Friday, July 23, 2010


I have noticed over the years that people generally ignore signs. I know this because I get asked questions about things that are on a sign right in front of the inquisitor and me. I know this because people say they "didn't know" when signs were posted all over the place. I know this because people blow past signs of instruction, request, or warning, assuming they were meant for someone else but not them.


God sends signs as well. Not necessarily big ones that write all over the sky or slap us in the face (although, I suspect we would ignore them as well.) No, God sends signs that are usually pretty subtle. I guess God figures that, if we want to ignore him, we will. The size of the sign won't matter.


The Bible has almost 200 references to signs. Most of the time they were ignored by people of faith and to great consequences. Signs usually carry consequences with them when God is involved. God tries to help. Maybe he needs a better sign maker. Maybe he should be more high tech.


One sign we carry is that of baptism. We were marked as God's on that day. We promised to be a living sign that God was still part of Creation and that we were his helper. People could count on Baptized folks like us.


How good a sign for God are you today?


Thursday, July 22, 2010


CNN reported today, "A confidential report on safety conditions aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, conducted about one month before the rig's explosion, points to widespread fear of reprisal for reporting employee mistakes that could undermine safety aboard the rig."


Fear is powerful. It may be the worst four-letter word. We have all experienced it. Maybe even today.  Hear what God says…


God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)


There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 (NIV)


God is love.  1 John 4:16b (NIV)


Succumbing to fear leads us to believe that God is puny. Punier than that which we fear. God is great. We may not be able to handle our fear but God can. Following fear leads to disaster.


Name your fear. Go ahead. Name it. God wants it. It belongs to him. He will deal with it and raise you.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Good Husband

Doing my spousal duty. Killing weeds. Oh, I take out trash, kill bugs and other "manly" tasks but I get mucho satisfaction from weed annihilation – watching them die and the return of my green, pristine lawn (and driveway – boy, weeds are pesky in those cracks.) But what's this?! Three days and the weeds are mocking me. The weeds are thriving! How rude!


It turns out that I have TWO containers that I purchased. Big, macho, pump-up things. One has weed killer and one has fertilizer. If you know me, you will know I did not mark them, thinking I was bright enough to remember which was which. Think again, Jim+. My hubris allows me to fertilize weeds.


Jesus tells a story about getting rid of weeds. Weeds are a symbol for evil in his case. He tells us to be careful about uprooting them as we might pull up a good plant as well. And he loves the good ones.


In our black and white culture of talking heads on cable, we often miss the truth that both good and evil reside in every one. And God is patient, not wanting to lose anyone. Maybe we should be patient as well and realize how universal evil is in our lives.


My guess is that in the next day or two, you and I will be confronted with evil of some sort. Remember that God hates evil but is patient with the bearer of that evil. Just as he is when the evil bearer is you or me. I'll leave the sorting out to God.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Blue Boots

I was 100 degrees in the shade. Humidity: the usual Houston – over 100 percent. Fashion-wise, it was a train wreck. Orange shirt (dirty, of course,) brown shorts (originally an unknown color,) and blue rubber boots. Oh, and a dry spell of Biblical proportions. I judge that he was 7 or 8 years old. Happy as can be and oblivious to me (or anyone else.)


I'd like to think that this young man's outfit was original equipment from God. He was born in them. Why else would he be so free if it were not his natural state?


What a far cry from me. Always wondering what others are thinking. And they (to be honest) they ARE grading me. Do I or anyone else measure up? There are so many yardsticks against which we are measured. We measure ourselves and we measure life. Everything gets a grade. Only one yardstick matters, God's.


This boy knows (how he knows, I do not know) that the grades are bogus. God loves his kids in all their quirkiness. God invented quirkiness. Check it out. Read the Bible. In fact, God probably wonders about our grading. He invested the phrase, "Don't judge. You will only regret it when the judgment falls back on you." No, God probably tells the Hosts of Heaven, "Hey, I am especially proud of that one. He (She) is using it all, everything I gave him (her.)


