Perfume For The Atmosphere, or Dragons Blood Incense Bought From the Renaissance Festival

“Hear ye, hear ye. Pickles for thine snacking pleasure. Three dollars for thus royal pickle.”
It was the way he rolled the ‘r’ in royal that really sold it. Rrrrroyal pickle.

It was such an odd assortment of people. Knights in gleaming armor, jesters with floppy hats, Star Trek officers with red and gold shirts, storm troopers in white escorting the dark Darth Vader- this place has it all. Around every bend, you beheld new sights: jugglers, musicians, artisans; you were enveloped by new smells: fried chicken, roasted turkey legs, fresh brewed coffee from Her Majesty’s Royal Roasters; the sounds of a cheering and clapping crowd, and children laughing, people shopping.

If you’ve never been to the Renaissance Festival, you owe it to yourself to go at least once. It’s wild, weird, and pretty entertaining. There’s jugglers, acrobats, jousting, mermaids, vendors of all sorts, people of all sorts, food of mostly unhealthy sorts. And then there’s incense.

I never really understood the big deal about incense until then. Overpowering stuff, mostly. That’s what I thought about it. But this stuff was different. It was…like perfume for the air. Dragon’s Blood incense. Sounds gross. I mean, blood is gross; soaking some blood on a stick and then lighting it….nah. But this stuff: horrible name, amazing smell.

Matthew 26:10 (CEV) “…Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing for me.”

This incense was perfume for the air, for the atmosphere. In Matthew 26, a woman anoints Jesus’ head with expensive perfume. Very expensive perfume. I can imagine how it filled the air, enveloping everything in the atmosphere around her, around Jesus. Hers was an extravagant act of worship, and Jesus said it was beautiful.

Others disagreed. It was too extravagant. It was wasted on Jesus. It could have been put to a better use. I think it’s important to note that others may not understand our worship. They may think it weird, or misplaced, or backwards, or too extravagant. But our worship is a beautiful thing to God.

What if our praise and worship were still a sweet smelling perfume to God, anointing Him in heaven. I think maybe it is. Rev 5:8 talks about our prayers being stored in bowls and are incense to God poured out on the altar in heaven. Isn’t that wild?

Our praise isn’t insignificant. God takes note. It’s pleasing to Him. It’s a perfume to Him. Man, that’s wild- that praise from someone like me could be considered so beautiful to someone like Him. Praise extravagantly, today.

Secret Santa, or Bob Ross Chia Pet

I’m a presents guy. I like giving presents; I really like getting presents. One of my favorite episodes of ‘The Office’ is the Secret Santa episode. Michael, the boss, blows way past the gift price limit and gets Ryan an iPod. Classic episode.

While I’ve never gotten an iPod in a workplace Secret Santa, last Christmas at work, I got one of the most epic gifts I’ve ever received: a Bob Ross Chia Pet. I loved watching Bob Ross on PBS as a kid. He starts with a blank canvas, then boom: there’s happy little trees and mountains and streams and flowers. It’s amazing. It still kind of blows my mind.

Matthew 25:40 (CEV) “The king will answer, ‘Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.'”

What if you could give God a present? Isn’t that kind of a wild concept. But the Bible teaches that his is the spiritual reality we live in. When we bless others, it’s kind of like giving God a Secret Santa gift. What we do for others, we really do for Him. When we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re really loving God. When we love our Pastors and staff, we’re really giving God little presents all wrapped up for Him. Isn’t that kind of amazing? God takes our little actions and turns them into these huge spiritually significant monuments. Or rather, in scripture, He exposes the spiritual reality of our actions.

Our actions go much deeper than the surface world that we live in day in and day out. The way we treat each other is eternally significant. God, quite literally, takes it personally. When we’re kind to others, He takes it personally. When we withhold kindness, He takes it personally.

Good presents, or lame presents. We get to decide what kind of gifts we give God every day. There are no small acts of kindness; there are no small acts of love. Every act of kindness and love you show to God’s people is a beautiful gift that you present to Him. You have the chance, every day, to give God a Bob Ross Chia Pet level gift. You laugh, but that’s an epic present. True story.

Lapsang Souchong, or Smokey

“I have to tell you, man. That smells kind of repulsive,” he said.

I had offered my friend some of my smoked tea, Lapsang Souchong. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a smoked black tea. In his defense, it does smell kind of strong. Ok. In real life it’s like sticking your head directly into the smokiest campfire you’ve ever made. It’s not for everyone. I may be weird, but I love it.

