Cosby Wisdom

October 26, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Before Seinfeld and Friends, there was a tremendously successful sit-com in the 1980’s.It featured a comedian who transitioned to TV to become one of the most powerful forces in TV history. His name was Bill Cosby and the show was The Cosby Show. I thought about that show this week as I was preparing a Bible Study on Galatians 5.

In the book of Galatians, Paul is trying to impart the idea that grace is a free gift from God and we don’t have to follow rules and regulations to be accepted by God. This is a difficult concept for people to get their heads around (including me). After all, the only way to get anything in the world we live in is to earn it, right? The formula of life (at least American life) seems to be: 

Good planning + Hard work = SUCCESS. 

But life in God’s kingdom is different than life in this world. We know that, of course. We know that God has to be added to the equation. However, I think we often just stick God into it and still keep much of what we already believe to be true. So, often, the formula looks like this: 

Faith in Jesus + Good planning + Hard work = SUCCESS. 

Now this formula looks a little better. It seems more spiritual because we have words like Faith and Jesus involved. The problem is that, at least for me, I often still placed most of my focus on my “good planning” and “hard work” and didn’t really know what to do with the whole “faith” thing. Here’s how Paul simplifies the formula in Galatians (and throughout his other letters: 

Faith in Jesus = SUCCESS. 

Seems pretty simple, huh?… A little too simple? I mean “life with God” should require some effort on my part, right? After I become a Christian I should start doing good stuff, right? It ain’t a free ride, is it?… That’s the big question. The Bible says that God’s grace is a free gift. Yet, I often live like I need to keep earning it.  

So… Where does Bill Cosby fit in? Well, I’ll tell you. Although I watched the show regularly and I remember that I enjoyed it and it was funny, I only remember on specific line from the entire 8 year run. To make my point, I’ll set the scene… 

Theo Huxtable (Cosby’s teenage son in the show) is talking to his dad (Cliff Huxtable—Cosby) about getting something he wants. Cliff doesn’t want to give Theo the money for the thing he wants (does this ever happen in real life?!?). Theo then begins to make a case that he has earned the money based on his attitude, behavior, etc. He concludes his case by saying something like, “You owe me this money, dad?” 

Cliff pauses and responds (in true Cosby delivery), “I owe you? Actually, you owe me $465,000…” 

It may not seem like it, but the line was hilarious. Why? Because it is dripping with truth. As I parent, I find myself exasperated by my children’s definition of “fair” every day. Theo was claiming a right to a small sum of money and his dad compared that request to everything that he had provided for his son over the years. In truth, his father had given him everything he ever had. 

The other aspect of the line that adds to the humor is that a father would never seriously present this information in a debate with his child (at least no dads that I know of). I give to my children because I love them. I do not expect any financial remuneration for the food, shelter, and clothing I provide. In fact, there is really no way they could ever repay me for all my wife and I provide. I am not saying that I am an incredible father or provider—I’m just saying I do it because I love my kids. 

I think we often approach God like Theo approached his dad. We feel an obligation to “repay” God for the gift of life with him. The problem is that we can never achieve this goal. It is impossible to pay our debt (see: that’s why Jesus had to die for your sins). God’s gift is priceless… So why do we think that doing certain things is going to make God happier with us than he already is? If you are spending your life trying to pay for something priceless, you will end up feeling empty, tired, and frustrated. 

That seems ridiculous… But that’s what a lot of Christians do. They make an effort to do whatever it is they think God wants them to do and they wear themselves out and fail. In Galatians, Paul is desperately saying that faith in Jesus is all there is. Believe that you are already accepted by God. Believe that he loves you. Believe that he is delighted with you—right NOW (not just sometime in the future when you start acting a little better). 

The Christian life is not about following specific rules and regulations. It is about letting Christ live his life through you—about the fact that Christ is your life. Do you know that? It’s true—not because I say so, but because God says so (Colossians 3:4). 

Your Father wants to give lavishly to you. He wants to love you and be loved by you. That’s the heart of your Father. Maybe you need to stop worrying about getting better and doing things so that you deserve God’s loved and start just being loved.

The Prayer of St. Patrick

October 4, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

As I was preparing the teaching for this Sunday, I came across The Prayer of St. Patrick. As I read it, I am reminded that those who came before us experienced the same emotions and challenges and fear and hope that we do. Often, we neglect the things of the past as irrelevant and out-dated. This happens in the Church, too. We want the NOW and miss the beauty and profound truths of those who waled before us.