Today, can you afford not to be free to be you? Not the "you" culture says you should be. Not the "you" all your friends all are. Embrace your quirkiness and embrace the quirkiness of others. Be you, blue boots and all.


This (the household of God) is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15b (NLT)


I don't get it. How can something as messy and unpredictable as the Church be the pillar and foundation of the Truth? You and I have been around long enough to know that hypocrites are a growth industry and they often wind up populating churches. Not a day goes by that someone does not try to convince me that they (in particular) do not need to be part of a church. They can get God "directly." I am not sure they actually do this, but they tell me that the door is there. So, what's up with the Church?


I think we (if you subscribe to the Church) are the pillar and foundation of the Truth because of God and not because of us. We are frail. We lie a lot or, at least, like to fool ourselves. I personally have made a cottage industry out of selfishness. We do hold higher values than the world but I am not sure we are much better in upholding them in our actions (even if we babble godly sounding stuff when prompted.)


No, it is God who chooses the church as the place he will build up the Truth. Not due to merit on our part but due to the fact that God desires the Truth build up. God chooses where to start. He chose the Church. He could have picked all the 7-11's or even Walmart or the Pittsburgh Pirates. The church is the foundation of God's greatness because of God.


I would guess this means that we do our best work when we get out of the way and let God work through us. I fear we often get in the way and assume God thinks just like us (so naturally, God would want what we want and work the way we work.) Sinks work better if the garbage is cleared out. We, the Church, can generate a lot of garbage unless we remember we were chosen not because of merit but because of grace.


God can and does build his new creation using us. How will you let him do his best work today through you?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How Many?

Oh, great. I just found out that there are 49 of me in the U.S. Per, there are 49 James Liberatore's. I have trouble just managing one. Not to mention that but I though I was pretty special. 1/49th does not sound special.


How many of us do that? Compare ourselves with standards OUTSIDE ourselves to gauge our worth as a person. The world's standard is a bit defeating. God's is not. Yet we often persist measuring ourselves by the world's standard.


First off, if the Cross says anything, it says, "Measure <put your name here> by me, Jesus Christ. Christ becomes our measure once we accept him. He saw that we were weak so he stepped in. My full measure is Jesus! Not bad. Take that!


Here what else God says about you and me.


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful, I know that full well.    Psalm 139:14 (NIV)


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone,

       the new has come!                            2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)


 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them….God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.                        Genesis 1:27 and 31 (NIV)

When God sees you, he sees a child of infinite worth and who he loves beyond comprehension. He puts your drawings on his refrigerator. He brags about you to the hosts of heaven (whoever they are.)
Not bad. Way to go!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A boy spent the summer in Venice with his aunt. In the courtyard below, a block of granite was delivered. A young man began to mark and finally chip away at the granite. The little boy was intrigued and watched day after day. Each night, the sculpture went under canvas. Finally, wanting to get a closer look, the boy got the nerve to go to the courtyard and look closer. He pulled off the canvas. A granite lion was what he found. The boy thought it was the most beautiful thing he ever saw. The man who sculpted it surprised the boy. "What do you think?," he asked. The boy said, "How did you know that lion was in there?"


The first thing we learn from the Bible is that God is a creator. The second thing we learn is that we are created in his image, a chip off the old block if you will. We are a work of art and we were created to make more beauty.


What have you done to know the "lion" inside you waiting to get out? The one God placed there. What of beauty are you creating in response to God? How will you share it with a world desperate for beauty? Do I know "what's in there (me?)


The president's job performance rating went down today. He can't even get a 9.5 like in the Olympics. Just "good" or "bad." A bunch of us were polled and gave him a thumbs up or down. My guess is that I would give him a thumbs down if I am unhappy with my state of affairs. Glad I don't have his job. My mom told me that I was responsible for my own happiness but it is more fun to blame others. I like casting my thumbs up or down. No sweat of my back. Plus, no one is looking at me when we are judging another.


That got me to thinking. I wonder what God would say about my "job performance rating" as a follower of his Son? I doubt I'd get a Siskel and Ebert "2 Thumbs Up." I plod through life thinking I'm "good enough." I know God loves me unconditionally but I also know that God is free not to like what I do. That mercy/justice thing.


