Friday, May 26, 2017

Be Memorable

As Memorial Day approaches we sense the value of remembering those who have gone on before us.  We take note of their lives and the influence they have had on us.  But Memorial Day also makes me wonder how memorable a life I am living?  I want to be remembered.  I want people to look back on my life and be inspired by the contributions that I have made.  I want my life to matter.  But how can I do that?  How can I live a memorable life?

The gospels, in Mark 14, tells a wonderful story of a woman who left a memorable mark in the life of Jesus, so much so that Jesus said that what she did would be told whenever the gospel is preached!

Jesus was at the home of a friend shortly before his crucifixion.  While they were eating, this woman comes in and breaks a jar of very expensive perfume and pours it over Jesus' head.   Some of the believers gathered there are critical of the woman saying that the perfume could have been sold for a year's wage and the money given to the poor.  But Jesus interrupts their griping by praising the woman and then declares that what she has done will be remembered for generations to come!   This brief encounter with Christ made certain that her life would be memorable, and as she makes this memory she leaves behind some insight for all of us on how to live memorable lives.

First, we need to practice radical generosity.  If you want to leave a mark then be willing to give away what you have, whether that be money, time, or resources.  Generous people see their resources as a means to bless other people, not just a way to make their own lives easier.  If you want people to remember you, give your stuff away!

Second, we need to look beyond the obvious.  The disciples gathered can only see the apparent use of this asset - feeding the poor.  Now Jesus is not against feeding the poor, but he admires this woman who uses this perfume in a unique way.  She thinks outside the box.  God has given each one of us distinctive resources that can be used in unique ways.  Think about the special contributions you can make to the people around you.  Be sensitive to special moments when your generosity can make an exceptional impact.  Memorable lives are creative and imaginative in their generosity.

Third, expect and overcome opposition.  This woman's unique, radical generosity is opposed even by believers.  People who leave a mark are often people who are criticized and discouraged, even by well-intended peers.  Throughout history the people who are most memorable are those who were most criticized as well!  Don’t allow cynics to stifle your passion.

Perhaps none of us will have monuments built in our honor, but we can leave a mark on our world. We can be memorable.   Why not start today!

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Holiday Halo Effect

I was introduced to a new term recently – The Holiday Halo Effect.  Apparently, research has determined that not only is going on a vacation good for you, but simply booking a vacation creates feelings of positivity.  Just knowing a vacation is coming seems to bring people joy. Furthermore, those expecting a vacation report that they feel more motivated at work.

Seems to make sense to me.  Having something fun and exciting to look forward to can make even a mundane life more bearable.  Knowing that there is something pleasurable waiting for us in the future can make the days leading up to that vacation pleasant.  A wise friend once gave this advice to someone who was wondering if they could hold up just a few more weeks until retirement – “You can stand on your head for three weeks if you have to!” Knowing that there’s a beachside bungalow or a mountainside cabin waiting for us empowers us to make it through even dark days.

I appreciate the research but don’t these conclusions seem to be a no-brainer for Christians? It’s called hope and it’s all over the pages of the Bible.  The destination is called heaven and it’s been the bright future that has brought strength and endurance and joy to even the most difficult of faithful lives.  It’s the “vacation” we have booked that brings us feelings of positivity and motivation.

The writer of the New Testament book called Hebrews gives us a simple explanation as to how Jesus could suffer the way he did – “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” That joy was heaven.  That joy was being with God.  It’s that joy that kept him going and the same joy will keep you going.

I read a book awhile back called “The Slumber of Christianity” by Ted Dekker.  His main contention was that we have turned Christianity into simply a pragmatic lifestyle focusing primarily on how it can make our lives better here.  And I agree it can do that, but take heaven away and we really lose that deep and lasting hope believers need to be faithful and effective.  He called for more sermons and teaching on heaven.  I think he has a point.

Consider this paraphrase of that passage that I referenced above from The Message by Eugene Peterson:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Christian, you have a holiday booked paid for by the blood of Jesus.  Shouldn’t we be experiencing The Holiday Halo Effect? Or should we call it The Heaven Halo Effect?