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Archive for October, 2016

bluecollar

Where we come from, there are only two choices: blue collar or unemployed.  Even those with white collar jobs are often blue collar men and women.  My daddy was one of those.  He was a blue collar man who just happened to have a white collar job.

My dad was an electrical engineer who was raised by a widowed coal miner.  There was never a time where he transitioned out of a blue collar lifestyle.  He may have worn a tie to work, but he wore humility and frugality at home.  He was modest and down to earth, always.  Despite his exceptional intelligence, mathematical, and practical knowledge, he was a down home guy in every sense of the term.  He strummed his years-old guitar every evening.  He gardened his daddy’s ground.  He fixed his own very used cars.  He went to Pechin’s and ate the cheapest burger in town unashamedly with frequency.  A day never came in Daddy’s life that he forgot where he’d come from.  His father had built the house he and his four brothers and sister grew up in with his own two hands.  He worked hard for everything we had.  He never took on an attitude of superiority or upper-class snobbery.  Never mind that he earned twice what his closest peers did in that day and age.  No one would have ever known it.

Daddy grew up here in Fayette County.  He grew up three miles from where I’m raising my family.  Blue collar people are a huge part of our community.  You can find them in the grocery store and often find yourself standing and waiting for the husbands to stop shooting the breeze already, the milk is starting to spoil.  You can find them playing backyard baseball and sled riding with their children outside year-round.  You’ll see them supporting fundraisers for those in need and giving their well-deserved, hard-earned money and precious little time to friends they treat as family.  You’ll find them in the bars and restaurants always with a hand outstretched and a story to tell.  These are people who work hard, play harder, and love deeply.

There is one place where you won’t find many of them, though.  It is hard to find their kind inside the walls of our churches.  These days, their community is different.

Little wonder.  These are fiercely independent people.  They’ve had to be.   They are non-conformists in every sense of the word.  So, you’ll find them living in committed relationships with a gaggle of children to prove it.  You’ll find them divorced and trying their best to love and raise their kids right despite it.  These are the kind of people who would much rather talk face to face about what your problem is anyway than know you’re talking about them with your self-proclaimed elite and pretending to like them.  Their the kind of people who can handle the hard truths about life, love, and self because the world has already schooled them severely on the fact that they are indeed sinners.  They are those whose funerals are overflowing with people who love them sincerely. These are the unfavorited and undeserving because Mama told them so and they sure as shootin’ believe her.  None of this means that they are unintelligent.  Maybe they do not even make much less money than the white collar crowd any more.  The divide we see within the church concerning these folks is based solely upon contrasting personalities, dispositions, preferences, and, perhaps, roots.

Now.  We have a culture chock full of blue collar souls.  We have a church all but empty of them.  And I’m wondering why.

I believe the key to the “Why?” is found in the gospel of Matthew.  Chapter 13 talks about what happened when Jesus sought to serve people within his own hometown.  The text says that Jesus could not do many miracles in this place.  It was not because he was not able.  It was not because he was not gifted or not called or not willing.  It was because he was not accepted by the people in this place.  The very people he went to serve failed to believe in him.  They failed to believe that he was for them.  They failed to believe that he was acceptable, honorable, and genuine.  Jesus’ own people within his own hometown simply did not trust him, and this, to their own disadvantages.

So what does that have to do with our dilemma? Let me explain.

The blue collar crowd often struggles with sins that are more overt and they tend to be more open about those struggles.  The white collar crowd often struggles with sins that are more covert and they tend to be more closed about those struggles.  The blue collar crowd often speaks truth loudly and errs on the side of being harsh and intimidating.  The white collar crowd often avoids speaking truth if it means confrontation.  The blue collar crowd often errs by saying too much.  The white collar crowd often errs by not saying enough. When the blue collar crowd feels insecure or disrespected, they often simply reciprocate the attitudes displayed toward them.  When the white collar crowd feels insecure or disrespected, they often simply avoid whomever is making them feel that way.  The blue collar crowd glorifies God by working primarily with their hands.  The white collar crowd glorifies God by working primarily with their intellect.

Until we, as the church, can acknowledge and agree that a person who speaks truth in a brash way and a person who avoids speaking truth are equally guilty of wrong communication and injurious to others to the very same degree, that the action resulting from being insecure and feeling disrespected can be either reciprocated disrespect or avoidance and that they are equally damaging, that subtle sins are just as bad as apparent ones, that a person who says too much and a person who doesn’t say enough are equally in need of confrontation, that we are willing to punish one and overlook the other depending on our disposition, that we are choosing friends, leaders, and confidants dependent upon who is more like us rather than who is more like God, that theological education does not equal more spiritual maturity, life experience, and practical wisdom over and above men who go to work everyday and serve God by simply being a Christian in the world and that often the very opposite is true, we will continue to have partiality and division among those who could and would best serve the church.  We simply cannot move forward until we understand our part in these biases.

