Happy New Year and everlasting love

It’s 2014. Doesn’t feel much different than yesterday, does it?

Don’t let the past 24 hours fool you. This year, the days in front of you, are the most important days you’ll ever live. What you do over the next 365 days will shape your future. The small decisions you make every day this year will deepen your character or erode it.

Take time today to knuckle down, clear your mind, and think. Really think. Think about your life – its direction, its weight and its tone.

Direction – if you keep doing what you’re doing, will you pleased where you are mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually one year from now, 10 years from now? If you keep doing what you’re doing, will you experience more or less joy? More or less adventure? If you keep doing what you’re doing, will your life bless others or rob others of blessing?

Weight – Nearly every new year’s resolution contains something about getting in shape. That’s not what I mean. By weight, I mean substance, significance, gravity. Imagine trying to pick up a box you thought was empty and discovering it’s full of books. You have to adjust how you pick it up and prepare yourself for the exertion required. What does your life currently weigh? Is it full of significance, substance and gravity? Are the things you’re doing important or trivial? Are your hobbies and likes such that they contribute to relationships or just pass the time? Think about the mark you’d like your life to leave. It’s the age-old concept of asking yourself what you want people saying about you at your funeral.

Tone – If the content of your life were currently transcribed into a song, what type would it be? A soaring ballad of love or a  country song about kicking the dog? Would it be positive or negative? Would it engender hope and get others singing along, or would they be holding their ears? The tone of your life is the attitude that you demonstrate – through good and bad. When you’re around people with bad attitudes, think about how you want out of their presence as soon as possible. Are you like that? Think about it.

The Rose Bowl Parade and Everlasting Love

floatAs I watched the 125th Rose Bowl parade, one float in particular struck me by just how profane our culture is. Natalie Cole belted out This Will Be (An Everlasting Love). Actually, she poorly lip synced the song while couples of various ages waved from park benches positioned on the float.

The song is the trademark song for E-Harmony, and recent statistics show that upwards of 35% of couples in the last few years have met online.

The front of the float was emblazoned in white cursive script “Everlasting Love.” As the camera backed away from the zoom-in, you realized that it was just a tiny little float, on a street, lost in the midst of hundreds of others. The singer wasn’t live. It was canned. It was a packaged, flowery front on a float. And that’s the best this world has to offer you.

In 2014, think about it. Really think. Are you buying into what the world is selling? Are you convinced you can get something everlasting through our consumer culture?

I’m not convinced.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139.23-24 ESV)

The word everlasting there can also be translated as “ancient” and can be found in Jeremiah 6.16:

Thus says the LORD:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.”(Jeremiah 6.16)

The first reference is a timely prayer for the beginning of 2014. Ask God to reveal to you what are your real thoughts, the real direction, weight and tone of your life. The second reference is a request that, if made genuinely, will result in the best year of your life. Ask God to show you “where the good way is” and then determine to “walk in it.” You’ll discover that this year, 2014, will set the pace for you have the best year of your life, and in so doing, you’ll “find rest for your soul.”

May it truly be a Happy New Year.

The Noble family flight saga

plane

This was when we thought things were going smoothly.

If you followed our adventure to New Mexico, you need to know we’re back. But our luggage ain’t. We landed in Charlotte last night, relieved that we didn’t have to stand in another 9-hour line (read this post for how that went). Our flights went relatively smooth (only an hour delay in Houston), but imagine how we felt when we waited and waited and… waited at the luggage carousel.

It felt a little like not being asked to dance at a junior high cotillion.

Everyone else was getting their luggage and walking away with relieved smiles on their faces.

Or getting picked last for a kickball team in fourth grade.

After we realized that we could either go to the Southwest Airlines counter to file a claim for our luggage or help mop, we decided to go file a claim. No one was on duty. The same lady who was helping unload the last bags on the first floor finally came upstairs to the second floor and helped us with our luggage claim.

samadelyn

Awkward kids.. Sitting away from us, thank goodness..

Carolyn related that she had medicine she needed in her luggage when they said it couldn’t be delivered until Thursday. They offered us a food voucher of $50 for the Love Field Airport in Dallas as a concession. I have no idea how that will help her thyroid levels, but it curiously made my blood pressure shoot sky high.

