Psalm

How to Slow Down the "Busy Blender"

Continue reading ONLY if you are a busy person.

Continue reading ONLY if you have texted while driving in the last 24 hours.

OK. Thanks for the honesty.

·         Have you ever watched the before and after of a fruit smoothie in the making?

I watched one of my kids making one the other day in the following way:

Individual frozen strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries were mixed with orange juice, and Greek yogurt.

The liquefy button was mashed and the blades of the blender began to whirl.

As my ears filled with the screaming roar of the blender, my mind began to realize just how busy my life has been.

·         Are you busy?

·         Are the mini-moments of life overcrowded with buzzing activity?

Would you like to learn two ways to slow down the “busy blender”?

First, know that busyness without a brake leads to burnout.

We all know what it is like to be overdrawn financially.

You live beyond your means.

But do we know that when we live beyond our means with the time God has given to us we become overdrawn in our humanity?

Calculate a quick time budget with me (Are you overdrawn?)

Let’s start with the 168 hours that God gives us each week.

I’ve heard counsellors suggest the following “healthy” time budget:

Sleep:  50 hours (Kinda important for our bodies.  This is applying the brake of rest to our always-on-the-go life.)

Work:  50 hours (We were created to work six days and rest one.  Work is aiming our effort at growing beauty for God’s glory.)

Family:  17 hours (About a “tithe” or tenth of our 168 hours.  Family/spouse time is all about giving undivided ATTENTION to family.)

Care/Recreation/Community:  51 hours (Break it down hourly any way you like…but don’t sacrifice family, work or sleep to get more from these three good things).

·         Care for your stuff (Cars, home, etc.)

·         Recreation (What restores and relaxes you?)

·         Service to others: (Sharing your gifts with your church family and community)

How did you make out?

Are you overdrawn?

Maybe you need to apply the brakes in an area that is blending too many ingredients for your own good.

Maybe you need to scale back and reduce the pace of busyness to avoid burnout.

Secondly, seek to understand the “Why?” behind the need for busyness.

If I’m honest, I usually whip and whirl the opportunities of life together at an inhuman pace because I am addicted to productivity.

I love to set goals, accomplish dreams, enjoy spontaneous opportunities and multi-task to make the most out of every moment.

But why?

Could it be that I equate my productivity with my worth?

Deep down I often see God as my employer rather than my smiling heavenly Father.

This category error pulls the curtain back to reveal the “why?” behind my high-paced productivity.

Listen to this oh so good news!

Psalm 37:7 says “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.”

Stillness for this Hebrew poet was a motionless silence of active waiting.

It’s like a child playing hide and go seek with her daddy.  As her dad counts to ten, she runs into the bathroom, steps into the bathtub, pulls the shower curtain and enters into a state of stillness.

She stands motionless in silence actively waiting.

Her dad playfully shouts “Ready or not here I come!”

Her pulse quickens as he rattles the bathroom doorknob and slowly slides open the shower curtain.

She screams with joy as she is discovered.

Did you notice that it was in the stillness NOT the busyness that she experienced breathtaking joy with her father?

I want to slow down the blender of busyness and heighten times of playful wonder with God.

·         What would you need to do to slow down the blender of busyness?

As we walk through the door of summertime, let’s enjoy times of stillness before the LORD.

We just might become more human in the waiting.

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church
 

Three Suggestions to Help You Speak Your Sorrows

My eighth grade French teacher was pretty.

But that’s not what hypnotized me when I sat three rows deep, waiting for the first class to begin.

When she opened her mouth and began to speak French, I fell into a trance of romance.

As the consonants and vowels dropped out of her mouth and formed new sounds like “Pol—eeee---vooo---fran---saaaay,” I was swept off of my feet.

The sounds combined and seemed to express love and sadness and joy and passion.

I repeated the words day after day, until the sad thing happened.

It was as if someone snapped their fingers and the trance was broken.  

One day, I simply stopped speaking French.  Eighth grade was over and it was time to move on to Spanish, Algebra and American History.

In a similar way, I wonder if many of us have lost the ability to speak our sorrows.

We are so caught up in our rushed lives that we lose the language of lament.

The Christian story admits that the cosmos is cracked.  All is not well.  Cries of sorrow and grief ought to be heard if we are honest about reality.

How can we begin to speak our sorrows again?

First, linger when you sense lament.

Don’t immediately distract.

Lament happens when we give unmixed attention to that which has split and splintered our peace.

The divorce….the lay-off….the miscarriage……the child that has rejected your guidance……your friend’s child diagnosed with terminal cancer….the prayer that God won’t answer in the way you have begged Him to answer….