Numbers 28:2 (CEV) “…Offer sacrifices to me at the appointed times of worship, so that I will smell the smoke and be pleased.”

Set appointed times to worship. Worship isn’t just be a Sunday morning at church activity. Make it a part of your daily life. If you don’t set aside time, and keep it, all the activities and crises and to-do lists will consume your day and leave no time for worship. You have to be intentional and set appointed times for worship.

Maybe for you that looks like starting your day in worship, and prayer and reading the word. Maybe it’s at lunch, or at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter when; it just matters that you set aside some time. If you’re not currently doing that, start small. Start with five to ten minutes.

Live a smokey life. We’re all human, and we all fail, but if you make it your goal to live a life pleasing to God, and actually work to make that happen, yours will be a life well spent. God knows we won’t be perfect. That’s why He sent Jesus. Instead of perfect, shoot for smokey: a life of praise and worship. Live a life that pleases God on social media, at the grocery store, in traffic, with your coworkers, when interacting with your obnoxious neighbor. Live smokey, my friends.

The You That You Were Meant To Be, or You Are Exactly What’s Needed

Matthew 25:21,23 (CEV) “Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”

It struck me that the master in this story said the same thing to the servant who earned 2,000 coins as he did to the servant who earned 5,000 coins. 2,000 coins. 5,000 coins. It was all good with the master. Verse 15 says ‘The man knew what each servant could do…”. He didn’t expect the 2,000 coin servant to do the same as the 5,000 coin servant.

For a long time, I got this wrong. I thought I had to be someone else. I thought, ‘If I’m a 2,000 coin guy, I need to become a 5,000 coin guy.’ But God isn’t calling you to be someone else. He’s calling you to be the you He created you to be. That’s why you’re here.

Honest Sharing Time: The biggest impact that I’ve had on others is not by preaching an earth shattering sermon (never done it) or singing the notes off a song (also never done it), but by being kind and just loving Jesus: saying hello with a smile, or helping a stranger load something into their car, giving someone a pat on the back, or just being a friend when a friend is needed. Those small flashes of kindness make an impact on people. They’re 1,000 coin actions, and anyone can do them.

Bottom Line: Do something. Whether you’ve been given a little or you’ve been trusted with a lot, do something with what you’ve got. Everyone has something given to them by God. These are perilous days, and the light that you’ve been given is desperately needed. You are desperately needed. It’s not too late.

Ready, or I’ve Got Too Much Stuff In My Pockets

Honest sharing time: I keep a lot of stuff in my pockets:

  • Wallet
  • Pocket Knife (I watched Macgyver a lot as a kid, also see Gibb’s Rule #9)
  • Notepad
  • Pen
  • Handkerchief (laugh if you want, but if you’ve ever had an atomic sneeze, you’ll thank your lucky stars you had one on you)
  • Phone
  • Lip Balm (I’m a chronic user)
  • Mask

When we were working in the office, before the plague, I was also carrying a backpack to work with a water bottle, some food and snacks, matches/lighter, extra chargers and cables. I guess I like to be prepared for anything that may come my way. Maybe I was overly prepared.

Matthew 25:3-4 (CEV) “The foolish ones took their lamps, but no extra oil. The ones who were wise took along extra oil for their lamps.”

At the beginning of ch. 25, Jesus says the kingdom is like this, so we probably need to pay attention to it. Some were prepared. Some were not. All were virgins. All had lamps. They all had light. But some weren’t diligent in keeping the light going.

You could probably pull 100 different applications out of this story in the Bible. I’m a ‘keep stuff in my pockets’ guy, so for me it makes sense that we need to keep stuff in our pockets spiritually. Do whatever you have to do to keep your lamp burning through the day. That may look different for each person, but here are some ideas:

  • Listen to praise and worship music
  • Set a reminder on your phone to pray throughout the day (2 minute prayers work. There were a lot of miracles performed after 2 or 3 sentence prayers in the Bible)
  • Put a scripture on a sticky note and put that on the front of your phone

I think Jesus probably summed it up best for us: “So, my disciples, always be ready!” Have something ready and prepared to keep your lamp going when the wind starts to blow in your life, or the rain comes, or it starts getting dark all around you. Be ready.