How many blue collar men do you see leading in your church?  Could the reason there are so few be that the church is guilty of partiality and favoritism based on cultural preferences?  Do you feel blue collar people are accepted in our churches in the same way white collar people are?  Send me your thoughts at witnesschic@hotmail.com.

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maylee

She searched for three days.  She pillaged through every toy, underneath every seat in the truck, and even in the garage.  Still, her iPad was nowhere in sight.  It wasn’t until three days of rain had passed, the sun emerged, and I submitted to picking up the yard in preparatory duty before mowing that the discovery was made.  Here sister had left her beloved electronic toy in the tree house.  Soaked and soundless, it was quite obvious that this gadget had given up the ghost.

Surprisingly, my seven year-old did not cry.  She didn’t pout or fight or fall on the floor flailing.  It almost seemed as though she was completely unaffected.  Puzzled, but somewhat concerned knowing that this is the same girl who, when she is physically injured holds all emotion inside until she is positively certain no one can see her, I went back out to my yard duties.

Later, when dinner was ready and Daddy entered from work, the mystery of my mini-me was solved.  As her father greeted her, she grinned from ear to ear telling the tale.  She disclosed the item she was holding behind her back, and with unwavering confidence she handed her rain-soaked iPad back to the one who gave it to her.

“Addie left my iPad outside,” she said still smiling like it was the best news in the world, “and I can never use it again!”

Bewildered as any dad might be given the situation he replied, “I guess you can’t play your games anymore then.”

Then the key to her strange behavior was revealed as her eyes moved toward the kitchen.  “But you have another one, Daddy!  You have two other ones!  Maybe I can use that one!” she said as she pointed at the unopened box that had been lying on the counter for the past two months.

Upon changing phone companies we had received a free iPad that no one was using.  She was happy when her old broken screen iPad was left in the rain because she was counting on her daddy’s incredible generosity.  She was was depending on his unbelievable grace.  She was altogether certain of her I-can-melt-your-heart-because-I-know-exactly-who-I-am place in his great big can’t-help-but-give-you-everything heart.

As if pretending that making her wait a week would fool any of us.  We all knew he would give it to her eventually.  We knew because we know him and he’s probably the most generous man we know.  That and having four little girls does not do much for the hearts of even big tough guys who try to pretend they aren’t soft.

She did whisper the occasional, “Mommy, do you think he’ll give me that iPad?”  throughout the waiting week.  I just encouraged her.  I reminded her that Daddy would most definitely do something.  “Don’t you worry.  He will not forget about you,”  I told her.

Oh, to have that kind of hope!  To be that confident and certain of my Father’s goodness!  If I could just get a glimpse of the position I hold in his heart!  Surely I would stop crying when my favorite ideas and plans are left alone and forgotten.  Surely I would stop hurting when what I long for is washed completely away by the waters of loss.  Surely I would understand my place in His heart even when I feel altogether unnecessary in this wide world.  Surely I would stop struggling to be what I already am.  Surely I would stop wondering why I have to wait so long to be used by His perfect power.  Surely I would simply whisper my fearful doubts to my brothers and sisters and trust their reassurance.

I know my heavenly Father and he knows me.  I just wish I could be like my daughter.  I wish I could stand smiling with complete confidence while I wait for glory.

Maybe I am whispering now.

Maybe I just need what Maylee needed during the long week of waiting.  Maybe I just need my brothers and sisters to encourage me.  Maybe I’m asking.  Please.

 I know Daddy is so, so good.  I know how outrageously generous He is.  I know my place in His heart.  I know he had great gifts lying on His shelf that already belong to me.  But like Maylee’s toy, I am often desperately broken.  I often feel very alone and abandoned.  I often do not feel needed or useful and I do not know why.  I feel like I am forever reaching and rarely being reach for.  Thankfully, I do not live by feelings.  I live by the Truth.  So I’m asking.

From one who is real good at looking put together when I’m falling apart, help me.  I need you.  Be my real friend.  Tell me to persevere.  Share your struggles.  Correct me.  Help me hear His voice.  Reassure me with His words.  Encourage me with your joy.  I just want to wait faithfully.

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team

“What were we learning about yesterday?”

“Jews and Gentiles!”

“What about them?”

“The Jews didn’t want the Gentiles to be in God’s family.”

“Why?”

“Because they (the Jews) weren’t worshiping God.”

“Who were they worshiping?”

“Themselves.”