What would God say about your performance as a follower of his Son? I'll ask about my own as well. Casting judgment on others (blaming) is a national pastime. Before I do that, I best consider my own performance.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I have a bird who likes to show off (I am interpreting the bird's behavior.)  She (he) sits on the peak (highest point) of my roof and mocks me. Unrepentant noise. You just know the bird likes that high vantage point.


Some other birds (a bit lower) line my back fence and mock me as well. They make all sorts of racket, but act disinterested in the tomatoes. Now, I know that they are just waiting for the most imperceptible pink to show up on a tomato and they will drive bomb it, poke one hole in it and leave it for me. Thanks!


We all like the high point. And if I view the world around me, we also like to poke holes in those who bear fruit. There is something about me that feels that I am a leg down if you are a leg up. I notice than when someone is trying to bear fruit there are others who like to take pot shots (but not come up with their own fruit.)


Pot shots are easy. When we take pot shots at fruit bearers, we often cite our "high point" (lofty truths we hold.) There are limits. Not everything fruit is good. But so much good fruit is spoiled when the pot-shoter swoops in (actively or passively) to spoil the fruit of another.


Celebrate someone's fruit today. Just celebrate it. Tell them you celebrate it. Thank them for it. Find a place to genuinely do this. May we resist critiquing everything that comes our way. Bear some fruit yourself.

Monday, July 12, 2010


God's voice is still and quiet and easily buried under an avalanche of clamor. Charles Stanley


The world is noisy. At least, my world is noisy. I bet yours is too. I did not ask for most of the noise. In fact, I often bemoan the fact that there is so much of it. Blackberry's, TV, internet, kids, grandkids, news, friends, church, school, sports, iPod, government, infomercials, shopping. I'm swamped.


But I do have more control than I will admit. I will never stop the noise. In fact, the world most like will only get noisier. But I can opt out. Say, "no." Just stay away. Turn off.  Not buy. Plan ahead. Choose wisely. Ask for help. Be content where I am. Stop.


God is found in a "stop." God never barges in. God even let's us ignore him. And God is the only "noise" that 100% cares only for our wellbeing. 100%. And God fulfills all promises. The government doesn't. Extracurricular activities don't. Even family and church don't.


May you find the fortitude to tune out some things today and tune in God. Remember, 100%.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Ring

I am declaring myself a free agent. I will not go to Cleveland but would consider Miami if the price is right. San Diego might be nice. Not sure what my marketability is as a priest. Probably not that good. I do, however, have as many NBA Championship rings as LeBron James has.


Yes, I watched to see where LeBron went. I was routing for Cleveland. He would have gotten more money there and they would have gotten a shot of civic pride for a depressed area. In the end, it was his choice and not mine. But it caused me to think.


The commentators said he was nothing without a Championship ring on his resume. LeBron himself said we needed to lay out his legacy as (his hope) the greatest player ever. He needed the ring(s) as well. He most likely will earn a few. And, he does seem like a nice guy, truly caring about his hometown who he will be leaving.


What I was thinking is that we all have these measures of greatness we are told we must obtain to be validly great. The younger we are, the more important they are. Trophies, diplomas, portfolios, straight A students, popularity, homes, cars, looks, marriage, kids, job titles. As we get mature (some will get old without maturing,) there is a shift in what really validates us. Our validation moves from external to internal. Just as great is a father whose internal values drive him to pay child support when he is downsized. Just as great is a woman whose values drive her to care for the homeless.


I am not sure where you find yourself today in the race to validation. Maybe you have nothing to show. Maybe you have accumulated well. You may be just plain tired. God says you are just fine and he is the only one who really matters. Within you, he has placed a treasure that we all need to experience. When you let out his handiwork in you, you come alive. External validation brings, if it delivers much, momentary peace. Internal validation brings the peace that passes all understanding. May you know peace today. You are valid.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's a Pixie!

