Sometimes I’m the Light Bulb…

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Q: How many egomaniacs does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. He holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.
Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  How many can you afford?
Q: How many board meetings does it take to get a light bulb changed?
A: This topic was resumed from last week’s discussion, but is incomplete pending resolution of some action items. It will be continued next week. Meanwhile…
Q: How many campfire worship leaders does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But the light bulb has to really want to change.

Even Wikipedia has a page dedicated to defining the cultural phenomenon known as the light bulb joke:

A light bulb joke is a joke that asks how many people of a certain group are needed to change, replace, or screw in a light bulb. Generally, the punch line answer highlights a stereotype of the target group. There are numerous versions of the light bulb joke satirizing a wide range of cultures, beliefs and occupations.

Many versions of the joke are puns on the word “change”.

Change is equivalent to a four-letter word for many of us (just ask the woman approaching her 50’s what she thinks about the change). In the spirit of Dire Straits’ lyric for The Bug (“sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”), sometimes I feel like the light bulb in all of these silly change jokes. Growing dim. Fading out. Flickering. Failing. No longer functioning the way I used to (the way I ought to). Powerless to bring about the change that’s needed most – because what really needs changing is me.

There are also times when I feel like the proverbial butt of all of those light bulb jokes. Instead of taking the most direct route to meet the needed change head-on, I drag my feet. I complain. I call for back-up. I make excuses. Instead of simply making the change – replacing the broken with the functional – I try desperately to do it my way instead. Anything to delay the change.

The writer of Proverbs knew this about us:

“Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” Proverbs 20:30 (Good News Translation)

Like it or not, our unwillingness to see change as a good thing is actually a root cause of many of the tears we shed. Paul knew this. He had written words to the church at Corinth which resulted in some tears on their end. Instead of apologizing, though, Paul said this:

“But now I am happy – not because I made you sad, but because your sadness made you change your ways. That sadness was used by God, and so we caused you no harm. For the sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation – and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (GNT)

Sometimes God uses the tough stuff (when we’re feeling like the bug) in order to bring about the change that we are content to forever tap dance around, if left to our own devices.

There has got to be a better way! John the Baptist must have had these inklings, too, when:

“In many different ways, John preached the Good News to the people and urged them to change their ways.” Luke 3:18 (GNT)

Wouldn’t it be better all around if we would heed the wisdom of the Baptist and take the initiative to change the light bulb (or the relationship – or the situation – or the priority – or the behavior) ourselves? Difficult as this may seem, it’s exactly what Paul was talking about in Romans chapter 12 when he warned his readers not to become “so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (v. 2, The Message)

To follow Paul’s line of thinking requires us to look at change as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Facing change squarely and not backing down makes us think outside the lazy box-life that many of us lead – as Paul said – without even thinking. Change engages our minds and invites us to participate in our own lives rather than spectate, watching life unfold from as great a distance as we can muster.

Shifting focus from the ways of the world to the Way of the Word ushers in the new! New feelings. New choices. New ways of being in the world.

As uncomfortable and disconcerting as change can often be, it always does one thing very well…

Living in the eye of the hurricane of change confirms that, YES! You are alive! You don’t have to numb out to the predictability and monotony of the same old routine. You may be bruised and you may be bleeding, but you have the choice today to become the embodiment of Jimmy Buffett’s lyric: “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.” (Growing Older But Not Up)

To live a life that defies every light bulb joke in the book will require that you stop dwelling on the light bulb that needs to be changed. Of course the bulbs are going to burn out – they aren’t made to last forever. Of course the things that are working in your life today will one day begin to flicker and fade – this life wasn’t made to last forever, either.

Resolve this day to make the change you need to make, but don’t let that change capture your attention. Instead, fix your eyes on the One whose light will never grow dim! With Him, change won’t get the better of you.

You’ll be changed! From the inside out.

Spiritual DNA (a PINK Tuesday post)

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 24JAN08 - Bono, Musician, D...

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Last week I sat with my parents at the computer, exploring all of the amazing data that the simple act of a cheek swab can produce. If you’ve got the inclination, a minimal amount of time and a way to foot the bill, you can have your DNA unraveled by experts who will translate the complex coding in your deoxyribonucleic acid into terms you can both understand and appreciate.

