Not Super or The Best

In yesterday’s mail I got a copy of Super Lawyers, Louisiana Edition. Since I have been practicing law in Louisiana for 35 years I am familiar with many of the lawyers featured in the magazine. Some are pretty good lawyers. Some not so much. None are “super.”  

SuperLawyers.com puts out the advertising packed magazine. As the Journal of the American Bar Association has reported, ads in Super Lawyers can cost super bucks.  Super Lawyers puts out a promotion kit for their “Super” lawyers advising how to make the most out of their “Super Lawyer” status. The kit warns the “Super” lawyers to be careful with words: 

HOW TO TALK ABOUT SUPER LAWYERS: OKAY TO SAY: She was included in this year’s Florida Super Lawyers list. NOT OKAY TO SAY: She’s a Super Lawyer. OKAY TO SAY: Super Lawyers selected three people from this firm. NOT OKAY TO SAY: This firm has a lot of Super Lawyers. OKAY TO SAY: Sally was selected to the 2017 Wisconsin Super Lawyers list. No more than five percent of the lawyers in the state were selected. NOT OKAY TO SAY: Sally was recognized by Super Lawyers, which means she is in the top five percent of lawyers in the state.

In other words, only five percent of lawyers in a state are “selected to be “Super.” They are just not necessarily the best or top five percent. It’s like the “Best” lawyers in Acadiana. They are the ones who have managed to get the most votes in a “news” paper in which they heavily advertise. Bar associations are starting to take a look at claims of superiority. 

The real problem is that we just have too many lawyers. Competition for law “dollars” is fierce. Look at the billboards and the television ads, not that you can avoid looking. Sadly, for many, the legal profession is no longer about using the law to solve problems, but about using the law to make money. 

It’s not just lawyers, doctors, and dentists and a lot of other professionals are now advertising. There just too many of those people as well. There will never be enough good lawyers, doctors and dentists. There just may be too many “super” ones. 

Perhaps the saddest thing is that there are now too many preachers and pastors. There is a fight for customers in that “business” as well. Jesus told us to “make disciples” and not “build congregations.” There is a difference. These days there are shrinking numbers who are interested in being part of a church. There is a fight for those people. It’s why we have bigger and prettier church buildings offering more amenities with  preaching and teaching that “encourages” rather than convicts.

Not unlike the lawyer ads and bill boards, churches are now promising easy fixes for the problems of life. There is less emphasis on the challenging words of Jesus who called his followers to lives of strife, sacrifice and persecution not peace, plenty and world domination. 

Like lawyers who beg you to “Call me,” churches are pleading “come here.” There is more salvation within our walls. Lawyers need to start admitting that litigation is not the first and easiest solution but the last and toughest choice. Churches need to get back to calling people to Jesus and not to their facilities. 

People don’t need Super lawyers or the Best lawyers or Super or the Best churches. They need Jesus. They always have and they always will. Wish I could afford to put that on a billboard.

 

Precious Christmas Gifts

I know that gifts are an overemphasized aspect of Christmas. They often are a response to a sense of obligation, but they can also reflect pure love. I was certainly blessed this year. My wife once again did her best to upgrade my wardrobe. Those rare times I look okay, it’s because of her. She’s a love. 

We pull names in our family. My daughter moaned when she pulled mine. Turns out I am the one nobody wants to get.  I buy things before anyone can buy them for me. I managed to do that this year, buying a fitness tracker when the one my daughter ordered for a gift was en route from Amazon. Hers was mucb nicer than the one I bought for myself, but she returned it and responded beautifully with a great alternative. I hope she has the bad luck of pulling my name again next year. 

My grand daughter Sammie painted the above for Rosemary and me. She told us the darkness represents a dark world. The heart figures are Rose and I as protectors of the family from the darkness. The light inside with the cross reflects Jesus who is our light, our center and our true protection.  Thanks Sammie, a poet and an artist. Jesus is the reason for the season and a perfect center for a gift. 

I pray that your Christmas was as touching and blessed as mine. I just don’t see how. 