My girlfriend said these words to me. She was describing her new hairdo. She was told it was modern and stylish. To me, it looked like a boot camp buzz cut when compared to her previously long hair. Pixie? No, Satan's minion! She really was trying to like it. Her hairstylist talked (pressured?) her into it. BUT…she was a teenager in the 1960's. Long hair was IT! She confessed that she was unhappy with it. I engaged in what I later would understand as "pastoral care."


What's your "pixie?" That is, what (when?) have you been talked into that you knew was a bad idea? I must admit that I have done it often. I don't want the pressure of others. I want to please some whom I love or respect. I have not made up my mind but am evidently moving too slow for others. I was blinded by the glitter of the instant recognition my choice would gain. I remember a set of hopelessly expensive pots and pans I purchased before Christine and I even had a single piece of anything. I wanted to seem thoughtful and refined to the salesman. I was a dufus. Pixie, smixie.


Today, vow to your Father in Heaven, "No Pixies!" Play to an audience of one – Jesus. Let him in on every move, every decision. If you move without him (and you will,) ask him to redeem your Pixie moments. Let him know that you cannot resist Pixies and need him to stand in the gap for you. He was bothered by Pixies at Gethsemane and in the 40 days in the wilderness. He understands. He has power for us that we cannot and will not ever muster. Plus, he is good at resurrecting things. No Pixies.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


"I count myself in nothing else so happy

as in a soul remembering my good friends."

(Richard II,Act 2, Scene 3)



Friends are chosen, family is assigned. If given a choice, we may not have chosen some of our family. In fact, they may have not chosen us! But we choose our friends. One of the immeasurable gifts of God is friends.


Have you thanked a friend today for believing in you, trusting you, encouraging you, loving you, being honest with you (even if it hurt?)


Don't let it go unsaid. Thank God by thanking your friends. We have a most precious gift in them.


Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.                                                             Tennessee Williams


True friends stab you in the front.                  Oscar Wilde


A friend is someone who, upon seeing another friend in immense pain, would rather be the one experiencing the pain than to have to watch their friend suffer.


Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.


A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are.


A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.                                                             Proverbs 18:8


My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.                                        Jesus in John 15:12-14


Tuesday, July 6, 2010


All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming. Helen Keller


I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  Jesus (John 16:33)


I have noticed that this spring and summer seem to have more that their fair share of pain and difficulties for the people of my church. Suffering seems to go in cycles but we always notice the "bad" cycle more. God usually is expected to have an answer and comfort in these times. Sometimes, God gets the blame as well. God is expected to fix it. Now!


If I open a newspaper or turn on the TV, fear of what has happened our about to happen or may happen abound. Fear sells ads. It also sells us hopelessness if we are not careful.


I have learned (with great pains and practice) that Jesus has overcome the world (and all its suffering.) This may seem like an incomplete answer because there is no instant smiley face or solution. Faith (trust that nothing else will work) proves otherwise.


The only true answer to the brokenness of the world (and ourselves) is a God who cannot be broken but willingly accepts brokenness for us. The economy of how God works escapes me. He's too big and I am too puny. I am smart enough to know I need help.


But I trust that Jesus has overcome the world whether or not it seems apparent (or quick enough) for me. And that's enough to bring peace, if I let it.


May you trust God with your deepest hurt today and know he has it under control even if you do not.


Monday, July 5, 2010


Lady Gaga (okay, if you don't know who she is, click here) was brought us in a church blog I subscribe to, Church Crunch. She states in interviews that she attempts to create a "space of acceptance" for "freaks."  Through her own odd unorthodox actions and looks, she telegraphs to her "freaks" that they are accepted, even while society (parents?) may right them off.


Sounds like Jesus. Some may be offended by likening Jesus to Lady Gaga but then, he was rejected by religious people. In his case, rejection meant death. Jesus was rejected because he hung out with the "wrong" types. In fact, he seemed to prefer those written off by society to the religious folks.


Who offends you? Would Jesus be offended? Who do you marginalize because they do not fit your preferences and prejudices? How would Jesus relate to them?


Who needs your acceptance today? Give it even if it is difficult. Risk. I hope you, too, experience acceptance today as well.