One Moment Can Last an Eternity, or Generational Blessing

I hate meetings.
“Hello, everyone. Before we begin today’s meeting, I’d like to go around the room and get everyone’s status report,” he said.
Why is this guy on video for this call? Nobody else is on video, and he’s clearly eating a breakfast sandwich. Does he know his video is on?
“Donnie, let’s start with you.”
I’m not a morning person. Bob should know this by now. I’m not a meeting person. Bob should also know this by now.
“Well, Bob, yesterday I spent three quarters of the day in meetings, and the other quarter scrambling and trying to get some actual work done so we could meet about that and discuss it. I hate this and I hope you spill your coffee and scald your genitals. And by the way, your camera is on, and you should chew with your mouth closed.”

Ok, I didn’t really say that. But I really wanted to. I really really really wanted to. Seriously, people. Why are we meeting so much when we could be actually working?

I think this is what hell would be like for some people. Kidding. Eh, mostly kidding. I hate meetings. The worst part is that nine times out of ten, that hour and a half long meeting could be summarized into one paragraph and sent as an email.

There’s also some weird time paradox that occurs in meetings. Some Einsteinian spooky physics that causes time to actually slow down the minute you enter a meeting room, or Zoom or Teams call. I call this phenomena ‘spooky meeting time.’ The more trivial the subject of the meeting, the more time slows, and the longer the meeting will go. I’ve literally died of boredom and needed to be resuscitated on three separate occasions in meetings. In my defense, one of those meetings lasted the real world time equivalent of 1,278 years. Spooky meeting time. Some meetings last forever.

Numbers 25:12-13 (CEV) “…So because of the loyalty that Phinehas showed, I solemnly promise that he and his descendants will always be my priests.”

Some things last forever. We often hear about generational curses. Well, in our denominational church world, that’s a phrase or concept that gets thrown around from time to time, and I think it’s a real thing. But what about generational blessings.

One moment in time setup setup Phinehas’ descendants for blessings and honor before God. He made a decision, acted on it, and forever his family line was changed. I’ve seen it in my own life. In my post from yesterday: one prayer, one cry for help- it forever changed my life, it changed my future and probably the future of my children and maybe even their children.

Bottom Line: There are no small actions. You never know what small act of faith will bring about untold blessings in your family. You never know what small act of faith or prayer will bring about for someone else. Stay faithful, my friends.

Too Far Gone, or Nobody Has Arrived Yet

“I can’t stop, man.”
I remember that night, still clear as last week. Which is kind of amazing since I wasn’t in a clear state of mind at the time and it’s been over 22 years since it happened. Honestly, I’d been in a daze for months at that point. I couldn’t stop.

I walked through the doorway to my dorm room. Stumbled through the doorway is more accurate. My roommate stood there staring at me with a look that I hadn’t seen before or since. We had been friends since elementary school. We’d been in rock bands together. Met girls together. Hung out at the mall together. Went to church together. Now we were roommates in college. But the look on his face: fear is the closest thing I can describe it as. Fear of what was happening with me.

“I can’t stop, man.”
I was never a big dude. I was thin, 150 pounds on a good day when I graduated high school (and it wasn’t a muscular 150 pounds), but by this point, I had lost around 30 pounds. I was gaunt. I was losing this fight, and it was obvious. Some days I was too out of it to even remember to go to the cafeteria and eat. I couldn’t stop.

It had started innocently enough. I look back now and see clear as day that I was trying to find an escape. Something to make the hurt quit hurting. And if I’m being completely honest, it worked for a while. For a while the hurt quit hurting, the scary stuff in life quit being so scary. For a while, I had escaped being me. But it was a trick. A trap. “It’s a trap”- in my best Admiral Ackbar voice. The enemy of your soul won’t come in full view and try to slap chains on you. He knows that won’t work. So he tricks you. He tricks you into putting the chains on yourself. I couldn’t stop.

“I can’t stop, man. I need you to pray for me.”
That’s all I could say. What else can you say? I knew there was something true in Christianity. I had seen enough, experienced enough, read enough. I won’t go into all the reasons why I rebelled against Christianity. I guess everyone who has rebelled has their reasons. With that, I stumbled from the foyer into our room, collapsed into my bed, and passed out.

And he prayed for me.

Proverbs 8:4 (CEV) “I am calling out to each one of you!

