Thursday, April 30, 2009

I love this picture

I don't know what it is about this picture that makes me love it but I do! Maybe it's because it's in black and white and that make me think it may be from my era (although I'm pretty sure that you can still shoot a B&W picture in 2009.) Maybe it's because I've owned a parakeet or two in my day. I can identify with the expression on this kid's face and can feel those little bird feet sticking into my own scalp. She's probably blissfully unaware that the bird is likely to poop in her hair at any minute or reach down and pluck some hair from her head. All she knows is that this thing is on her head and she doesn't know how to get it off.

Like this little girl, I still have things on my head that I don't know how to get off. Things like,
  • "I was always so slender so how did I let myself get this fat?"
  • "Why can't I muster the willpower to do what it takes to get back in shape?"
  • "What do I need to do to get Crossroads through the current economic slump?"
  • "What if I can't turn things around and we have to close the doors?"
Just like the little girl in this picture, the situation is probably not as dire as I might imagine. Sure, I may lose a little hair and get some bird poop in my hair, but the sky is not going to cave in on me. God is still in control. He loves me (even if I'm fat) and wants the best for me (which includes getting back to a healthy weight). Although I can't see into next year, next month, next week or even tomorrow, He's already been there and knows what the future holds. What did the prophet Jeremiah say? God has plans to prosper and not harm me but to give me a future and a hope? What am I worrying about? Bird poop washes out and a full head of hair is over-rated?

What are the things that are perched on your head right now?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sarcasm is my weakness

A former staffer at Crossroads gave me a magnet that I keep on the filing cabinet beside my desk. It reads: Sarcasm, just one more service we offer here. I sometimes cringe to think what that says about me that someone would pick that to give to me. I have to confess that sarcasm is my weakness and I characterize it as a weakness because I seem to fall into it without even thinking. You'll probably be surprised to learn that sarcasm is not my only weakness. See . . . I just can't help myself! I'm sarcastic even when I'm confessing to having a sarcasm problem.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hope Lives

Having been in the Christian bookstore business for most of the last 13 years, I've had the opportunity to read or at least preview a ton of books. Every now and then one comes along that just wows me. Last week I began reading Amber Van Schooneveld's book, Hope Lives and I experienced one of those wow moments! I'm loathe to review or recommend a book that I've not yet finished reading but I'm going to make an exception in this case.

The book is designed as a 5 week study to be read daily (only 4-5 pages/day) and explores a Christian response to poverty. Wait, I know what you're thinking: "Great . . . just what I need, a book to make me feel guilty!" You're wrong. This book is not about guilt but about grace. It's a book that will inspire you, not shame you. Amber writes, "He [Jesus] isn't asking me to carry the burden of the whole world or be in charge of making sure that everything turns out just right.
He carries that burden. He asks me simply to love him and love others and act accordingly." This young woman is a gifted and insightful writer that has an important message for a world that's entirely too self-focused. If you don't read another Christian title this year, read this one.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jesus was Middle Eastern Extremist

Tell the truth. If this guy was in the line ahead of you to board a plane, might you might just nonchalantly ease out of that line? I'd certainly give it serious consideration.
On my daily commute, I noticed a banner in front of Jubilee Church in Daphne that included a similar (but more menacing) image of Jesus and noticed how much that image looked like what I think of when I hear the words: Middle Eastern Extremist. That's what Jesus was . . . an extremist and so much more. He struck fear in the establishment of His day and two thousand years after His death and resurrection, He's still turning this world upside down.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pet Peeves

Many, if not all of us have pet peeves. (Why do we call them peeves and what qualifies them as pet peeves? Does a peeve have to domesticated to be a pet peeve? But I digress.) My pet peeve is people who abandon their shopping cart in the parking lot. How hard is it to put a shopping cart back where it belongs? Who raised these folks? How lazy can a person be? How busy or important do they think they are that they can't return a cart to the place that it belongs?

Whatever you do, please don't try to defend this behavior to me by saying that leaving the carts scattered in the parking lot provides job for the folks that are paid to round up the carts, that these shoppers have a physical limitation preventing them from returning the cart or that there are security issues that require that the shopper leave the cart beside their car. This problem is borne out of a "it's all about me" mentality that has invaded our culture. It smacks of self-centeredness and a lack of respect for others. I think Rick Warren had it right in The Purpose Driven Life with his opening line, "It's not about you."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Light and Hope

I really like kids. I used to be one myself. Last week I greeted a customer as she entered the bookstore, a young mom holding her one year old son. After speaking to her, I spoke directly to the little boy who, in response to my greeting, held out his hands for me to take him. I love my job! I’m not a grandfather just yet but I get to play the part at the bookstore from time-to-time. Holding a little one like this child while I take his mom to find a product in our store is perhaps the best fringe benefit of working at Crossroads.

In how many other stores might this mom have let a perfect stranger take her son from her arms without some level of trepidation? That level of trust says something about the environment that our bookstore projects to our community. It’s a safe place. It’s a safe place to take your kids. It’s staffed with safe people. It’s a safe place to share your hurts and needs and a trustworthy source for answers to many real-life struggles.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and why I don't send Christmas cards anymore

I don’t know how many Christmas cards my wife and I get each year but it’s a bunch! After my first couple of years in Christian retail, I gave up on the notion of sending Christmas cards. Ours was a family business so everyone in the family pitched in at Christmas (and I mean everyone) and there was precious little time for addressing and sending Christmas cards. What came out of that was that we began sending Easter cards instead of Christmas cards and we used it as an opportunity to re-emphasize the significance of this holiday.

Christmas is a wonderful season but I’ll argue that Easter is actually the most significant Christian celebration. This is the time that we celebrate the coming together of God’s plan to reconcile us to Him. We don’t celebrate the death of Christ, we celebrate His resurrection!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Contentment and Trust

A column in the Mobile Press Register on Saturday by Kristen Campbell titled When Things Get Bad, Just Live Your Life got my attention. In my opinion, it was one of Kristen's best and I encourage you to read it . . . maybe even twice. Sometimes the simplest counsel proves to be the most helpful.

Her column made me think of what the apostle Paul said to the church in Phillipi about learning to be content. Philippians 4:13 is a familiar verse of scripture to many Christians, "I can do all things through Him (Christ) that strengthens me." As meaningful as that is, this verse takes on a whole new meaning when read in the context of the preceding passage (Philippians 4:10-13). It's here that Paul tells us that he learned to be content in whatever circumstances he encountered. Note that he said he learned. Apparently, it didn't come naturally to him, either. He tells us that he learned to be content when things were good and when things were bad. The "when things are good" part I get. It's the "when things are bad" part that's a struggle for me. Contentment does not necessarily equate to "happy with," however. I think what he's telling us is that we should not let our temporary circumstances define who we are. Who we are is constant but our circumstances are temporary. The current downturn in the economy and the accompanying challenges are an example of those temporary circumstances. How you and I respond in these new circumstances reveals who we are and, on some level, what we believe about God.

Maybe Kristen was just saying the same thing when she counseled that you and I should just live our life. What do you think?