On the drive home from Charlotte, Caro and I rehearsed the Noble family flight curse:

  • When I was single and in college, I got stuck overnight in Chicago after flying home from Acapulco. I took a whole roll of film on myself in the Chicago Hyatt. I was selfie before selfie was cool.
  • Stuck in Alaska for a week after visiting Mike & Kristy Hales due to an erupting volcano (3-4 flights out canceled)
  • Missed a flight in the airport in Bilbao, Spain with friends from church due to the fact we were standing in the wrong line, couldn’t speak the language and cheaptickets.com (self-explanatory) printed the wrong airlines on the itinerary. (overnighted and flew out the next day)
  • Carolyn and the kids rode the megabus home from DC after flights were canceled into Roanoke. They had to catch a city bus to the megabus terminal. That was an adventure for them.
  • Too many flight delays to count – several of which caused rerouting
  • We overnighted in Atlanta a couple of years ago after a flight cancellation to Little Rock. Because the airport wouldn’t put us up, I found a sleep cheap option. I’ll admit it now. It was scary. Caro slept with one eye open all night. But I remind her that the breakfast was good.
  • Really thin toilet paper in the airport bathrooms. I include this in the curse because I suspect they use plush, two-ply paper unless we’re in the airport.
  • We had to overnight in Orlando last year due to another flight cancellation. We were excited about that and planned to walk to a nice restaurant to eat supper. Just when we left the hotel, a thunderstorm hit. We opted for Domino’s delivery to the hotel.
  • Getting kicked out of the terminal in Houston by TSA lady (more on that below)

In all of the above, one thing I’m grateful for (and Caro and I told our kids again last night) is how the family takes it in stride. We may be exhausted, frustrated and ready to give a flight attendant a wedgie, but we manage to keep our cool. Our kids are magnificent. Truly. They could add to our stress by being whiny or negative, but they just knuckle down and grin and bear it. Adelyn wrote from Charlotte:

Everyone in my family is upset right now because the next available flight is at 1:00 am, but I’m not. Hey, there’s a Starbucks and restaurants all over this airport. I’m in heaven.

Sam focused on matters of monumental significance… meaning, he was absorbed with some Angry Birds racing game.

On getting kicked out of a terminal at Houston’s airport…

Per this post, we finally arrived in Houston at 3:00 a.m. There were about 30 of us – a few families with babies, even – who sprawled out on chairs and rows of seats to get some sleep. (Remember, we’d had to stand in a 9-hour line in Charlotte the previous day.)

They’d only be asleep for about 15 minutes when a diminutive TSA lady came bustling into the terminal, loudly announcing that they would need to get out. It seems that even though they’d been screened in Charlotte the previous day, they would need to exit the terminal and wait for TSA to open so that they could be groped again.

I say “they” because she didn’t immediately find me. I was in the bathroom. I may or may not have been on Twitter. I will admit that I was sitting down. It had been a long day. I was oblivious to what was happening outside my own little Eden.

That was until I heard a woman’s voice in the men’s room saying, “Is anyone in here?”
“Uh, yes!” I said. My voice cracked a little with the proclamation.
“You need to finish and leave the terminal!” she barked.
All I could think to say was “Yes, ma’am!”

It was a flashback response. I felt like a kid getting caught climbing on the China cabinet. I felt like I was in trouble. It’s hard to think of logical responses or sarcastic retorts when you’re yelled at on the pot by a lady from TSA.

I exited, and for 15 minutes, the Noble family sat in silent defiance on a bench just inside the TSA area without exiting the terminal. We weren’t going to take it. No, we weren’t gonna take it! Carolyn jumped up and threw her scarf on the floor and began to belt out Twisted Sister’s lyrics at the top of her lungs:

We’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it anymore

We’ve got the right to choose and
There ain’t no way we’ll lose it
This is our life, this is our song
We’ll fight the powers that be just
Don’t pick our destiny ’cause
You don’t know us, you don’t belong

Sam and Adelyn jumped up and began fist pumping as Carolyn hit the chorus again. The TSA agents cowered in fear in the corner, realizing they’d messed with the wrong family.

Oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh
We’re right, yeah
We’re free, yeah
We’ll fight, yeah
You’ll see, yeah

With each raucous “yeah!” another person from the flight stepped into our circle. It was like a hard rock revolutionary flash mob. I sat meekly on the bench videoing the event for posterity.