That prayer changed the course of my life. I went from a drug addict (just shooting straight with you) to…well, still a deeply flawed man, but a flawed man following Jesus. I share this kind of ugly part of my life simply to say: no one is too far gone. God isn’t calling to just a couple people, or one group of people. He hasn’t written off drug addicts, the uninterested, the rebellious, the group you disagree with the most, that other political party, this race or that one, or even those engaged in alternative lifestyles. Don’t give up on them or turn ‘them’ into your enemy. Our enemy isn’t flesh and blood. They’re not too far gone that a single prayer can’t completely change their lives.

Also, no one has arrived yet. You and I haven’t arrived. We’re not at a place where we can sit back, rest, relax, and pat ourselves on the back. God calls to each of us. Calls us to a deeper experience with Him, a deeper holiness, a deeper devotion: if nothing else a deeper love for Him. I certainly haven’t arrived, and I suspect that anyone who reads this hasn’t either. It’s ok. God hasn’t given up on us either.

Lasting, or Priorities

The Tandy 1000. That was my first computer. Enormously expensive at the time. It cost the equivalent of what a super premium laptop would cost today. And then some. I still have no clue how my parents afforded it, or why they made budget for it. Thanks mom and dad. But computers, like most everything else we obsess over, don’t last.

Donnie’s Painful Story Time: I had this great laptop: a top of the line Macbook Pro. Maxed out in RAM and CPU. Solid state hard drive. This thing was a beast of a laptop. Top Of The Line. It was so fast. It was so nice. I got it from work, which was a blessing because I’d never be able to spend that much on a laptop normally. One can of Sprite was all it took to destroy it. My son knocked over a can of Sprite onto the laptop, and watched as most of the can spilled into the internals. It’s funny not funny how something as small as a can of Sprite can destroy what we obsess over.

How many things in your life are lasting? I like tech stuff, for example: computers, programming, figuring out how things work. Tech like laptops and computers usually age horribly and quickly become obsolete. My Tandy 1000 was a fine machine at the time, but if I had to work on it now, I’d be in a world of hurt. Even something as simple as publishing a new blog post would be…difficult, although a fun experiment to see how it would all work. Note to self: Check Tandy 1000 prices on eBay.

Matthew 24:35 (CEV) “The sky and the earth won’t last forever, but my words will.”

So many things in our lives don’t last. I’ve had great computers, but they don’t last (can of Sprite). Treasures tend to wear out. Even things that are seemingly unalterable turn out to be in fact alterable and fail. But there is one thing we can build our entire lives on. There is one thing that will last beyond our earth, the sky, or the starts in the sky: The Word of God.

Am I banking on things that won’t last? Am I spending too much time on things that won’t last? Am I focused on things that won’t last? Am I building my life, really and truly, on a firm foundation?

If God’s word is true, and I have believe that it is, then the birth of Jesus was the beginning of the last days. That was 2,000 years ago! So we’re in the last last last last days. With that in mind, I need to examine my priorities. I need to major in the major.

Instead of tearing down, I need to be a ‘builder upper’ (Builder Upper is a real thing…that I just invented. You’re welcome). Instead of finding fault, I need to be one who finds a way to extend mercy and grace. Instead of working after hours, I need to spend quality time with family and friends. Instead of gossip, I need to speak love and truth. Instead of sleeping in, I need to devote more time to the Word and in prayer. I need to major in the major things, and let the minor things be minor.

Walk, or Stuck

John 5:8 (CEV) ‘Jesus told him, “Pick up your mat and walk!”’

Honest Sharing Time: You ever get the feeling that God is trying to tell you something, but that you’re just not getting it? I couldn’t get this verse out of my head. Nine words. Just nine. Seven if you don’t count the ‘Jesus said’ part.

I read it yesterday. There I am, reading along, sipping my coffee. It’s early. Horribly and painfully early. In between sips of coffee I get stuck. It just stuck. You probably know what I mean. You’re reading and everything is humming along, but then something sticks. Like, this is important kind of sticking to you. So I prayed:
‘Ok, Lord. What are you saying?…hmm, maybe I’ll come back to this later….there’s something to this though…

And I left it there. I went about my day and left that question unanswered. I mean, it’s a weird verse to get stuck on. “I’m probably just being weird,” I thought. Day turned to night, and I went to sleep. Honestly, I’d forgotten about the question. I’d forgotten, put it out of mind.

I’ve discovered that sometimes God is relentless. I opened my Bible this morning and boom, there it is again. Underlined just like I left it. Unanswered just like I left it. There it was, sticking to me again: Pick up your mat and walk.

