Monday, January 3, 2011


On New Year's Day, we started watching Hoarders on Netflix and soon found we couldn't stop. We watched the whole first season. It was fascinating to see houses packed to the gills with stuff, stacks and piles strewn everywhere, filling all the places where people should be.

I could relate to the visuals a little bit. My parents are landlords, and more than once I was part of the cleanup when someone moved out of one of their properties. The amount of stuff that people crammed into these little homes was incredible. One of the very first properties they renovated was filled with empty Heineken bottles and sardine cans. There we're walls made of nothing but the refuse of these two products. In fact, that may explain my ongoing distaste for either of those two items... Or they're just gross.

The most intriguing thing about the show wasn't the piles of junk. It wasn't the success or failure of the cleanup efforts. It was the correlation between stuff and relationships. In every case, the hoarder had to choose between people and stuff.

"Get rid of the clutter or lose your kids."
"Clean this up or get out."
"I could never invite anyone here, it's my dirty little secret."
"Imagine being able to invite your friends over to play."
"Change or I won't bring my kids, your grandchildren, here anymore."

Unsurprisingly, people struggled mightily with the decision. In their mind the choice was obvious - every one knew relationship was what mattered. But, it was the stuff that had given them comfort, the stuff that was there for them, the stuff that gave them a moment of happiness.

"You won't be here tomorrow, but my stuff will be."

People fail. They go home. They betray and deceive and let you down and change their mind and have their own ideas and their own desires and their own lives. People are much harder to control than stuff.

God is too. He does his thing. The same yesterday, today and forever. You can't control God.

(Maybe that's why the internet generation is so eager to discredit Him. When you're used to reading, hearing and watching what you want whenever you want, som[one]thing you have no control over is unnerving.)

That's why we continue to choose other stuff over God. Stuff stays where we put it. It does what we tell it. It makes us feel good when we need it. We're in control, we call the shots, we're never disappointed.

Except that we are.

Every one of those people were miserable. Their stuff didn't bring them lasting joy. It brought them a moment of happiness followed by regret and guilt and bills. It brought them temporary comfort in the midst of their mess, but anxiety when they were in the real world.

Hoarders doesn't tell the long-term story of what happens after the clean-up. Do these people find peace in their relationships, or do they hoard and hoard until someone once again shovels the filth from their lives?

The Israelite kings followed a cyclical pattern of this. A king would follow God and things would go well, then his son would want something faster or want to prove his power, so he would reach out for help from somewhere other than God. Neglect of the Lord would follow, with more and more junk being piled up, until a king recognized the error of their ways and led them back to God.

" (Hezekiah) said to them, Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place." 2 Chronicles 29:5

It can be harder to see in our own lives, because most of us are better at hiding it. We don't all have houses with junk pouring out of them. We might be better at getting rid of the old stuff after we get new stuff or we mint be better organized with it. It might not be stuff at all. Our fix might be food or money or fantasy or escape in alcohol or drugs or control over others.

Whatever it is, whatever we're hoarding will let us down. When we look around and see a house or a heart that is filled with trash, we have to recognize that giving up our desire for control and truly trusting God is the only way to really clean things up.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


For a long time I've heard people talk about "the great reward" and being welcomed by Jesus in the afterlife. Most of the time these talks include Jesus saying the words, "Well, done my good and faithful servant" or something to that effect. As of today, I disagree.

In John 15:15 Jesus says to the disciples, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

The more I know God, the less what I do feels like work. The more my heart understands His heart, the easier it is to love others. The more I give to Him, the less I need for myself. The more I let go of myself, the less I feel like a slave.

When I get to the great hereafter, I'm not looking forward to some distant heavenly stranger approving my good deeds with a nod and a ceremonial pronouncement. I can't see that being fulfilling or worth the effort.

Now, I can't wait to see my friend, my partner, to run to him and feel the embrace that I've missed for so long. To reminisce about the things we did together, to laugh about how wrong I got things and cry about the highs and the lows. To welcome the others who lived out a mission with us and through us. To relax with good friends after a life well lived.

That's not a reward, that's heaven.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Could I have your attention please?

Let's say that God wanted your attention. What do you think this would look like? Isaiah found that this didn't happen in the form of fire or thunder, but a whisper on the breeze.