Ok, so maybe we sat there for 4 minutes before a TSA groper told us to leave, and we defeatedly filed out to join the rest of our flight in the TSA line that would open at 4:00 a.m. But at least we were the last to leave.

We’re baaack..

We’re glad to be back, and on this last day of 2013, we’ve taken down the Christmas decorations, done a little car shopping (I got a $25 VISA card just for test driving a new Honda – yes, I’m a sucker for deals like that), and exchanged some gifts. The house is quiet now, recuperating from another Noble family Christmas.

Next time we travel, who wants to go with us? Maybe you can counteract the curse.

Still in the airport… Q&A

I posted this on Twitter and Facebook this evening after we learned that our flight to Houston is planned for 2:00 a.m. Yes, that’s a.m.

Sooo… what to do in the Charlotte airport after everything closes and your flight doesn’t leave until 1:45a? Ask me a question, and I’ll blog you a response.

Here’s the questions so far and my attempt at answers;

From Viktor:

What’s your biggest regret in life (so far)? If you could command Apple to make a particular product (be realistic), what would it be? What are you most afraid of (other than bears)?

Answer:
A) My biggest regret is my confusion of moralism with Christianity through my early years of college. To boil it down in a nutshell, I gave my life to Christ when I was seven, and I grew consistently in my understanding of Christian teachings. I lived a “good” life. However, my faith was more about avoiding sin than loving God and others. I vividly remember being powerfully convicted by the Lord one night in college when I was looking up a verse on “love” and seeing the pages of references to “love” in the Bible. He hit me upside the head that evening and coaxed me away from moralism to a love relationship with Him and others.

B) An Apple product.. an iPhone with a tactile keyboard. I do get weary of the touchscreen keyboard. I miss the ability of my Palm Treo to type without looking at the screen. Another product would be a true AppleTV in which Apple not only produces a set top TV but also creates a new form of video distribution, much like it did with iTunes and the iPod.

C) I think you meant bees. I hate bees/wasps and stinging insects of all kinds. I have very sweet blood and so I’m a constant attraction to them.

From Eddie Brown:

How do you personally handle hard questions about the faith? (The big stuff) – looking for method of thought more than specifics on hot-button topics.

Answer: First of all, I try not to respond immediately to hot-button issues. I’ve found that I (and others) tend to spout rather than thoughtfully respond when someone pushes one of those controversial topics. I resist emailing people in response to those issues also simply because they can’t hear my tone of voice, and I really don’t want my thoughts being forwarded around without my permission. I press for a one-on-one conversation, if at all possible. I want to respond to tough questions and controversial issues in a relational way, communicating truth with love.

Second, I’ve found over the years that hard questions about faith typically fall into general categories. So, I’ve created files on issues with links, articles and thoughts on each one. It’s interesting to observe that some topics seem to occur cyclically – about every 3-5 years. I don’t know why. It’s just a personal observation.

Does that help?

 From Kendra Johanson:

If you could say anything to Miley Cyrus, what would it be?

Answer: I know Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but I Miss You, Hannah Montana. You’ve got all of us Kicking and Screaming over your Wrecking Ball, and maybe it’s time for you to Start All Over. When I Look at You, I see Someone Else – a young adult Obsessed with attention. You need the Forgiveness and Love you sing about.

I sincerely hope you’ll discover the complete acceptance and love of Jesus Christ, that He’ll remind you of your roots and bring you home in faith, humility and repentance.

From Katie Kass:

Tell Addie that Angry Birds is not as important as snapchating her lonely bestfriend😫

Answer: I’m in another area of the terminal, plugged into a wall. I’ll text her though.. She’s an equal opportunity ignorer. She’s been giving us the cold shoulder too.

From Stephen Kestell:

What kind of hardships are there in a life of ministry, and how does one do it with a willing heart?

Answer: Great question, Stephen, and it’s almost too broad to answer. However, depending on where you serve in ministry, you’ll encounter: financial hardships, bickering among church members that gets personally directed at the minister at times, vengefulness, backbiting, temptations galore (we who are called to serve God have a big target on our backs), and many others.

