Posts Tagged ‘blessings

15
Jan
21

Certain Uncertainty

I may have said this before, but I just LOVE Google!

Questions which, in bygone days, might have floated off into the ether unanswered, can now be resolved in the blink of an eye, thanks to Google.

Just yesterday, for example, I idly wondered what the shape and size of the 970-telephone area code is. I wanted to know what other towns besides Fort Collins it includes, what its total area is, what other area codes are nearby… you know – important, life-changing questions like that.

Being decidedly OLD, I can vividly remember the work it once took to answer even a question as simple as that. I would have started by pulling down the big white page version of the phone book and then thumbed through the front of it looking for an area code map. Failing that, I might have taken a trip to the local public library and posed my question to the research librarian. 

Today? I just hit the button and say, “OK, Google; show me a map of the 970-area code,” and BINGO! There it is, before you can say “Jack Robinson.”

And guess what, kids? You can do the same thing with ANY question at all! Curious about how many ounces are in a pint? Ask Google! Want to know the racial make-up of your county? Ask Google! What if you HAD to know George Brett’s batting average in his rookie year? In less time than it takes you to ask the question, you can have the answer, thanks to Google.

In fact, it is hard to imagine a question that could not be answered in the twinkling of an eye by the miracle of the Google Machine.

Welcome, my friends, to the age of CERTAINTY where NOTHING is unknowable.

As accurate as that description might be, I have to wonder if that is entirely good news. I mean, is certaintyreally the end-all, be-all we make it out to be? Does the elimination of all mystery and uncertainty really mean our lives are quantitatively BETTER? 

In asking these questions I am not advocating a return to a stone age understanding of the world… the one where people cower in fear in the belief that the moon swallows the sun every time a solar eclipse happens. 

My question more has to do, I suppose, with how we think about FAITH in an age of certainty. Here in GoogleWorld 2021, does faith become more like a passive placeholder, as we wait for greater certainty? That is, do we say, “Well, until the science comes along to either prove or disprove this proposition, I will just have to have faith”?

If that is how we see faith, I can’t help but be a little sad. I have always been encouraged to see faith as something ACTIVE rather than PASSIVE… as an intentional choice we make about the metanarrative we live out of. 

I have lived a lot of years and learned a lot of things during that time. A lot of uncertainty has been vanquished with the help of education, connections, and the miracle of Google. And yet somehow, at the very same time, the scope of what I do NOT know about the universe seems to be expanding at an even greater pace. 

How is that possible?

But ultimately, it is FAITH that assures me that it is OK to just stand here in awe… drinking in the sheer wonder of the world around me, trusting that the Unseen Hand behind it all loves each of us completely and unconditionally.

And that brings me peace.

[Incidentally, in case you wondered, George Brett’s batting average in 1974 – his first full season in the bigs – was .282. Not bad for a kid.]

Abundant blessings;

25
Nov
20

In Which Circumstances??

Would you look at this mess? 

A worldwide killer virus is floating around in the air, seeking out the most vulnerable among us, killing record numbers of people, especially people of color… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

Not only did this virus cause Joan and I to cancel our plans to join the rest of the family for a long overdue gathering, but now it has been rude enough to smash our SCALED DOWN Thanksgiving plans… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And what about those working parents out there? What about the folks who have to figure out some way to do their jobs over a video screen, supervise their (often reluctant) remote-learning children, put meals on the table, and maintain a home? 

And you want them to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And in this time of roiling turmoil outside, when most people can hunker down and bask in the comforting embrace of home and hearth, Joan and I instead wake up each morning to face a construction zone full of dust and noise and sheetrock and extension cords… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And even though some of the dust of the recent election seems to be settling and new, orderly pieces appear to be falling into place, we still face the reality of a nation deeply divided along racial and political lines… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

And seriously… don’t even get me started on the endless litany of aches and pains and visits to doctors and chiropractors and physical therapists and testing sites and pharmacies and all that other stuff that seems to go hand-in-hand with having attained a **certain** age… and you want me to DO WHAT??

  • “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NRSV)

I have to ask: God, are you sure you really understand what you are asking of us?

I mean, do you have any concept of what we have to deal with down here in the land of flesh and blood and traffic lights and fire ants? 

Do you have the slightest notion of just how tough it is to make it from Point A to Point B some days… even without today’s extra stressors of disease, sleaze, and unease?

And then it hits me; of course you do!

You know EXACTLY what we are up against. You are intimately acquainted with every ache, pain, fear, frustration, joy, disappointment, dream, distress, annoyance, and heartache we will ever face… in a thousandlifetimes.

You know us because you loved us enough to BECOME us.

Nothing about this human experience is foreign to you.

AND YET… you still command us to GIVE THANKS…

… in ALL circumstances. 

You know what? I might just give it a try.

I mean, shoot… whining hasn’t worked.

Throwing a one-man pity party hasn’t worked.

Sulking over here in my corner hasn’t worked. 

Maybe I’ll try your way instead.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Abundant blessings;

20
Nov
20

“I Surrender!”

Like many men of my age, I was quite the little warmonger as a child.

