteousness and

 purpose. In the end, what really matters?

I am finding I gain much more from simple pleasures and that’s how I want to define my life. A good book. Peaceful family experiences. A kind word from those who care for me. A carrot dug out of the garden. A walk in the woods on a misty morning. A deer in the meadow at last light. Understanding that God loves me — just because.

What makes you happy and why?

 

Deer feeding Rocky Mountain National Park velvet

Baby Sleeping

 

 

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Play on, even when you have to pretend

Feb 11

Play on, even when you have to pretend

The Islamic Republic of Iran has a number of restrictive laws. Women can go to the gym, but they must stay in their Habib. They can sit in restaurants and cafes, but they cannot smoke in public. There are more than 100 offenses that carry the death penalty. And executions are often public.

Since the overthrow of the government in 1979, any live music performances on television have been banned. The restriction is because they are deemed “Too irreverent.”

But last night, the music went on … sort of.

Pallette, a contemporary band that plays a Persian-Gypsy-Swing found a way to make an appearance in a grand way. They sat before the cameras and played their music – without instruments.

pallett

From Wall Street Journal

 

The air band performance is just the rule-bending kind of thing that might give the beleaguered people a glimpse of hope against the oppressive regime.

It makes me think about the restrictions we face in our minds. We are told we can’t, we shouldn’t, we won’t . And most these restrictions are silly, self imposed and do nothing but keep us from what God has told us to do.

Maybe you’ve been told you can’t sing, or write, or dance.

Maybe you’ve been told you shouldn’t put in for that job, because you are too young, not experienced enough, not educated enough.

Maybe you’ve been stuffing your dream back in the pillowcase waiting for your dreams to drench them one more night.

Play on.

 

 

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