You know the drill.

Your computer freezes.  You click your mouse.  Nothing.  You try to click out of the program.  Nothing.  You try to minimize the window.  Nothing.  You speak to your computer with four letter words.  Nothing.

You might try Ctrl+Alt+Delete.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  When all else fails, you push the button.

What button?  The one that turns the computer off.  You know it will take time.  You know you will lose work.  The alternative is to stay frustrated and hope your anger melts the computer’s brain freeze.

I don’t know why, but this works most of the time.  Electrons get back on track.  The mouse works again.  Programs and apps are opening.  The computer needed to reset.

You need to reset too.

God knows this.  That’s why he commanded the Sabbath (Note: he didn’t suggest it).  Once a week you need twenty-four hours to unplug, remember what’s important, and reset.

You may not know God told his people they needed time off.  In his instructions to his people, he told them to celebrate festivals.  God said to his people “Spend three weeks a year feasting, worshiping, and resetting.

You need more than a day to reset.  You need days strung together to remember what’s important.

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with our vacations.  We get away, but we don’t reset.  We don’t create emptiness so God has space to speak to us.  It is ok to do nothing.  Doing nothing means there is room in your soul for God to say something.

To reset, you may need some vacation time that doesn’t involve Disney.  You may need to shut down your cell phone.  You may need to take a break from social media (you will not be forgotten).  You may need to explain to the kids that part of vacation will be creating space to reset.

Include God in your vacation time.  Ask him what needs to be reset.  Let him whisper to you about your soul clutter.  Soul clutter is all that occupies space in your soul and becomes a “have-to.”  Somethings have to be done – laundry, grocery shopping, etc.   But there are “have-to’s” that aren’t.  You don’t have to involve your child in five sports.  You don’t have to do your adult child’s laundry.  You don’t have to meet the guys at the hunt club at 5 AM for a workday (when the sun doesn’t come up until 6 AM).

Reset means giving yourself time to see your life as it really is.  Reset means giving yourself room to hear from God about what your life needs to be.

Time to reset.  Take a deep breath.  Push the button.  Shut down your operating system.  Let your heart rate slow down.  Do nothing.  Listen for God.


My Squash Died …



In a fit of confidence this year, I set out tomatoes and squash this year.  My tomatoes have done great.  Nothing like home-grown tomatoes.

My squash, however, died.  I got two squash off four plants.  Not a good return on investment.

Most gardeners I know grow boat-loads of squash.  In one community where we lived, bags of squash and zucchini would appear on our door step over night.  People weren’t being kind.  They just wanted to get rid of the stuff.  Zucchini bread multiplied.  I seriously thought we could add a room onto the house if we got just a few more loaves of zucchini bread.

If the stuff is so easy to grow, why did mine die?  I watered the plants.  I made sure they got fertilizer.  I did everything I needed to do.  Right?

There is a disease called “bacterial wilt.”  A cucumber caterpillar feeds on the plants and injects a bacteria which causes wilt.  Once wilt starts, nothing can be done.

The best way to fight bacteria wilt is to never let it start.  You get rid of the cucumber caterpillar.  I should have sprayed to kill it.  But I didn’t.  Being a lazy gardener, I thought maybe the cucumber caterpillars would leave me alone.  Maybe God would understand I was a busy pastor and didn’t have time to spray.  My excuses didn’t matter.  The squash still died.

Your soul can wilt too.

There is an infection that can wilt your ability to make decisions.  It can weaken your thoughts; it can destroy your feelings.  This infection can incapacitate your body.  It can ruin relationships.

The scripture calls this infection “sin.”  Before you dismiss the idea of sin as being old fashioned, haven’t you seen its realities?  Haven’t you seen people with wilted souls?

The hard truth: you have wilted soul.  How do I know?  Because we’ve all invited sin into our lives.  We’ve all known the right thing to do and done the wrong thing.  Those choices – thousands of them – wilt our souls.

When souls wilt, people protest they fed their souls with art, pleasure, and intellectual stimulation.  Church people, bewildered, protest they fed their souls by going to church, studying scripture, and praying.  Protesting doesn’t change reality.

Your soul can wilt until you are left with a dried up life.  A dried up life produces no fruit.  A dried up life just takes up space.

Unlike my squash plants, there is hope for our wilted souls.  Our hope is the power of Jesus.

Jesus’s death and resurrection does not merely mean we go to heaven.  He entered our world.  He died to defeat the sin that infects us.  His resurrection means he conquered everything that wilts our souls.

Inviting Jesus into our souls brings healing.  He drives out the infection of sin.  He strengthens our weakness.  He rights our skewed feelings and thoughts.  He puts our relationships on a firm foundation.  That’s what the line in the old hymn means: “He makes the sinner whole…”

Let Jesus not only forgive your sin, but heal your wilted soul.  Then prepare to be amazed at the fruit that grows from your life.

If only Jesus would heal my squash.

It’s How You Say It…

congressional shooting

On Wednesday, June 14, a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders specifically asked if the people on a baseball field were Democrats or Republicans.  When told they were Republicans, he opened fire.  The protective guard of Steve Scalise bravely returned fire, using pistols against a semi-automatic rifle.  The assailant, James Hodgkinson, died after treatment for gunshot wounds.

Before Congressman Scalise came out of surgery, pundits were rushing to turn the event to their political advantage.  No surprise.  In this age of instant news, the more outlandish your statement and tweets, the more name recognition you get.

People ask, “How do we keep this from happening again?”  Some suggest more laws; others suggest more guns.  Who is right?

The only way I know to truly change behavior comes not from laws or guns, but from a relationship with Jesus.  As the love of Jesus fills your heart, hate is driven from your soul.

Maybe Jesus followers could show the way.  What if how we say something matters as much as what we say?  Jesus’s brother, James, wrote, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (1:19-20).”  I bet he learned that from his brother.

To do this requires you to believe that God is right and you are not.  So listen first to the whispers of God to your soul.  Listen to your brother or sister whom God loves.  Think about what you say.  Think about the impact of your words, your Facebook rants, your tweets, and Instagram messages.  Can you make your point without making an enemy?

Realize anger is the most delicious emotion.  As anger forms in your mind you are convinced you are right.  It’s a short journey from believing you are right to believing you are righteous, thus possessing the right to deliver judgment.  It is this line of thinking that moves anger from delicious to dangerous.

When you are filled with righteousness you forget two things:  first, “No one is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10);” and, second, your anger doesn’t produce a righteousness God desires (see above).   Self-righteousness is a deadly sin that can cause you to believe your destruction of someone is justified.  We’ll never know, but I would bet James Hodgkinson felt pretty righteous on June 14th.

The homespun wisdom I grew up with taught, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.”  May Jesus followers rise up and show our country how to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.