My friends and I loved to do nothing more after school than get together in the big field behind Jeff and David’s houses and play ARMY. As soon as we got home, we would drop our books, say hello to our parents, grab our toy guns, and head out.

Please understand; these guns didn’t actually shoot anything. Not BBs, not pellets, not even air. We “killed” members of the opposing army by aiming our rifle at them and making some kind of “POW!” noise with our mouths. 

Each soldier was on the honor system to die fair and square when shot by someone from the other side.

One of the hardest things to do in the game of Army, however, was to surrender. 

Surrendering only became necessary when someone from the opposing army stealthfully crept up on your hiding place, pointed his gun at you and said, “OK, Rusty! (my childhood nickname). I see you there behind the garage. Put down your gun and come out with your hands up!”

To be captured was humiliating and embarrassing. Each of us would have preferred to be shot dead, complete with a well-rehearsed death swoon, over being captured by the other side.

Today, even though my last backyard Army battle took place more than 50 years ago, I look around and see that many of us still have the same problem that gripped my boyhood friends and me. 

That is to say, it seems that a lot of us today would rather die than surrender

The health crisis that grips our country is a prime example. The scientists and epidemiologists who have spent their lives studying these things tell us that we are all going to have to – at least temporarily – surrender some of our customary practices to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

They say, for example, that…

  • … we are going to have to surrender our plans for large family Thanksgiving gatherings.
  • … we are going to have to surrender our desire to walk around maskless in public places.
  • … we are going to have to surrender our plans to go to restaurants, sporting events, worship gatherings, and concerts. 
  • … we are going to have to surrender our habit of walking around with dirty hands.

But mostly, the doctors and scientists say, we are going to have to surrender our belief that we are each the masters (or mistresses) of our own domains, free from ANY need to constrain ANY of our behaviors.

We become incensed. We stand up proudly and say – with raised voices – “THAT’S not the America I believe in! No SIR! I live in the land of the FREE! I’m not surrendering my freedom to ANYONE!”

Which is kind of funny, considering all the “surrendering” we each do on a routine, daily basis. 

  • If you are married, you know exactly what I am talking about. Healthy marriages are based on the art of compromise…  in other words, the art of surrendering MY agenda to OUR agenda. 
  • When we get into a car, we surrender to the authority of our local traffic laws.
  • When we get onto a plane (which some people still do, I hear), we completely surrender our lives to the skill of our pilot and the integrity of the air traffic control system. 

And would you believe it? Jesus actually went so far as to teach his disciples that surrender was the key to eternal life! He is recorded in each of the gospels saying something similar, but here are his words from the Gospel of Mark: “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?’” (Mark 8:34-35, NRSV). 

For many of us, the idea of surrender can still be frightening. It can suggest a loss of control over the circumstances of our lives. 

But what if, instead of seeing it as a matter of LOSING control, we instead saw surrender as TURNING OVERcontrol… 

… that is, turning over control to the One who designed the whole crazy thing in the first place?

Abundant blessings;

03
Nov
20

Listening to the Dogs

Today, Joan and I will be spending a lot of time with the dogs. 

Given the events of this day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020, it seems like a wise idea.

We will be walking them, yes. Also playing with them, petting them, feeding them, and quite possibly correcting them when/if they misbehave… yes, all of that too. 

But today of all days, we will also be listening to them and learning from them. 

In case you are not blessed to have dogs in your life, you might not be aware that besides fulfilling important roles as food devourers and poop producers, dogs can also be teachers of important life lessons. I hope to capture a few of those over the coming days.

Today, Rosie and Patrick seem to be eager to teach us one thing above all else. And that lesson is: PEOPLE ARE AWESOME! I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!

If Joan and I go away – even for a short trip to the grocery store – and leave them here by themselves, we are almost knocked off our feet by the joyous reception we receive when we return.

And guests? If you come by for a cup of tea sometime, be prepared to be overwhelmed by excited jumping, licking, pawing, and overflowing joy at your arrival. I know, I know… we should be doing a much better job of training them not to do that. Bad dog parents!

But here is the thing: that exuberant greeting is offered to ALL who enter Chez Brown… white, black, blue, red, well-groomed, desperately needing a shower… no matter who it is. In fact, the other day our kitchen remodeling contractor left his pickup truck toolbox open and I saw – from a bumper sticker inside – that he is a supporter of the OTHER guy. i.e., not the candidate we voted for.  

AND YET! In spite of that, Rosie and Patrick jumped for joy when he showed up today, just as if he were a long-lost family member who had finally returned from the Crimean War after being presumed dead.

It is almost as if they were saying, “God made you, so we love you! Period! End of story!” 

They seem to know that with nearly eight billion people in the world today, the odds of finding anyone else that exactly fits all the human-made criteria for acceptance and lovability are vanishingly low. And so their decision (preceded, I’m sure, with much prayerful consideration) is to unconditionally love every person they meet. 

I am not sure if they read John’s gospel where Jesus tells his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…” (John 15:12, NRSV), but they somehow seem to know it by heart and live it every day.