Minimalism – A documentary about important things

There’s a documentary on Netflix, “Minimalism – A documentary about important things.” It’s about a movement of those who have “discovered” that material things don’t bring happiness, but are, in fact, chains to the unimportant. It’s nice to know this generation has made this startling discovery.

I’m making this discovery myself. I have gone through “my stuff,” cleaning out storage, reorganizing drawers, throwing stuff away. I don’t want to die and suffer the embarrassment of my heirs discovering what a materialist I was. I have two of everything. I live in a house twice the size of anything my parents had and I still need a storage unit. This Christmas I found out that I’m the least favorite name to pull. Apparently I am impossible to buy for because if I need (or want) something I just buy it. Now that’s materialism. 

Some of my generation ditched materialism, for a while, over fifty years ago. We called them “hippies.” They realized that their parents had fought the great war to live mundane lives in cookie cutter VA financed homes. They turned away from making the same mistakes in Vietnam and took on drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Most of them are now retired from lives eventually lived working for “the man.” They still like drugs, sex and rock and roll, but in relative moderation. 

This generation is turning from the “material world” in exchange for mini-houses, yoga, and gluten free diets. I predict they too will also end up retiring from corporations. They will probably end up with smaller houses than my generation, and with more “peace” and fewer pounds.  They will probably also end up liking drugs, sex and rock and roll, in moderation.

You see, the problem with giving up on the material world is that you have to replace it with something. We are, in fact, designed to learn that the material world is insufficient to satisfy. After the fall, we are born with a hole. A hole that can’t be filled with anything material, but oh how we try. The trick is to find filling that truly satisfies.

Jesus was the original “minimalist.” He didn’t have a place to lay his head. There is no evidence he owned anything. It’s not clear what happened to the magi gifts. They probably financed the escape to Egypt in his childhood. Upon his death, the soldiers cast lots for his robe. It’s apparently all he had. His followers were (and are) called to leave everything and follow Him. You see following Jesus is the substitute for materialism. Hippies and minimalists leave everything… then just wander about. 

In Revelation, John envisioned the last triumph. “11 And they overcame him (Satan, ie. the material world)  by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” The meaning we seek is found by appropriating the blood of the lamb, experiencing a life change that becomes something worth sharing, (our testimony), and loving not life now (the material) but life eternal. 

The hippies of my youth and the minimalists of today are on the right path, turning from the world. They just need to take the final step: substitute stuff with Jesus. It’s minimalism to the max. A lesson this materialist is still learning. 

How Much Jesus

How Much Jesus?

This article appears in the December edition of Covenant Spotlight. It’s a great issue so check it out. 

It seems the world is having more trouble than ever accepting the babe born in a manager. We are feeling the effects. His followers are stereotyped, marginalized, intimidated, prosecuted and even persecuted. We shouldn’t be surprised.

The tiny one whose parents could not even get a room in an inn or give a clean place for his birth scares the hell (yes I said “hell” pun intended) out of most. Maybe it’s because like the Magi, deep down,  they recognize this child for all that He is.

They gave Him gold in recognition of his kingship, not just earthly but divine royalty. This little one possesses great power. He is ruler of the universe, a role hidden in a dingy manger and not fully realized until His final return, but ultimate ruler nonetheless.

They gave Him frankincense because they knew Him as priest, not just any priest but the Great High Priest who would advocate for lowly man with the Most High God. He would replace all the rituals and ceremony of religion with the reality of relationship. 

They gave Him myrrh because they foresaw Him as murdered sacrifice for sin. They recognized this child in His most mysterious yet most marvelous role of all, the greatest gift ever given by a God whose capacity for love is beyond our meager understanding.

If we are doing a good job of following, we are painful reminders of Him to a world that doesn’t know how much it needs him.

So let us not be too self-righteous when we hear “Happy Holidays” or Christmas described as an over-commercialization of an ancient pagan feast.  Unless we are prepared to receive Him as Emmanuel, and king and priest and bloody sacrifice for sin, we are no better than those who reject Him as babe in swaddling clothes. If we accept Him completely, we are glorious, if painful reminders, of who He is and that’s our mission.