Linger in the loss.

On this dark path, stop and try to form the vowels and consonants of sorrow.

Words will not come at first.  They almost never do.

Moans and groans express pain best, and God understands your speech of sorrow.

Second, join hands with your lament teacher, the Holy Spirit.

Did you know that many of the Psalms are songs of sorrow?

Through your tears, read along with the Spirit-teacher songs like Psalm 13, (“How long must I bear pain in my soul…?) Psalm 22 (“My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer”) and Psalm 55 (“My heart is in anguish within me”).

It is so hard to find and form the words that express ripping pain.  The Spirit knows them all and will patiently help you mouth and moan them as He comforts you.

He will comfort you as you wail, with your hot face pressed against your shaking palms.

A third suggestion for speaking your sorrows involves taking intentional glances at the scars of the Savior.

Jesus is called a “man of sorrows.” (See Isaiah 53 for specifics.)

As Mary birthed her Son through tears of pain and moans of sorrow, Jesus entered our crying world as a crying child.

He identified with us when he became one of us.

He understands our losses in their deepest dimensions.

Every step of his life met with stabs of pain.  He saw and felt disease, disempowerment, and despair.

And yet, in the garden of Gethsemane, he spoke his sorrows to the Father.

He trusted in the steadfast love, plans, and purpose of His Father as he sweat blood-drops of lament.

Every once in a while I hear someone speak a word in French.  I’m older now and not as motivated to re-learn this language of love.

But I want to speak my sorrows better and better as I join my Savior in singing the songs of lament.

Will you join me?

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church






Read the Surprising Story about a Dad, His Daughter….and a Claw Machine

As a father of five restless kids, I’ve frequented the local Chuck E. Cheese or arcade more times than I can count.

And why not?

These noisy, hyper-stimulating environments are places where “a kid can be a kid” (…and a dad can waste some serious cash!).

Embarrassingly, the following sequence of events at a local arcade, have happened to this dad way more than once.

See if you can relate.

While my little daughter is holding my hand, I walk by the “Claw Machine” refusing to pay it any attention.

The abrupt tug of her hand tells me that she has stopped to take a look at something important.

I notice that my daughter’s head is directed toward and tilted up at the clear glass of that seductive machine.

The claw, that metal, grasping, artificial hand, dangles silently inside of the box-shaped game.

I know immediately what my daughter desires.

The owner of the arcade has placed the cutest, softest, snuggliest stuffed animals inside of this glass prison.

Intentionally, the adorable animals face out, toward my daughter and me, with wide, unblinking eyes begging for emancipation.

“Daddy!  Please get me the pink one.  Please!  Please!”

Now I’m a dad.  I’m no heartless miser, and my daughter knows that from the bottom of her little heart.

I just know that I can insert a few shiny tokens and take command and control of that motionless, metal claw.

My mission?

Rescue the poor, fluffy cuddle-bear and deliver the prisoner into my daughter’s arms.

But first—I have to get that stuffed toy into the grip of that claw.

I slide the tokens through the skinny slot as I take a cleansing breath to ready myself.

Anxiety begins to rise as I remember that this is a timed mission.

If I can’t rescue that poor, kissable creature in 15 seconds, my daughter will suffer great loss.

Yes, my palms are sweaty.  I wipe them on my pants for a better grip of the joystick.

I eyeball the fat, neon-pink bear like a cat eyeballing a mouse.

I position the claw.

No!

My coordinates are not exactly on target.

But I still have three seconds.

I tap the joystick forward- and manipulate that claw, ensuring that it won’t miss its mark.

I take a rapid look at my daughter and note that she is smiling with unwavering confidence at her daring dad.

I glance one last time at that fuzzy bear.

And I hit the red button with the same conviction as a politician hitting his podium.

Down the claw descends.

I watch it in slow-motion as the metal tentacles wrap around my caressable fluff-toy’s head.

Yes! 

The vice-like grip of the claw wrenches my bear free, and begins to suspend her high in the air.

My daughter and I both hold our breath, our mouths open in joyful anticipation.

But then the impossible happens.

Right before the imprisoned creature is set free, she slips out of the claw’s grasp.

Our dear, puffy prize lands helplessly and hopelessly at the bottom of the box, and we can’t even hear the thud.

Yes, I pick up my daughter to comfort her.

I feel guilty because I really picked her up to comfort me.

Yes, I feel like a failure, a loser, and the worst dad EVER.

And yes, I put in two more quarters to try again.

Now why did I tell you that story?

