A Man’s Guide to Decorating

Contemporary culture obsesses over the topic of home design and décor. Dedicated TV channels broadcast home and garden advice 24/7/365. Hosts of perky personalities give the low-down on the how-to of DYI projects. Magazines fill mailboxes with picture-perfect homes that fit the financial means of anyone owning majority shares in a Fortune 500 company.

home-decoratingColor me confused. I don’t understand the allure of renovating a perfectly good home. However, I possess no sense of fashion or flair. My eyes glaze over whenever someone mentions paint chips, cloth swatches, and lamp styles. Like the majority of the masculine persuasion, I like any color as long as it is off-white.

I am not alone. Men stare in dull-eyed confusion while their significant others wax eloquent about pillow shams, plantation shutters, balloon valances, or distressed wood. As a public service for my fellow sufferers, I offer A Man’s Guide to Decorating Terms and Other Incomprehensible Words.

Paint plays an important role in any home redesign. However, paint now comes in an overwhelming palette of shades and hues. When just the right tint is finally selected, one must then select “flat,” “semi-gloss,” “gloss” and “satin” finishes. These terms describe the dullness or shine of the paint. As a general rule of thumb, ceilings are flat, walls semi-gloss, and trim work satin. Like owning a dozen pair of black high heels, it’s not something the average man needs to understand as long as he can say, “Yes, dear!”

Women place great store in “accessorizing” a room. Most males are satisfied with a table, easy chair, bed, and TV. In contrast, the female of the species treasures bowls, pictures, plates, dollies, mirrors, candles, water features, wall hangings, and floor rugs. The closest male analogy is collecting fishing lures or power tools. Accessories add “punch” to a room and can be quite “whimsical” and “eclectic. However, accessories should never detract from the “statement” made to anyone “reading” the room.

Decorators insist that rooms possess a “focal point.” For most men, a large screen television creates THE perfect focal point for ANY room. However, women set great store in “conversation pieces” that elicit admiration from female guests. The only conversation the pieces inspire in men is the question: “Where’s the TV?”

“Faux” is French for fake. However, fake is fine if it is French. “Weekend projects” last for months. “Low cost” involves an amortization schedule with a seven year balloon payment. “Wall hangings” cover a perfectly good wall. Finally, “We’re finished” is a meaningless statement used to placate husbands until the next project.

Oh, there IS one other phrase women use in the planning and implementation of home projects. They will occasionally turn to their male counterparts and earnestly ask, “What do YOU think?”

Fortunately, no response is expected to the rhetorical question.

And In All Things

essentialsIn essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty.               And in all things, charity.

This statement has been attributed to various church leaders, including Saint Augustine and John Wesley. Many believe it outlines a way for Christians to live together, even when we do not always agree.

In essentials, unity.

Core beliefs and practices central to Christianity cannot be conceded without compromising the faith. The issue arises in defining what is “essential.”

For some, the core is quite small. In the midst of the summer heat, one church sign read: Too hot to change sign. God good. Sin bad. Come inside for details!

For others, the core is much larger. Consider the homepage for the Truth Baptist Church in Atwater, Ohio: We are an independent, fundamental, soul winning, premillennial, evangelistic, pretribulation, local church oriented and KJV 1611 believing church. THEN you can go to their doctrinal summary page!

In my opinion, the Apostles Creed concisely states the central tenets of the faith. The two great commandments teach us how to live: Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength;  and Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 28 tells us the mission of the church is  to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

In nonessentials, liberty.

Not everything is of equal importance. Know the difference between essential and nonessential, central and peripheral, foundational and marginal. It can be important to me without it being important to you; and it can be important to you without it being important to be. Sometimes we can agree to disagree.

Other issues can be more contentious and controversial when it comes to politics, social issues, life styles, and more. However, we are constantly called to keep the main thing the main thing and major on the majors and minor on the minors.

In all things, charity.

We cannot always agree on what’s essential. We often argue about what’s nonessential. But let us at least agree on this final principle: LOVE. On his final night with the disciples, Jesus said: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Love is like a mustard seed. It doesn’t take much—just a tiny amount to be planted in the soil of our souls. Tend it with time and care, and it will grow unseen. When it blooms, it becomes a home big enough for everyone to live beneath its shade.

If we truly believe what we say we believe, then we’re going to spend eternity together. Maybe we should learn to love one another a little better in the meantime.