Just how much Jesus are you prepared to accept?

Take Him all and be blessed and a blessing.

Five Things Christians Can Learn From Donald Trump

Among the many effects of the Trump Train, was the illumination of the great Christian divide. Conservative followers were willing to forgive  character flaws in exchange for social slide to the right. Liberal churches and their members saw Trump’s moral question marks as further evidence that Hillary was the right choice. Maybe both wings of the church can learn something from Trump.

a.  There’s a hunger for the message. Americans sense that America is no longer great; they yearn for a return to a perceived prior greatness. Trumps opponents fatally failed to recognize that hunger.

It will be great if America can become greater, whatever that means. Even if that happens, we won’t find the satisfaction we seek. Our hunger isn’t fueled by a national malaise, but a personal emptiness. Only Jesus will fill that. Without Him, hunger remains and the Word has an eager audience. 

b. It’s not you. It’s your message. Trumps opponents made the mistake of paying too much attention to Trump. He’s brash, inarticulate, obnoxious, with bad hair. It was never about him. It was his message.

It also wasn’t about Moses, or John the Baptist or Paul. We are all imperfect messengers. It’s always about the message, the God-man Jesus, who shines through the grimiest messenger. Are we worthy proclaimers of the Word? Of course not, and that’s exactly the point. 

c. Your past is past. Trump’s enemies thought his past bad behavior would doom him. What they didn’t realize was that we all have pasts we regret, things we wish we wouldn’t have said or done. We actually relate better to those with a past in some ways like our own.

That’s why the “biggest” sinners are the best witnesses for Jesus. The miracle of the new birth is most obvious, when the old person was the least worth. All have sinned and fallen short; some are just more dramatic. 

d. You’re not too rich. You would think that most Americans couldn’t relate to a billionaire. Donald Trump’s life isn’t much like mine or yours. That didn’t slow him down.

There’s world out there that needs Jesus. The greatest needs are among people very unlike us. Jesus is least known in muslim or hindu cultures among people who make less in a year than we do in a day. These differences seem insurmountable. They are not. We have Jesus to share and we are not too rich or too white or too American to do that. 

e. Talk to the People. If Donald Trump had relied on the professional “main stream” media, his message would have been dead in the water. He went directly to the people via social media and mass meetings. Unlikely spoke persons, like Diamond and Silk, helped pull and push the Trump train. People who had never voted before came out for Trump. It truly is a movement. 

Jesus’ plan was never to spread the word though media, professional speakers, or international denominations. It was always meant to be a person-to-person communication stream. Making disciples is a one-one-one enterprise. You don’t recognize the wonder of new birth until you know personally and intimately someone who has been reborn. 

Whether we admire or abhor Donald Trump, we can learn from him. We have the message of the ages: Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our history, our blindness, our imperfects and our misdirections aren’t enough to stifle the message. We can rely on the same thing Donald did, our availability in spite of our lack of ability. 

 

Counting Change

Recently in Youngsville, a business was giving away its product. This wasn’t a marketing scheme or ownership gone mad. The electricity was out and the computer based cash register wasn’t working. There was access to the cash drawer but NO ONE WORKING AT THE TIME KNEW HOW TO MAKE CHANGE. So the business was giving away product. 

I realize that the use of cash is way down. I don’t carry a checkbook anymore and very little cash. I use my debit card for everything. It provides a record of my expenses and is very convenient. There is obviously less need for cash handling skills. Nonetheless, shouldn’t everyone be able to make change.To my generation, this isn’t complicated.  There are videos online explaining how to do this. Really? I know the “younger generation” isn’t stupid they can do lots of things I can’t.

It seems that because it’s a skill that isn’t often used, why teach it. Similarly, schools are no longer teaching kids to write in cursive. People don’t write much anymore by hand. When necessary, seems like printing produces a more readable product. I wish they had come up with this when I was in first grade. I will never forget getting “all As and a F in writing.” 

Are there other skills we used to take for granted that are no longer taught because they are rarely used?  Here are some:

Opening a door for a lady – too sexist.