It’s fascinating, really, to wade through the vast amount of information available through a simple DNA test! Not only can you see potential health issues and risks, but you can weigh those against the health-related concerns that you are at a decreased risk to acquire. Somehow, the highly intelligent scientists and researchers can actually show you on a map where the roots of your bloodline can be traced to. You can even opt to make contact with others who have had their genetic code deciphered and whose DNA places them in relationship to you!

This is actually the part that excited me the most, as I looked through my parent’s test results last week. One column on the results page listed famous people whose DNA is closely linked with ours

And when I saw Jimmy Buffett and Bono on the list, so many things in my life finally began to make sense!

My love for story (any self-respecting Parrothead knows what I’m talking about).

The tug on my heart toward a life marked by simple pleasures and deep wisdom (things that we don’t learn in school).

The tension of being in the world but not of it (which Bono personifies to the nth degree).

The intensely spiritual nature of our distinctly physical existence and the ways in which we dance between the two.

The increasing awareness within my own life of the issues of justice and global community, and the threads of Spirit that connect us across oceans and borders and boundary lines (oft embedded in the missional musings of U2).

There’s a yearning inside of me for those things that my DNA-cousins Jimmy & Paul have artfully woven into music that you and I can sing along to, almost without realizing just how well we know the words. Things like relationship, community, meaning and purpose, taking ourselves less seriously while considering the value of others, simplicity, transparency, and peeling back the protective layers that keep us from personally experiencing the rawness of living fully-exposed to the elements, come what may.

Who knew that our physical DNA could unearth connections like these?

In the most basic terms, DNA is the master plan of life that works all the way from inception to growth. It holds all of our hereditary information and passes it along from generation to generation. Our DNA contains the instructions needed for an organism to develop, survive and reproduce.

In a physical sense, we are the sum of our DNA building blocks. While the majority of our DNA is remarkably similar to the DNA found in others, there is just enough uniqueness to make me distinctly me and you distinctly you.

The same is true, I propose, of our spiritual DNA.

Physical DNA is, first of all, hereditary. Passed down from countless generations without our input. Received, not requested. Given, not acquired.

Spiritually, we are all recipients of a sort of DNA which holds the basic information about who we are and where we came from. This spiritual DNA points to the roots of our existence, revealing the Master and His plan for redemption that includes every single living, breathing being throughout the course of time. We didn’t participate in the creation of this DNA, yet it was placed inside each one of us when the Spirit breathed life into our lungs and invited us to become an integral part of the ongoing work of God in this world. We didn’t ask for it to be given to us, it was all gift.

Within this spiritual DNA is all of the information that is needed for each of us to develop into God-connected people! As with physical DNA, however, to carry out these functions DNA sequences must be converted into messages that can be used to produce action (physically, to create proteins, which are the complex molecules that do most of the work in our bodies).

What this means to me is that each one of us is already filled with all of the God-given DNA needed for a spiritually thriving life! Every man and woman who draws breath has been endowed with all of the tools to git r done in the Kingdom of God!

Why doesn’t everyone, then, develop into fully-formed spiritual beings whose life is drawn from the abundantly available life-source Himself?

And, if spiritually there is more about us that is similar than that which is unique, why do we land all over the spectrum when it comes to our interpretation of that common DNA?

Maybe it’s all about the messages. If physical DNA does not send the message that creates action in the way of proteins, there’s a breakdown in the system. Our bodies fail to get the message. Our DNA is unable to do its work.

If our spiritual DNA fails to be converted into messages that invoke action in the living of our lives, there’s a breakdown in the system. The work we were created to do remains undone. We may fail to develop and grow in healthy ways. We may neglect the connectedness of our DNA to others, instead choosing to hold on with a death-grip to our minute distinctivenesselevating what sets us apart from others over that which knits us together.

The Good News on this PINK Tuesday is that ACTIVATION is available today! The catalyst Himself comes at our request, bringing new life to dead places. Speaking truth to those who have known only lies. Scattering messages of hope and promises of growth like seeds, which take root and spring forth into actively living, growing illustrations of what it looks like to have good spiritual genes!

And we know what good genes look like, right?

(Can’t you see the family resemblance?)