There was a decision to make. The man had a decision. He could walk, or he could stay where he was. A few verses earlier, Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” And then, just like that, Jesus healed him. Now it was time for the man to put his money where his mouth is. He could have made excuses: “I can’t get up and walk.” “I’ve been paralyzed for years.” “I’ve always been like this.” “I was born this way.” “I always fail when I try.” “I’m not strong enough.” Or he could get up and walk. Walk away from where he’d been stuck for so many years.

Jesus tells us “Pick up your mat and walk.” You’re free. Free to move forward. Free to move on. That’s the gospel, right? You can be free from the chains of sin that have kept you bound, kept you paralyzed from being who God created you to be.

But, how many times do we ask for strength, but then don’t get up and be strong? Pick up your mat and walk. How many times do we ask for forgiveness, but then stay where we are? Pick up your mat and walk. How many times do we ask for healing, but then walk with a limp? How many times do we make excuses? “I’ve always been like this.” “I was born this way.” “You don’t know what I’ve done.” “I’m not strong enough.”

I have a choice to make. We all have a choice to make. When Jesus heals you, you have a choice to make: will you stay there, or will you get up and walk? When Jesus saves you, you have a choice to make: will you stay where you were and who you were, or will you get up and walk?

Poison Ivy, or Spreading

“Dude! That looks gross.”
It did indeed look gross, and it was getting worse. Much much worse. Horribly, blistery, itchy, watery worse. And it was spreading.

We were nearing the end of our military training, and had just finished an exercise in the field. An exercise during which I came within a 3 mile radius of poison ivy. I didn’t know it until then, but I’m very allergic to poison ivy. Just saying it makes my tongue swell up. Kidding. The day after the field exercise my wrist was red and itching. I didn’t think much of it. The day after that, it was a searing site of sadness and pain. The day after that, I was pretty sure that poison ivy was the way I was going to die.

Poison ivy isn’t how I want to go out. That’s one of the least manly ways to die. Getting killed by a plant? I couldn’t live with myself.
“You should go to sick call,” my buddy said.
“Nah, man. I’m not going to sick call unless they drag me there,” I said.

Honest answer: I was too proud to go to sick call. I was too proud to say I was hurt and needed help. And, to be brutally honest, I was afraid that I’d fall behind. Sick call was for other soldiers. So, I hid it from the Drill Sergeants: kept it covered from them and the other soldiers as best I could. And the poison ivy spread.

Matthew 24:12-13 (CEV) “Evil will spread and cause many people to stop loving others.  But if you keep on being faithful right to the end, you will be saved.”

What started as an itchy spot on my wrist crept up my arm until half my forearm was blistered. I couldn’t deny then that I needed help. Poison ivy spreads. It spreads. Evil will spread. The spread of evil will cause people to stop loving others.

We’re seeing that in our world today. Evil is spreading and so one group turns against another: we pull back, circle our wagons, and attack at anyone who isn’t ‘one of us.’ We have a painful wound, so we lash out at each other. A political party against another. A race of people against another. An economic group against another. But our fight isn’t against flesh and blood. If the enemy can get me fighting against you, then that means I’m not fighting against him and he wins by default.

Today, I’d like to encourage you to love. It sounds dopey, weak and naive, or too simplistic. But I don’t mean it in a flower child, hippie peace and love kind of way. I mean it in a ‘be kind even when you think that you’re right and someone else is wrong’ kind of way. God is love, and nothing overcomes Him. So love isn’t dopey, or weak, or naive. Just like poison ivy, evil spreads. And when we attack others and tear others down, it’s just like scratching at that poison ivy and it makes that rash spread and get worse.

Be kind to the others who disagree with you. Be kind to the others who are hurting and lashing out. Be kind to those who aren’t like you. Love. Love in practical ways like holding the door for someone, saying hello and smiling, or just not commenting on social media. We think that we have to make these grand sweeping gestures to show love, but love can be a Snickers bar or just saying Hi.

What I really needed when I had poison ivy was some cortisone cream, a healing salve, but I was too proud at first to ask for it. Don’t wait for others to ask for it. Just offer it. Love. When we love others, we’re applying a salve that heals old wounds, heals our communities, heals even our churches. Isn’t that what the Church, the people of God, were called to be: a healing salve. Salt. Light. Be faithful in showing love to others. Be faithful in these last days. Be a salve that heals today by choosing to love.