But me, I'm not giving up. I'm sticking around to see what God will do.
I'm waiting for God to make things right. I'm counting on God to listen to me. Micah 7:7 (MSG)
I read Micah's opening line: "I'm overwhelmed with sorrow! sunk in a swamp of despair!" and I totally get it. A couple of months ago I entered a stretch of the journey in which my faith was worn incredibly thin. Stretched to the point of breaking, I felt like a marathon runner who "hits the wall" in the middle of the course. When you experience those moments you feel like pulling off the road and calling it quits. The idea of continuing seems ludicrous and pointless. Doubt pushes faith away. Disappointment negates what little drive you have left. Pain overshadows purpose to the point that it disappears from view.
But, I also get Micah's determination. Clinging to the tattered shreds of trust, you press on to find that faith untested is of little consequence. Depth of faith is proportionate to the endurance required to push through the trial set before you. Maturity emerges out of perseverance.
No matter how much you get, it will never be enough— hollow stomachs, empty hearts.No matter how hard you work, you'll have nothing to show for it— bankrupt lives, wasted souls. Micah 6:14 (MSG)
Materialism is a jealous lover. She commands every thought. She demands incessant desire. Pursue her; seek after the latest, the newest, the shiny thing that everyone must have. Reach, stretch, claw to get that one thing. To touch it, to possess it will feel so good, she says. Then, I will have arrived. Then, I will be satisfied. Materialism. She rewards with a fleeting orgasm of satisfaction. It feels so good for a moment. Then it quickly fades. Emptiness and hollowness creep back into the vacuum of a vacant soul. The cycle starts over. My lover, she points to the new conquest. My eyes gaze upon the next object of desire to be pursued in the cycle of never enough.
God, teach me to be content.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and myklroventine
But you, Bethlehem, David's country, the runt of the litter—From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel. Micah 5:2 (MSG)
Being an Iowan requires a certain amount of humility. Go to either coast and tell someone you're from Iowa and you'll see their eyes glaze over as they struggle to remember their 5th grade geography. They have no idea where Iowa is, or what it's like.
There are no great landmarks in Iowa to attract people. There are no professional sports teams. We have no national parks. The only President from Iowa was Herbert Hoover (the Great Depression hit on his watch – so we generally choose not to get to puffed up about that). The most noteworthy things about Iowa are fodder for obscure trivia questions on Jeopardy.
Nevertheless, I love being an Iowan. And, I like that God tends to make great things out of humble beginnings. He likes to transform the youngest, smallest, and least significant into His chosen instruments. Bethlehem, the "Iowa" of Israel, becomes a birthplace of special distinction. God sends His Son to save the world, and has him born in a little nowhere town like Bethlehem.
Feeling small? Struggling to feel significant in a large world? No worries. God has a special place in His heart for the youngest, smallest, weakest, and least significant.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and obo bobolina
This past Saturday we celebrated the birthday of our friend, Chad. Chad's wife sent Chad and me to Signature Male, the man spa, for an afternoon of pampering. What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. There's nothing quite like watching Iowa State beat Nebraska while getting a foot massage.
That night, the VWs, VLs and DCs all headed to Tassel Ridge winery for a murder mystery dinner. The six of us got on our western attire and rode the trail down to the winery. It was a lot of fun. Each of us received a character name (I was Wyatt Burp, Wendy was Sara Bellum), and during the dinner there were two actors who worked the crowd through various gags while setting up different characters and a sketchy story line.
By the time dessert was over, the actors had narrowed the list of suspects down to four or five and we had to guess who it was. The murderer was Shay (a.k.a. Sloopy Sales).
"On that great day," God says, "I will round up all the hurt and homeless, everyone I have bruised or banished. I will transform the battered into a company of the elite." Micah 4:6 (MSG)
Change is constant along the journey. Change is a substitution, an outside-in exchange of conditions. Change is swapping out one circumstance for another. There is a change in scenery. There is a change in location. There is a change in terrain.
Transformation is something much more intimate. Transformation is metamorphosis. It is a substantial re-forming from the inside out. Transformation is the transfiguration of the very structure and substance of being.
You can have change without transformation, but there is no transformation without change. God tells us quite plainly that He in the transformation business. He makes old things new. He makes broken things whole. He makes dirty things clean. He makes dead people live.
I don't want mere change. I want transformation. That's what this journey is about.
We have new windows in the front of the house! The single-pane windows (that I think were original from construction of our house in 1930) have finally been replaced with triple-pane windows (Pella windows, of course!). In true Murphy's Law fashion, our installer was finally free to work on them the Monday after Taylor's wedding. So, we spent all of last week with our house torn up. Nevertheless, they are installed. It's amazing how much quieter the house is. Now, we just have to paint the frames on the inside (the fun never ends).