Because God owns everything and has engineered our hearts to grip him alone for lasting satisfaction.

God has designed us in such a way that we cannot grasp wealth for our worth.

A poem from Psalm 24 begins “The earth and everything it contains are the LORD's. The world and all who live in it are his.”

Did you get that?

God, not you or me, owns everything.

This is more liberating than you might believe.

Since God owns everything, we are created to simply care for what He has created.

We were never meant to claw after created things as if we were owners.

Our hearts were never engineered to grab and own anything.

And here is the zinger.  I recently found out that the Claw Machine game is rigged.

You probably knew that already.

I found out that the owner engineer’s the claw to grip loosely so that the prize cannot be captured on the first try.

Now the owner can program the claw to grip strongly, after say 15-20 attempts.

An occasional win (much like a casino’s slot machine) fuels the addictive allure of the game increasing the owner’s profit.

But even then, the player must perform perfectly with the joystick to line up his win.

And does the cheap toy really satisfy?  No.

And don’t miss this.  God has programmed our hearts in such a way that they simply cannot grab and grasp and own the stuff of this world.

God alone owns everything.  We receive and care for His gifts with endless freedom.

Our hearts were formed by our Father to be filled with him alone.

Only His Son satisfies.

Only His Spirit brings lasting joy.

Would you join me in living as a caretaker of creation, rather than an owner?

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church

Wanna Feel Close to God Even When He Feels Far.....Far..........Away? (Part 1 of 2)

Ever since the shattering brick of sin crashed our world, the sweet song of shalom (the Hebrews called this wholeness or all-embracive closeness to the creation and creator) has become a moan of separation and painful distance. 

Sorry for being such a downer.

Some of you want to remain insulated from fragmented reality inside of the thin bubble of your distractions and fragile defenses.

So do I. 

It’s comfy inside our bubbles of make-believe wholeness.

We construct artificial nearness through evaporating embraces (usually through the misuse of substances, stuff and sex) instead of experiencing solid nearness with God.

I spend so much energy manipulating and manufacturing in my little world so that it feels like a hug rather than hell.

Don’t you?

Don’t despair!

God buried a treasured line from an ancient lyric (Psalm 145:18) to act as a pin to pierce and pop our pretending related to the world being made whole (shalom) by our own efforts.

Let’s read the lyric, and in this post simply swim in the embrace and nearness of God.  

In the next post we will emerge from the near embrace of God and have a conversation covering four specific ways to connect to those that are far away from—disconnected from God.  

Here is the lyric:  ESV Psalm 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Two sections of this song will disclose the closeness of God:  

Here is the first:  “The Lord is near to all who call on him.”

Calling on God is the lever that brings God near.

This reminds me of a story.

Have you ever used a call bell in a hospital?

Before I became a pastor I spent many years answering call bells as a nurse.

As I sat at the nurse’s station trying to decipher the difficult handwriting of a doctor, the moans of the sick ricocheted down the halls.

Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  

A steady ring would ding and ding to call me to the bedside

Listen to the lyric again:

The Lord is near to all who call on Him.

Distance is destroyed by the simple calling out to God.

He is near--As near as a nurse holding your hand, ready to hear your concern.

Are you like me?

I rarely call on God.

And I wonder why God feels so far, far away.

My patients over the years would often call because of pain.

Pain pounded on them and in them and they could not stop it or control it or placate it.

They pushed that call bell to experience the presence of another.

I would enter their pain with my presence (and if they were lucky a syringe of pain-eradicating happy juice).

God does this with us.  

He comes near when we call and enters our pain with his presence to bring shalom.

Secondly, calling on God is to be continuous not sporadic.

All of us are to call on him in truth.

What does that mean?  “In truth.”

A Jewish person would use this phrase if something was to be done over and over and over and over again.

It does not mean truth instead of a lie.  

Instead “in truth” means continuous and constant rather than sporadic or occasional.

The phrase was used of an artist’s hand that continuously and steadily painted with precision and patience.

Do you call out to God in this way?

I sure don’t.

I usually call out when the going gets tough.  When my self-manufactured, manipulated bubbles burst and I want a solution.

We were made for so much more than an episodic embrace by our good God.

We can and must call on Him constantly to discuss every detail.

When we call, he cozies up to us like a dad with his little daughter or son and soaks in our every word.

Call out to Him today.

Then call out to him in the middle of the day and at night and tomorrow.

I can already sense His nearness.

Gotta go.  I want to luxuriate in the nearness of God by calling out to Him.

Don’t you?

Howard Cole
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church