I wanted to share this with you. Obviously St. Patrick is about more than shamrocks and green beer. His words are a reminder of what life is all about (actually, who life is all about). As you read this, take some time to ponder the meaning and importance of each phrase… I found it to be encouraging and powerful!


Prayer of St. Patrick

I establish myself today in:

The power of God to guide me,

The might of God to uphold me,

The wisdom of God to teach me,

The eye of God to watch over me,

The ear of God to hear me,

The word of God to speak to me,

The hand of God to protect me,

The way of God to lie before me,

The shield of God to shelter me,

The hosts of God to defend me.

Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me, Christ above me,

Christ at my right, Christ at my left,

Christ in breadth, Christ in length,

Christ in height…

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me,

Christ in the ear of every man who hears me.

Confident in Christ.

It ain’t about me. I need to be reminded of that every day!

Grace and peace…

The Southwest Square Dance

October 2, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever flown Southwest airlines?

Let me start by saying that I like Southwest. I like their attitude– their casualness, there friendliness, the service…

But there is one thing I don’t really like: The Southwest Square Dance.

If you’ve ever traveled Southwest you know what I’m talking about. I’m not sure I dig the “general boarding” idea. Yeah, it’s kinda nice to get the competitive juices flowing before a flight (I’m getting an aisle exit row before anyone else!). But really, that’s the last thing I need when traveling. I have discovered that I find some comfort in the “assigned seat”. Sure, it may not be great, but I know it’s mine. I don’t have to fuss, rush, and stand in line.

Speaking of lines– what’s the deal with the “corrals” (Isn’t that what they call them?).

The idea is this: you get a boarding card with an “A”, “B”, “C”, or “D” (I really have no idea how high they go). And then you board in groups– starting with “A”.

The first time I flew Southwest, I had no idea what I was doing. I got to the gate in plenty of time, only to find people waiting in lines. I didn’t know what the lines were for or why people were standing in them– but, as a good American– I lined up too.

Apparantly my confused looks and mumbling was overheard by the guy in front of me who was kind enough to outline the corral system for me. I was in corral “C”, so the “general boarding” idea began to lose some of its luster. But I lined up anyway– muttering under my breath as I shot laser beams with my eyes at the smiling folks in the front of corral “A”.

Then we boarded the aircraft and the second emotionally draining drama unfolded. Not only was I a “C” boarder, but now I had to walk down the aisle of the plane and look for a “seat mate” willing to accept me.

Memories of elementary school recess kickball games flooded my brain as I tried to find someone whose eyes said, “Come, sit next to me. I accept you and wish you to be my seat-mate”. But I never saw that look. Instead, eye contact was kept at a minimum. When I did find a seat (an aisle with an empty middle– hooray!) the tables turned. I was now established— and the poor saps behind me in corral C had to look to me for acceptance and  mercy.

You’d think that I would have learned from my time “in the aisle”. You’d think that my long walk would have softened my heart so that I would encourage someone to find the solace of a seat next to me. But that’s when I discovered the second phase of the Southwest Square dance… How can you appear accepting of another traveller without coming across as a stalker. Really, I tried to look approachable and friendly, I didn’t “settle in” to indicate that anyone wanting the seat next to me would be imposing on my “space”. I didn’t make a big show of buckling my seat belt and setting up a pillow. I was open and willing to share and welcome… But the response of the “aislers” was not the relief and joy I had anticipated. Instead, it was one of trepidation and fear. I could almost hear their thoughts… Why is that guys smiling at me so much?… Who’s the needy guy in 18D?… He’s probably a talker– steer clear.

So people passed me. They looked at the empty seat next to me and thought, I can do better than that and moved on.

This made me angry. What’s wrong with the seat next to me?… What– am I not worthy of your presence on a two hour flight? Who do you think you are, anyway– you’re a corral C person for crying out loud! Beggars can’t be choosers!

So I decided to shut down– physically, emotionally. I buckled up, got out a book, put on a walkman (kids– a “walkman” is a lot like an ipod… It’s just bulkier, less cool, and plays something called “cassette tapes”), crossed my legs, put my bag on the seat next to me, and began humming the song “It’s a Small World”. No eye contact, no smiles.

This continued until a guy literally crawled over me to the open seat. He didn’t ask. He didn’t wait for me to stand. He just climbed over me.

I spent the entire flight cleaning the shoe marks off my khaki trousers and reflecting.

I came to the conclusion that my brother-in-law’s advice about flying Southwest is very good advice indeed. He simply said, “Make sure you get in corral A. Find a seat. And make yourself appear as large as possible. If necessary (or possible) create some strange smells.”

Words to live by.

Enjoy your flight.