Proverbs, Part 2

The book of Proverbs reveals the spiritual principles that undergird our world. Those who follow these laws prosper and succeed. Many of Solomon’s proverbs, however, do not deal with weighty, theological matters. Instead, they address the ordinary, day-to-day living of life.

Proverbs 2Frankly, many of the proverbs are just common sense; but the authors of the book recognize that common sense is not all that common!

Last week I gave an overview of the Old Testament book. Here’s a sampling of some individual proverbs:

  • When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent.
  • Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise, when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent!
  • A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.
  • Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
  • One man gives freely and yet grows all the richer. Another withholds what he should give and only suffers wants.
  • He who oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him.
  • Know well the condition of your flocks and give attention to your herds.
  • As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed!
  • Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
  • Anxiety in a man’s heart weights him down, but a good word makes him glad.
  • He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
  • Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
  • Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
  • He who blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing!
  • Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

I conclude with a piece of advice shared last week: Life’s tough—but it’s a whole lot tougher if you’re stupid!

Proverbs helps us to learn the wisdom of God. Foolish or wise—the choice is ours.


Proverbs, Part 1


Proverbs 1The  Old Testament book of Proverbs was originally written as an instructional manual for young, Jewish men. It teaches God’s Secrets of Success for a meaningful, fulfilled life.

Proverbs only has 31 chapters. Spend 5-10 minutes per day reading a chapter, and  the entire book can be read in a month’s time. I reread Proverbs regularly, and I highly recommend this devotional practice to others.

The book contains observations about life, and the collected comments were designed to teach others about God’s truth. The  introduction declares its purpose: That men may know wisdom, and instruction, understand words of insight, receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity . . . .

Proverbs teaches that wisdom is essential to the Godly life. People define wisdom in a variety of ways. At its heart, Biblical wisdom is both knowing and doing God’s Word. It is applied knowledge: knowing God’s Word and then applying it to our world. Those who know and practice Scriptural principles are wise.

Proverbs teaches that God has created the world not only with physical laws but also spiritual principles. Those who follow God’s rules flourish and prosper. Those who break the rules suffer the consequences of their foolish actions.

Sometimes God’s wisdom runs counter to human instinct. We discover that God’s ways are not our ways. Proverbs warns repeatedly: There is a way that seems right to man whose end is death. (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)

Christians have to learn a new way of thinking. At first, it feels awkward and unnatural. The more we practice God’s wisdom, however, the more we discover how much it makes sense.

So what is the first step on the journey to learning wisdom? Proverbs 1:7 is the theme of the entire book, and it tells us how to begin: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (NIV)

Proverbs declares that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We are called to hunger and thirst for God’s Word and way in our lives. Those who seek will find. For those who knock, the door will be opened. Ask, and it shall be given.

Proverbs helps us learn from the experience of other Godly men and women. Solomon reminds us: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

One of my favorite sayings is: Life is tough, but it’s a whole lot tougher if you’re STUPID! So, wise or foolish—which would you rather be?

New Wine and New Wineskins

Last month I preached on a text from Luke 5:36-39. In his first parable recounted in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus told his followers that no one puts new wine into old wineskins.

Goatskins were used to hold wine. As the grape New WInejuice fermented, it gave off gas. The skins had enough elasticity to expand with the wine before hardening into their final shape. New wine poured into old wineskins would burst the container, leading to the loss of both the wine and the wineskins.

Jesus said that new wine must be poured into new wineskins. Then the container can provide a context for the contents. The Holy Spirit blows into our lives with a tornado force that disrupts our lives. The resulting chaos gives us the opportunity to experience God’s new order.

We forget that change can be a positive experience when we embrace the new. For example, our daughter, Katie, is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who works with the General Surgery Team at Egleston Pediatric Hospital.

If you and yours have ever undergone surgery, you know the drill—no food or drink for 8 hours prior to surgery, massive use of narcotics during and after surgery to control pain, and no solid food for a day or two after the procedure.

Everyone KNOWS this is the best way to care for children during surgery. Except maybe it isn’t.

Katie was recently part of a team that developed a new protocol with the catchy title of Enhanced Recovery after Surgery  or ERAS for short. Children receive a loading dose of pain killers along with a high carbohydrate clear liquid two hours prior to surgery. After surgery, children are allowed to eat whatever they want as soon as they want. Most will eat a full meal on the same day of surgery and be up walking around.

The results from the study have been amazing. Children’s postoperative hospital stays have shortened. Use of narcotic drugs for pain control have significantly decreased. And most important of all, the boys and girls are recovering more quickly.