What if the fire and thunder thing was true? What if God sent a messenger who withered your hand and then fixed it and then made stone structures shatter before your very eyes? Would you listen any closer?

King Jeroboam didn't.

He rebuilt the altar that was destroyed and doubled his efforts to worship other gods and raise other priests. He ignored God's message and God's warning.

God's response is interesting. He tells Jeroboam that Josiah is coming and he will sit on the throne and put things right. What God doesn't say is when. Jeroboam never meets him, neither does his son or grandson or great-grandson.

It is over 400 years before Josiah shows up. It is so long that the people aren't just ignoring the laws that Jeroboam broke, they don,t even know what they are anymore. They've literally lost the book whee they a written.

Yet, God is there the whole time. He speaks through his prophets to those that will listen. He never gives up, never goes away, never forsakes them.

That's one of the wonderful things about God, he is patient beyond measure. 400 years of a nation ignoring Him and he was still there when they finally came back.

Of course he'll be there when we turn back too.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Monday, October 18, 2010

David v. Solomon

Two kings, father and son, two men who grew and advanced what was at the time the greatest nation on earth. Two leaders who took care of their people. Two completely different stories.

In David's story we see the highs (Goliath, treating Saul right) and the lows (Bathsheba, his family falling apart around him). In Solomon's case we really only see the good stuff. He asked for wisdom instead of power and was given both. He ruled in a time of peace and expanded the kingdom. He built the Temple for God.

If you were to compare the accomplishments and failures of the two men as found in Kings, Solomon would come out on top. He didn't live in the chaos that David did. He never hid in a cave from his enemies. He was never forced to resort to acting like a madman so he could find shelter. He didn't have to deal with one of his sons raping one of his daughters or another son nearly taking over his kingdom. We don't hear about him murdering a man and stealing his wife or getting others to cover up his dirty deeds.

Yet, "his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father."

Solomon was a winner. Everything in his life seemed perfect.
David was a fighter. Everything in his life was a struggle.

Too often we praise winners and think that fighters have done something wrong. Why is their life so hard, why can't they figure things out, why can't they just get past their issue?

Despite all the fighting he did, it was David who had God's heart.
Despite all the blessings he had, it was Solomon who turned away.

Or was it because of David's heart for God that he had to fight so much?
In a fallen world, will a heart like God's lead to what seems like constant struggle.

Will we someday find a heaven full of fighters and nearly devoid of winners?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I've been reading Ezekiel for almost a month (does this book ever end) and something finally stuck out to me. As a shepherd myself, I found God's warning to the shepherds of Israel a little frightening.

Ezekiel 34:2-4
Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Do we do this? Are we shepherds for ourselves or shepherds for our sheep? God is all about taking care of His sheep and those He has called have been called to help in that task, not to use the sheep to take care of himself.

Ezekiel goes on to relate that these sheep will be scattered until God himself takes care of them. If we don't do it right, He'll do it himself.

I don't want to be the guy who puts God to work doing my job.

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


"I seek not what is yours but you."

Paul says it as a consolation to the Corinthians in that he wasn't going to collect a 'love offering' the next time he came to visit.

Jesus says it as a challenge, because the things we have aren't enough. He wants all of us.

How do we hear this statement?
How do we mean it when we say it?
How do people hear it when we say it?
How do I say it so people hear it how I mean it?

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

For the Children

I didn't steal cable last night. I could've. I was right there, with the filter in my hands, ready to hook the incoming line directly to the distribution line, but I remembered something someone said to me,

"Is that all your integrity is worth?"

Is it only worth the price of a monthly cable bill?
Or a ream of paper at work?
Or a bit of embarrassment that could be covered up with a white lie?
Or extra change at the check-out counter?
Or one small moment of gratification?

Integrity is integrity. We spend too much time wondering where we should set the price. The value of something stolen doesn't determine how bad the offense is. The likelihood of getting caught doesn't determine if something should be done.

Maybe your integrity isn't worth that much to you. You might not think twice about trading it for a better parking spot or a pen that finds it's way into your pocket. But, as I read this morning, it isn,t just about you.

Proverbs 21:7 The righteous who walks in his integrity-- blessed are his children after him!

Location:Columbia Pkwy,Cincinnati,United States