Here is God's Message to the prophets, the preachers who lie to my people:"For as long as they're well paid and well fed, the prophets preach, 'Isn't life wonderful! Peace to all!' But if you don't pay up and jump on their bandwagon, their 'God bless you' turns into 'God damn you.' Micah 3:5 (MSG)
Life is a mixture of good times and bad, of hope and despair. The journey takes us through peaks and valleys. Sometimes we need an encouraging pat on the back. Sometimes we need a swift kick in the pants. When life is out of balance, my perceptions quickly become clouded.
The prophets of Micah's day were out of balance. Their motivation was selfish ("I only care about my own personal needs") and their message was a bubble off plumb ("I'll say whatever you want to hear as long as the money keeps rolling in"). I can think of many of today's "prophets" and see parallels. There is nothing new under the sun.
I can't control others, but I can control myself. Today, I think about the messages I send to family, friends, clients and co-workers. I want to make sure that the words and messages out of my own mouth reflect a healthy balance. I don't want to reflect my own selfish motives, but as much as possible I want to objectively reflect what is true.
If someone showed up with a good smile and glib tongue and told lies from morning to night— 'I'll preach sermons that will tell you how you can get anything you want from God: More money, the best wines…you name it'— you'd hire him on the spot as your preacher! Micah 2:11 (MSG)
In my daily vocation, I help assess the quality of service companies deliver to their customers. We survey customers to find out what they expect of the company, then assess "moments of truth" when the company interacts with customers in a service situation (a la' "your call may be monitored to ensure quality service"). It works really well when companies are honest about their struggles and are willing to put in the necessary work to improve. I'm happy to say that most of our clients fall into that category and it results in mutually profitable relationships.
There are, however, companies who have hired our group with the desire of having us tell them just what they want to hear: "Your customer service is great!" They don't really want the truth. They want a plaque on the wall telling them they are okay. They want to tell their shareholders that everything is peachy. When we come back with a report that reveals considerable problems, blatant service issues, and customer dissatisfaction, these companies will often:
- Question the data.
- Deny there's a problem.
- Bury the report.
- Show us the door.
It's no different than the people Micah laments in today's chapter. They want someone to tell them exactly what they want to hear, even if it's a lie. The reality is, the truth sometimes hurts. Truth is a mirror in which we see an accurate reflection of self. It's good to see our own reflection, warts and all, even when it's uncomfortable. Truth helps us make mid-course corrections. Truth affords us the opportunity to mature, grow, develop, and improve.
Today, I want to be more open to the Truth – even if it is uncomfortable; even if I don't like what I see in my own reflection.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and oter.
This is why I lament and mourn. This is why I go around in rags and barefoot. This is why I howl like a pack of coyotes, and moan like a mournful owl in the night. Micah 1:8 (MSG)
This morning, as my daughter prepared to go to school, we had a little "come to Jesus" conversation. I'm not very stern by nature and this was a relatively minor issue. Nevertheless, it sure resonated as I read today's chapter. Parenting, I've discovered, requires a discerning mixture of affection and admonishment. Real love is not always gifts, hugs and pats on the back. Love also requires intervention, crucial conversation and consequences. The tough part is having the wisdom to know the difference and apply the appropriate side of love at the right moment (and realizing that you'll always make mistakes).
The prophets of the Old Testament, like Micah, are sometimes difficult to read and understand in a 21st century context. It helps me to consider that God is simply parenting humanity, and the prophets are his mouthpiece. The prophets were the vehicles of God's intervening, crucial conversations with his rebellious children. They convey a Father's stern rebuke and the warning of disastrous consequences. They also convey the hope and love that every parent has for their children – even when they mess up.
The spotlight has been focused on Taylor these past weeks and months as we celebrated her marriage to Clayton. Madison, however, has been true to her nature and has not been idle. In her senior year, Madison has focused her time on the two activities she loves the most: music and photography. She's taking piano lessons, singing in the school choir, and singing on worship teams at church. She's also a photographer for the school yearbook and newspaper.
On Tuesday night, Wendy and I attended the school choir's fall concert. The music was gorgeous. The choir always sounds beautiful. Madison had a small solo in the midst of one of the songs. I love to watch her sing. She is always so expressive.
As many of you may know, Madison's sister was Homecoming Queen back in her senior year of high school. Well, Madison may get to add herself to the list of "royals" in the family. Madison was nominated and voted one of the 12 finalists to be this year's "Tulip Queen!"