Everyone KNEW the old way of doing things was best . . . until someone showed it wasn’t.

However, you know human nature. People cling to the old even when the new is better. The result is countless children will not benefit from the proposed changes which are demonstrably better for all involved. It will take years for this new protocol to become the accepted way of doing things.

The Holy Spirit calls us to be pioneers, embracing the new through the holy chaos of change. Cast off the old ways of doing things and be open to God’s fresh wind of transformation. Put on the new clothing of holiness and be intoxicated by the new wine of grace.

Story Teller

Story Teller

Our back-to-school worship series at church is entitled Story Teller. During August and September worship, we have been exploring eight parables told by Jesus in the Gospel according to Luke.

Parable comes from the Greek word parabole which means to cast alongside or to place beside. Parables are stories that include comparisons, contrasts, exaggerations, illustrations, analogies, similes, and metaphors.

During seminary, our professors taught us: A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Which says everything—and nothing! Most of the stories are based on ordinary life but reveal extraordinary truths. Jesus’ parables give human insight into God’s kingdom.

Some parables are quite short, told in the turn of a phrase or a few sentences. Others are rather long, containing plot, characters, descriptions, conflict, and resolution.

Parables typically make one point—except when they don’t. The details are usually secondary—except when they’re not.

The Gospel parables are also insidious. They seem simple enough. After listening to Jesus’ words, the listener concludes: “Oh, well, the moral of the story is                  .”

However, it’s not that simple. Parables are multilayered and multidimensional. There are always new depths to plumb. They cast fishhooks into our minds, tugging at our thoughts and catching our imaginations. We wake up in the middle of the night, exclaiming: “OH, THAT’S what Jesus meant!”

Yet there is a richness to Christ’s parables that can never be exhausted. We read the same story years later and discover new and unexpected truths.

The parables—like all stories—are also eminently memorable. They define the difference between the declarative and the narrative—between statements and stories.

It’s one thing to say: God loves you. It’s another to say: There once was a man who had two sons . . . .

It’s one thing to say: Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s another to say: One day a man was going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by a band of thieves . . . .

Parables are also dangerous. They slip past our defenses and through the backdoor of our minds, inviting us to change and challenging us to act.

So we’re invited to sit at the feet of the Master Storyteller and ask: Jesus, will you tell us a story?

15 Years Later

The horrific images of September 11, 2001 are forever seared into our collective conscious. Kamikaze planes, billowing smoke, imploding buildings, panicked crowds, and broken bodies overwhelmed our souls. To borrow a phrase from President Roosevelt, this day of infamy changed the landscape of our country forever.

In the aftermath of theWorld-Trade-Center-Cross terrorist attack, the United States appeared to experience a religious reawakening. The catastrophe literally brought America to its knees in prayer.

We did not engage in ACLU approved, politically correct moments of silence or personal meditation. God’s people prayed. We prayed in churches, cathedrals, synagogues, and mosques. We prayed at home, work, school, and worship. We prayed at flagpoles, street corners, courthouses, city halls, and seats of government. We prayed in words, song, silence, and tears.

People also turned to the church for comfort and consolation. In the aftermath of the Twin Towers’ attack, believers and non-believers alike attended worship services in record numbers. Church attendance grew a dramatic 25% in the days following September 11.

According to a Barna survey, however, church attendance quickly returned to normal levels within a month of the tragedy. People who had packed sanctuaries in September found better things to do in October. The immediate crisis had passed, a semblance of normalcy had returned, and people seemed to remain the same.

Military chaplains say that there are no atheists in a foxhole. Life-threatening crises often evoke a temporary faith. People play “Let’s Make a Deal” with the Lord God Almighty serving in Bob Barker’s stead as the game show host.

There are no atheists in a foxhole; but it does not take folk long to lose their faith once the crisis has passed. Perhaps this observation is too harsh. It might be more accurate to say that people lose any URGENCY about their faith on the far side of a disaster.

However, in the aftermath of September 11, we dare not be the same people or nation ever again. We are called to live faithful lives as citizens and Christians.

America was brought to its knees on September 11. As God’s people, we are challenged to remain upon our knees in service, remembrance, prayer, and changed lives. In the midst of uncertain times, we also remember that our lives are based upon the firm foundation of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Even if all else around us falls apart, our God will care for us this day . . . and forever more.

Fifteen years later we are called to pause . . . to remember . . . to pray . . . and to hope.