Standing when a lady enters the room – too sexist.

Tipping your hat to a lady – too few hats, maybe too few ladies?

Saying grace before meals – too fundamentalist.

Eating meals at a table with the family – too Norman Rockwell.

Saying, “Yes, mam” and “Yes, sir.” Too sexist in one case. Too militaristic in the other?

Reading a book – I mean a real book not listening to one or reading one on a computer – What’s a book?

Tell people about Jesus? There are many ways to God. It’s a personal thing. It’s none of my business. It’s embarrassing. They can hear about Him on TV. 

There are lots of things we don’t do any more. I’m not sure the reasons are good enough. What say you?

In the Moment

 

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21; Man plans and God laughs. Yiddish proverb and the thirteenth studio album by American hip hop group Public Enemy

I gave much thought this weekend to living in the moment. It’s in fact, the only way to live. The past is gone and the future is unpredictable. Yet I waste much time regretting the past and worrying about the future.  I gave the matter much thought on an intellectual plane, until it was driven home by reality.

I had simple plans for Sunday afternoon, take a nap, watch the Saints while finishing up my Christmas cards. For Monday I was going to prepare for and have a meeting with a client. However, I woke from the planned nap with a burning fever and chills to the extent I couldn’t stop shaking. I could have cared less about the Saints or Christmas cards. I rescheduled my Monday meeting. These were not monumental plans, but they could have been. 

I don’t really think God was laughing at my plans. I do think my 24 hour bout with fever and chills was within God’s purpose. I think He was reinforcing my thoughts about the importance of the present. 

I waste the present. I have to do lists and stacks of to do projects. For much of my work life I operated with a touch-things-just-once rule. When I got a letter I dealt with it right then. I tried to answer questions during a phone call and not with a promise to “get back” to the person later. I have gotten out of that habit. Things in a to do list and in a to do stack become a cloud on our present. They stay in the back of our minds preventing us from enjoying the moment. 

I also find that I limit my presents. It’s so easy to get into habits and patterns. Doing the same things and having the same experiences each day. Recently I have been taking my grandson to school. He has to be there by 6:45. That means getting up early and leaving the house while it’s still dark. It also means being out and about when the sun comes up. I have totally enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the early morning. The dawning of the new day as the night gives way to day. It’s not a big deal, but it has been a fresh experience. A new present.

I don’t focus on the present. I live in a world of interruptions. Phones ring. My iPhone is constantly chiming or buzzing with emails or tweets or “notifications.” These external interruptions fight for attention with internal distractions: hunger pangs; what I need to do next, or tomorrow or next week; what I forgot to do yesterday, last week, or last years; will the Saints ever win again?; who needs to be added to my Christmas card list; what should I get Rosemary for Christmas? 

Fever and chills reminded me to be “in the moment.” Now if I can just figure out how to do that.

My Fitness Tracker

I have a new fitness tracker. It is with me 24/7, when I sleep, swim or shower. It tracks my heartbeat, my steps, the flights of stairs I take, my sleep, my burned calories, the calories I ingest (if I’m honest with it.) It reminds me to move, to sleep, to wake, to eat, to stop eating, to answer my texts and emails. It is changing my life.

It doesn’t do things for me. It just makes me aware. Being aware reminds and motivates me to do things. It’s great. It helps me focus on important things like activity, nourishment, and rest. 

I need trackers in other aspects of my life. I need a fiscal tracker. One that makes me aware of what I am spending and not spending, earning and not earning. I need a social tracker that makes me aware of the people around me. I need to know what they need, what they are wanting, what are their dreams, their fears. If I was more aware wouldn’t I act differently?

I need a God tracker. I need to know about Him. I need to be more aware of His presence. His desires for me. His warnings when I drift. His smiles when I take the right steps. It would be great to always know that He’s there, that He cares, that He moves and acts on my behalf. I should know these things. I should be more aware, but I am not, not always. When I am …I am motivated, encouraged, chastened, changed. 

God give me a heart that tracks yours, a spirit that follows yours, a body that is yours. In Jesus Name I Pray.