In addition to these, sometimes we as ministers make a mess of things simply because we attempt to manage or lead in areas where we’re not trained. We blame people for being “unspiritual” when actually we may be operating outside of our strengths and simply be incompetent in an area. That’s not wrong to admit, but unfortunately, we may have created a church culture in which the pastor is expected to be an expert in all areas.

The Noble family flight curse

This post is a tag team between me and Adelyn. We’re posting from the Charlotte airport..

waiting

Jeff

It never fails. Anytime our family attempts to stretch our wings and fly somewhere, we get clipped. Today was supposed to be so simple. Catch a flight out of Charlotte, ultimately landing in Midland, TX where we would be reunited with Carolyn’s family for Christmas.

We got to the airport, boarded the plane, and I’d settled down with my book while the kids were waiting for take off so they could watch a movie together on Sam’s new laptop. That’s when the curse caught up with us.

boarding

The stewardess came on the speaker and said there was a technical problem – a light had come on, and they needed to check if it was a no-flight light. After 20+ minutes passed, the captain informed us that, indeed, it was a no-flight light. This is not as comforting as a low night light which gives off comforting glow that soothes you while you’re drifting to sleep. A no-flight light means there’s a mechanical issue that needs to be fixed.

Dang.

Adelyn

la la la la la la la la la la la la la la

Jeff

No, Adelyn, you don’t get it.. To be a guest blogger means you write something fascinating, humorous and insightful. It doesn’t mean that you type what is going through your mind at the moment.

Adelyn

Fine. Well I’m pretty familiar with these kind of situations at the airport. I’m yet to be proven wrong that having flight problems is not the usual thing. Everyone in my family is upset right now because the next available flight is at 1:00 am, but I’m not. Hey, there’s a Starbucks and restaurants all over this airport. I’m in heaven.

Jeff

Oh. Well, that’s good to know. In the meantime, however, I have to deal with your monstrous brother who takes up two seats and is only still when he’s asleep. And your mother, who is on the phone to Southwest trying to finagle an early flight out of Dallas, is in a good mood now, but wait until she hits her normal nightly “tired mode” which usually takes place about 7:53 p.m. each evening.

sam and adelyn

But your point about Starbucks is well-taken. That’s a plus. I just wish they had a Barnes & Noble or Best Buy.

Adelyn

Correction. Although Sam is still when he’s asleep, he snores like a monster with a sinus infection. And yes, mother’s days usually last from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. I don’t think she is aware that time goes to two digits because she goes to sleep before she can see the clock turn 10:00 p.m.

Jeff

lineAt any rate, Southwest Airlines is dropping the ball worse than Clint Stoerner did against #2 Tennessee in the 1999 game that still gives every Hog fan heartburn. They’ve got 100+ frustrated/mad people here in Charlotte. While they’ve already offered $200 voucher per person, that did little to assuage the crowd. Especially considering that we’ve been off the plane now for almost three hours, and the ONE guy at the customer service counter has only been able to help about 7 people. There’s going to be a riot, I’m telling you.

I’m somewhat relieved we’ve decided to hunker down and take the 1:00 a.m. flight to Houston and just be miserable there until the 6:30 a.m. flight out.

We’d like to  go out to eat, but we can’t leave the airport without a security voucher.. And you’ve got to stand in line for that…

Adelyn

angrybirdsWell in the mean time my Angry Birds game restarted… to add on to the Noble family curse. So I can catch up on all my levels. Haha, not that I got very far anyways.

Jeff

Uh, that was more like a tweet than a blog post. Even if it was an angry tweet. Get it? Kind of like a crow cacophony. Or a robin revolution. Or a canary conniption…

Adelyn

Ok, enough with the puns. We hear them enough at home. I didn’t know that you put them on your blog…

adelyn

Jeff

Carolyn and Sam just tried to leave the terminal and were told they had to stay here. TSA closes at 10:00 p.m. They need a security voucher to get one. To get one of those, they have to stand in the mile long line. This is one of the most classic airline fails I’ve seen. Even if we could leave, our luggage is still on the plane…

At least the WIFI is free here.

And Adelyn is now absorbed in Angry Birds..

So, before we (or you) completely lose the Christmas spirit, take 5 minutes and watch this Hallelujah chorus video by Cloverton: