Pursuit of Happiness #1

Last March, Taylor did a series of posts of pictures and videos that made her laugh. She called it her “Pursuit of Happiness” and it was meant to be a celebration of simple pleasures as an antidote to the winter blues. Because I can’t wait for March to see if she does it again, and I’m feeling an early need for an antidote to the winter blues, I’m selfishing ripping off her concept. Here’s my first installment in my own “pursuit of happiness” series for the month of February.

I entitled this photograph “Ahhhhhhh.” I look at it a lot this time of year.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 22

Hamster wheel
Image by sualk61 via Flickr

Climb the Abarim ridge and cry—
   you’ve made a total mess of your life.
I spoke to you when everything was going your way.
   You said, ‘I’m not interested.’
You’ve been that way as long as I’ve known you, 
   never listened to a thing I said. Jeremiah 22:20c-21 (MSG)

The further I get in the journey, I perceive with greater clarity how blind I am to the entire concept of needs and wants. Life can be so materially easy, that spiritual need doesn’t even register with me.

When it comes down to it, we really are a people of wants and needs. And, we always mix up the two. Our needs are so well covered that the only thing left is wants. Because we have no concept of what it truly means to be in need, we feel our wants and tag them as needs. And so, our basic needs met without conscious thought, we spin in our little wheel of the rat-race cage, chasing after want after want after want.

How deaf am I to God’s still, small voice trying to speak truth to me while I, like a silly rodent, endlessly rattle on inside my little spinning wheel? How blind am I to the true needs of my soul and the pile of discarded acquisitions that lay broken and rusting in my wake? How am I going to see my true spiritual need, and the true needs of those around me when I am fixated on the perceived “need” of my next “want?”

Lord, have mercy on me. Help me discern clearly my true “needs” and selfish “wants,” and grant me the wisdom today to make choices accordingly.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 21

Viktor Vasnetsov: A Knight at the Crossroads (...
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“And then tell the people at large, ‘God’s Message to you is this: Listen carefully. I’m giving you a choice: life or death.” Jeremiah 21:8 (MSG)

I make life and death choices every day.

What I choose to think about. What I choose to do with my time. What I choose to say. How I choose to treat my spouse, my children, my family, my friends, my co-workers, and the stranger I meet. What I choose to do with my money. Where I choose go in my spare time.

A million little choices each day. They can be “life” choices that inch us towards life, health, goodness, and love. They can be “death” choices that inch us toward selfishness, spiritual suffocation, decay and isolation.

Today, I have a choice. I have choices. Lots of them. Each of them lead me one of two directions. I inch my way toward life, or I inch my way toward death.

Choose life.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 20

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Je...
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But if I say, “Forget it!
   No more God-Messages from me!”
The words are fire in my belly,
   a burning in my bones.
I’m worn out trying to hold it in.
   I can’t do it any longer! Jeremiah 20:9 (MSG)

Along the journey, we all reach places that feel like a dead end. Frustrated, exasperated, and at the end of our patience we feel like a ticking time bomb of emotions.

Jeremiah stands as a testament for all of us. Today’s chapter reminds us that we all hit a breaking point, and when we do it is perfectly acceptable to pour out our hearts to God. He is not surprised by our emotion. He is not deaf to our cries. God is big enough to handle the full onslaught of our anger, our frustration, our screams, and our tears.

Along the way, we will all need a healthy release of our our pent  up emotions. Like Jeremiah, like David in the Psalms, like Jesus in Gethsemane, we sometimes need to plead our case and get out what’s bugging us. If we don’t, then it’s all going to spill out anyway. We can’t contain it. It just squirts out in unhealthy ways.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 19

“This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies to you: ‘Warning! Danger! I’m bringing down on this city and all the surrounding towns the doom that I have pronounced. They’re set in their ways and won’t budge. They refuse to do a thing I say.'”

Sometimes being a consultant is like being a prophet. You don’t always have good news to share in the data. Sometimes you bring warnings of doom. Sometimes you even know in your heart and mind that the client won’t listen.

The truth still needs to be presented.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 18

Grarncarz w Rabce / Potter in Rabka
Image via Wikipedia

So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot. Jeremiah 18:3-4 (MSG)

I recently spoke to a person who found themself on the road to crazy. Broken, feeling very much alone, and with their life scattered in so many pieces around their feet after it all fell apart in a tragic explosion of circumstance. There they stood holding on to a compass, but the needle was spinning uncontrollably in every direction. They couldn’t, in the moment, see the road out.

Consider yourself blessed if you never find yourself on the road to crazy. Consider yourself blessed if you do. I’ve been there. The circumstances were somewhat different than my friend, but they always are. There are a million paths in and out that intertwine like a maze.

“I can’t see why God has me here,” my friend said.

You never do, in the moment. That’s why Jeremiah’s word picture is so critical to hold onto. God uses broken things. He makes new things out of old. But, the clay must be broken down into a lump before it can be fashioned into a new vessel that can be used for new purposes.

The road to crazy is the place where God allows us to be broken down into a shapeless lump. The road back from crazy is where he begins to build us into something new.

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It’s National Cowboy Poetry Week!

Christmas the Cowboy Way
Image via Wikipedia

Strange, but true. In honor of National Cowboy Poetry week, here’s one of my favorites from www.cowboypoetry.com.

When Bob Got Throwed

That time when Bob got throwed
I thought I sure would bust.
I like to died a-laffin’
To see him chewin’ dust.

He crawled on that Andy bronc
And hit him with a quirt.
The next thing that he knew
He was wallowin’ in the dirt.

Yes, it might a-killed him,
I heard the old ground pop;
But to see if he was injured
You bet I didn’t stop.

I just rolled on the ground
And began to kick and yell;
It like to tickled me to death
To see how hard he fell.

‘Twarn’t more than a week ago
That I myself got throwed,
(But ’twas from a meaner horse
Than old Bob ever rode).

D’you reckon Bob looked sad and said,
“I hope that you ain’t hurt!”
Naw! He just laffed and laffed and laffed
To see me chewin’ dirt.

I’ve been prayin’ ever since
For his horse to turn his pack;
And when he done it, I’d a laffed
If it had broke his back.

So I was still a-howlin’
When Bob, he got up lame;
He seen his horse had run clean off
And so for me he came.

He first chucked sand into my eyes,
With a rock he rubbed my head,
Then he twisted both my arms,—
“Now go fetch that horse,” he said.

So I went and fetched him back,
But I was feelin’ good all day;
For I sure enough do love to see
A feller get throwed that way.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 17

Crossing a crevasse on the Easton Glacier, Mou...
Image via Wikipedia

God’s Message:

   “Cursed is the strong one
   who depends on mere humans,
Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone
   and sets God aside as dead weight. Jeremiah 17:5 (MSG)

It is easy, when you are young, to set God aside. God does seem like dead weight when we are in the youthful delusion of our immortality. Our days are full of life and energy. An entire life is ahead of us (and it seems like an eternity). The whole world, it seems, is at our doorstep. God would only slow us down and hold us back.

As the journey continues, however, we all eventually find the limits of our human strength. My experience is that it often happens suddenly. Who knew that a crevasse could open so unexpectedly, that the very road on which my feet felt so sure could fall away into such dark places?

When our eyes are opened to the realities of our predicament,  our hearts are open to the realities of God.

You might find that the thing we cast aside as dead weight when our arms were full of everything our heart desired, can be remarkably light when everything else has been stripped away from us. 

It’s never too late to turn to God.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 16

Uri at the sea of galilee
Image by yanivba via Flickr

“Now, watch for what comes next: I’m going to assemble a bunch of fishermen.” God’s Decree! “They’ll go fishing for my people and pull them in for judgment.” Jeremiah 16:16 (MSG)

For centuries, those who follow Jesus have followed a yearly calendar that, across the seasons, celebrates Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. The traditional calendar marks this coming Sunday as remembering Jesus calling his first followers. In a little synchronicity with today’s prophetic chapter in Jeremiah, they happened to be fishermen:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-19 (NIV)

I grew up fishing, and I know a lot of passionate, amateur anglers. The thing about true fishermen is that they are both patient and tenacious about going after their catch. Isn’t it cool that when Jesus could have chosen academics and students of religion to be his followers, he instead went after rough and hardened blue collar fishermen? He could inspire them with the knowledge they needed, what Jesus was really looking for were followers with the heart and soul required for the tasks that lay ahead.

“Jesus would never want me,” people have told me as they weigh the emotional, relational and spiritual baggage of their own wayward journies.

Yes, actually. Yes, he would.

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 15

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Je...
Image via Wikipedia

Unlucky mother—that you had me as a son,
   given the unhappy job of indicting the whole country!
I’ve never hurt or harmed a soul,
   and yet everyone is out to get me. Jeremiah 15:10 (MSG)

It isn’t easy swimming upstream. Jeremiah discovered that. Going against the grain of a community or a culture has all sorts of ripple effects. I doubt that, in many ways, there is much difference between Jeremiah’s community and ours. People are people. We tend to like others who go with the flow and don’t make waves.

Follow Jesus, however, and you’ll find that the path will often lead you against the stream of popular culture. When that happens, we may find ourselves identifying with Jeremiah’s self-pitied lament.

But, without contrast, how will people see any difference?

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