“What did God want?”

“Together!”

 For he himself is our peace,who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. ~Ephesians 2:14-16

Together.  With confidence like unto that of a certain seven year-old who proudly knows her Bible lesson, I am certain I heard God’s voice in hers.  Together.  God wants His people together.

From the beginning of creation, God declared that it is not good for man to be alone.  He proceeded to give Adam a wife, Abraham a son, Leah a husband, Naomi a daughter-in-law, and even Jesus a mommy.  God gives us each other.  “Together” is a gift.

What is “together” really, though?  Is it merely sitting beside one another while staring a sparkly, colorful rectangles?  Is it just doing the same activities at the same time?  Is it primarily being physically present? What is the “together” that makes the not goodness of being alone, good?

Let’s start with what it definitely is not.

The alone-ness that was “not good” is not rectified by attending the same social events, going to the same homes, schools and churches, sitting at the same tables, or talking about the same hobbies.  The togetherness that Christ died to bring about amounts to more than superficial physical proximity or bodily juxtaposition.

Togetherness in Christ means much, much more than that.  It means what it meant for Adam and Eve – a man and a woman who had no one except each other.  It means that when we are done talking about sports and schools, we talk about failure – both mine and yours. It means we encourage and that we know one other well enough to understand why and when each other needs it. It means we stay even when we disagree.  It means we learn how to communicate for the good of the other.  It means we are open to correction, quick to forgive, and that we know each other well enough and real enough that we know what we need to correct and actually experience the need to forgive.

Why else would the Jews have so despised the thought of including Gentiles into the fold of God?  Aside from the obvious pride, jealousy, and confusion they naturally had, the Jews knew something else.  They knew what inclusion really meant for them.  That is what Paul had to address.

It meant pig-eating people in their kosher cafes.  It meant a bona fide, painful break from the Jews who did not believe the gospel – Jews who were their closest family, friends, and neighbors.  It meant sacrificing their preferences for the good of people they had previously disliked and adamantly avoided.  It meant putting down the pride of being God’s apple and making room for a whole new bushel.  It meant standing up for a Gentile when an unbelieving Jew encouraged one to harass.  This was none other than the plight of the eldest child learning to welcome new siblings while at the same time being asked to pull away from his favorite best buddies.

It meant realizing that they were not the most important people in the world and never had been.  It meant laying down their prior to pre-incarnate Christ social groups and walking in humility among those he died to place in their lives.  It meant standing up for and doing good to those who were in the faith over and above their old comrades and favorite fellow men.

It meant sacrifice.  It meant humility.  It meant courage.

God-authenticated togetherness is not mere relational or physical proximity.  God-authenticated togetherness is the very work of the gospel.

It means realizing that we are not the most important people in the world and we never were.  It means laying down our pre-Christian social groups and walking in humility among those he died to place in front of us.  It means standing up for and doing good to those who are in the faith over and above our old comrades and favorite fellow men.

It means sacrifice.  It means humility.  It means courage.

Let us not settle for mere relational or physical proximity.  Let us do the work of the gospel through our willingness to invest in God-authenticated togetherness.

Together.  God wants His people together.

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humbleroots

“Here, in the middle of arguably the greatest sermon ever, Jesus talks about our daily worries, whatever they may be.  He talks about how we stress over food and clothing and how we obsess over our physical bodies.  At the same time, He doesn’t shame us for worrying about them.  He doesn’t tell us to just be grateful, to remember how much better we have it than other people.  He doesn’t tell us that we simply need to be more productive or to work harder.  Instead, He asks us whether our worry is actually accomplishing anything.” ~Hannah Anderson

Humble Roots is a book I found very personal, relatable, and real. Hannah uses a down to earth approach that kept me from wiggling out from under necessary confrontation by way of heady theology or intellectual disconnect. This book stopped me dead in my self-sufficient tracks, showed me that my britches are often far too big, and turned me back toward God before I even had a chance to argue with myself.

As I read Hannah’s stories of sowing, reaping, and harvesting I returned to my own bramble bushes of success, failure, blackberries, and tomatoes. Her everyday examples and honest transparency churned up the rocky and hard places in my heart by showing me a crystal clear picture of myself. As I read, I could feel my inconsistencies being challenged and corrected from the inside out. I felt her words changing me even before I was able to put my pride-soaked finger on why or how it happened. Humble Roots is truly a book I hope everyone I know has a chance to read.  If you plan to pick up this book, prepare to grow.

“And here is how humility brings rest to our internal life: Humility teaches us that ‘God is greater than our heart.’  Humility teaches us that we don’t have to obey our emotions because the only version of reality that matters is God’s.” ~Hannah Anderson

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