Saturday, November 27, 2010

I think the nerves of a parent get worn down over the course of the day. There's something about the constant questions and yelling and action that surrounds children that can be exhausting.

They can't reach something, they can't find something, they're fighting with each other, someone's thirsty, someone's peed their pants. It's demanding and we end up saying, "No".

I found myself saying "No" the other day. My daughter asked for a cup of chocolate milk in her naturally energetic manner. I told her No. A few minutes later, "Can we go outside?" Again I said No.

Daughter: "Can you find my crayons?"
Me: "No, you can find them."

"No, you've had enough. Not yet. In a minute. You'll have to wait. Not right now. Put that down. Get down from there. Sit down. Quit that. No, No, No."

After a few hours of this it dawned on me that all I had said to her that day was "No". And that didn't bother me so much as that I didn't know why. I was just saying No because it was my first reaction and it was easy to do. It kept me from interrupting my plans to do what she had asked. Even though they were simple requests I just said, "No".

I wonder how often I've unnecessarily said No to others. I like when people say Yes to me. I like when people cooperate with me. Yet I find it easier to dismiss their requests than to say Yes to them. So I say No. "I can't. So sorry, that won't work. I wish I could, but No."

A few years ago Jim Carrey starred in a movie called "Yes Man". He found his life isolated and uneventful and decided to change all of that. For one year he said "yes" to every one and every thing that came his way. As is expected from Jim Carrey, hilarity ensues. The underlying message of the film was to learn to balance the yes and no's of life. To say "yes" as often as possible and to say "no" only when necessary.

I don't find myself isolated and my life is certainly not uneventful. Yet I still feel the challenge to say "no" less and "yes" more. I wonder what I might be missing by rejecting opportunities. I wonder what friendships and experiences I'm missing by saying no instead of yes.

I wonder how often I've said No to God. I wonder how often He's asked me to do something and, just because it was easier, I said no. Maybe I said No because it was my first reaction and it was easy to do. It kept me from interrupting my plans to do what He had asked. They might have even been simple requests, yet I just said, "No".

It makes me wonder what I've missed out on. What experiences and rewards. What opportunities to minister to someone, to share the love of Jesus Christ. What blessings and what change in myself has been delayed because I've said no to something I should have said yes.

No. I don't want to say no as much anymore. Not to chocolate milk, not to my wife. Certainly not to the voice of God.

I will continue to say No to socks with sandals.

Everything else, I'll start with yes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Off The Grid

We do a lot of driving. A lot. When you put as many miles on a vehicle as we do you get to see many interesting things.

Recently we were driving through Northern Illinois, down an endless stretch of Interstate 39 (motto: "If you're not asleep yet, you will be."), when we saw something interesting. It was several miles worth of wind turbines. The further we traveled the more we saw.

We drove into Iowa and we saw more. In Iowa City we saw a factory where the blades were being assembled and distributed just off the interstate. In Bloomington, Il. we saw miles of them along the highways. Near Interstate 55 in McLean, Il. There's another couple hundred acres that has several dozen wind turbines on them.

I got curious. I got on Google.

Apparently this is one of the clean energy sources that our nation is investing in to supply the power demands typically filled by fossil fuels. According to a NY Times article on October 12th, 2010, Google and a unnamed New York financial firm have each agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms along the Atlantic coast between New Jersey and Delaware*.

Wind farms are big business and are indicative of a growing trend in America. There is a movement of people going "off the grid". The way things have been done for the decades since electricity became commercially available are under scrutiny and many are choosing to reject the "grid".

There is a family that lives outside of the town where we live who has a wind turbine on his property. It is smaller than the kind you would see off the interstate because it must only power his home. His home is connected to the grid but it does not draw any power from the grid. His wind turbine produces all the energy required to power his home and any excess energy is stored in a battery shed also located on his property. On some months his turbine produces so much energy and stores it in the battery shed that the power company will draw reserve amounts from him for use on the mainstream grid. Thus, some months, not only does he not get a bill in the mail, he gets a check!

A public utility begins to serve a region with electricity. Poles are raised and wires are strung. When a contractor builds a home he ties that home into the electric grid and that home has access to power. For decades this has been a business or home owners only choice for power. However, with new technology and the availability of clean energy being of great concern to many the grid is no longer a consumers only
choice. As a result many now are choosing to go off the grid.

I feel a movement of the same degree is advancing through American spirituality. Many are tired of the high cost and the inefficiency of what the grid has to offer.

We're born and then sent to school before we even know what's going on. We go to school, get good grades and hopefully graduate. We go to college, get drunk, sleep around and hopefully graduate. We find a job, get married, raise a family, take a couple vacations, volunteer somewhere and hope at the end of it all we don't have to go to a nursing home and someone cries at our funeral. We live and die and there's nothing more to life.

And that's all the grid has to offer.

I, along with millions of other Americans, reject that notion. I join them in going off the grid!

We reject that life is meaningless and random but we believe there is more to life than death and taxes. There is freedom, peace, and real joy to be found. In our travels we've found scores of youth groups and churches that have unplugged and gone "off the grid". They've decided that they want their lives to be fueled by the power of the wind. They're not plugging into this world and paying the highest of costs to draw the sorrow and heartache that the grid has to offer.

They've decided that they don't have to be promiscuous, they don't have to intoxicate themselves with drink and substance, and they don't have to chase the dollar and status at the expense of their family and peace. They can plug into the power that a life lived in Jesus Christ has to offer. A power Jesus compared to the wind when He said, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:7-8,KJV).

If I live a little bit different than most it's not because I'm crazy. It's because I've found there is more to life.

I'm going off the grid.