Who knows how this election will turn out? Not me, not the experts, and not the two people at the center of it.

We know that some folks will be ecstatic about the outcome. Some will be angry. Some will be depressed. Some will begin looking at real estate ads for Costa Rica. 

But if we really do a good job of listening to what Rosie and Patrick (and, well, Jesus, too) have to teach us today, we will probably be able to face tomorrow with joy in our hearts and hope for the future. 

Abundant blessings;

15
Jul
20

“You’re FIRED!! “

Fired imageHave you ever been fired from a job?

I don’t mean “Sorry, Russell, but we’ve got to let you go because of a downturn in economic conditions.” I mean FIRED. As in, “Dude, we thought you would be good at this job when we hired you, but it turns out you really suck at it. Please pack up your stuff and leave NOW.”

I’ve had that experience. More than once.

And I have to tell you… it is one of the worst feelings in the world.

First there is the slap in the face of personal rejection. There is no sugar-coating the message that says, “YOUare inadequate. YOU don’t measure up.” You can stand there and cry “FOUL!” and complain ‘til you are blue in the face, usually to no avail.

The verdict is in. You’ve been found GUILTY and sentenced to immediate termination. No appeals will be granted.

Then, as you are still reeling from the shock of the initial blow and struggling to regain your balance, the fear and panic begin setting in. “What am I going to do now?” you wonder. “How am I going to support my family?” “Who is ever going to hire me again with this black mark on my record?”

And I have to tell you – it is no picnic sitting on the other side of that desk either. During my career in ministry I only had to fire two people for cause. It might only have been two, but each one weighed heavily on my heart. I stewed about it for weeks before, tried to rationalize my way out of the deed, giving second and third chances and coaching in hopes of turning things around.

But in the end, the axe had to fall. And it literally made me sick to my stomach (regardless of what the star of The Apprentice might have you believe).

Looking back on those dismal chapters of my life, I am reminded of God’s amazing power to redeem. Though I would not wish either end of the firing squad on my worst enemy, I am aware of the unique way those experiences helped shape the person I am today.

For starters, they helped remind me of the tender heart that lies within (sometimes DEEP within) every person I meet and how each of those people yearn for acceptance. I have learned that even in a fleeting encounter – at the cash register, at the gas pump, or even just passing on the sidewalk – I have the power to communicate ACCEPTANCE or REJECTION to each one.

Those painful passages – together with my abiding faith in the love of Christ – also helped remind me that any rejection I face from another person is a transitory state of affairs, based on immediate circumstances. It has NO BEARING on my intrinsic worth as a person. As Christ himself reminds us in Matthew 10:29, 31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care… So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

I am prompted to insert here the reminder that the “you” in this passage is unconditional. It is not the “you” who performs well on the job, at home, or in the community. It is the exact “you” who is reading this sentence right now, warts and all.

As you go about the tasks that this day requires, look around carefully. Notice your neighbors, or the people you pass in the store or on the street. Be reminded that every single one of them is craving some reminder that they matter… that they are accepted.

And maybe YOU are there for that express purpose.

 

Abundant blessings;

09
Jul
20

Puzzle People

Jigsaw puzzleAs you can see from the photo immediately to the right, Joan and I have almost completed this 500-piece jigsaw puzzle. All that remains are fitting the last pieces of the pale blue sky together.

This puzzle was very much a quarantine-inspired undertaking.

“Good job!” You might be tempted to say. “Way to go!”

You would, however, immediately withdraw your lavish words of praise when I confess to you it has taken us nearly 90 days to get to this point.

We began the project with great enthusiasm, dumping the box out onto our dining room table, grouping all of the similarly colored pieces together, bringing over snacks and drinks, taking turns studying, fussing, fiddling, and painstakingly fitting pieces together.

After a couple of sessions each, the wind of motivation suddenly left our sails. The puzzle just sat there for days… fragmented… silently judging us.

About a month ago, as we both sat staring dejectedly at the scattered pile of pieces, Joan and I looked at one another and said, “I guess we’re just not puzzle people.”

Puzzle people (and God bless you if you are one) must possess great powers of concentration. They must be infinitely patient. They must be able to visualize patterns and connections in their mind’s eye. They must have a finely-honed appreciation for solitude… or else possess the ability to work well with others.

Puzzle people are able to play the long game and do not set their sights on immediate gratification.

As I sat down and began listing out all of these traits, I found myself muttering, “How awesome would it be to be a Puzzle Person. Too bad I’m not wired that way at all.”

But then I stopped and looked again. I noticed that in spite of these serious impairments in my God-given proclivities, I was less than 30 pieces away from finishing this puzzle. The bliss of hearing that soft “CLICK” as I drop the final piece into place is just hours away.

“Is that amazing or what?” I whispered. “How did that happen?”

And then I remembered that sometimes God sneaks up behind us and surprises us with a totally unexpected result in a situation we thought we had completely figured out.

(Hang on here… I am not claiming divine intervention was at work in our puzzle progress. I am beginning to piece together a spiritual analogy of sorts. Hang in with me for a minute…)

Throughout the pages of scripture, we find countless examples of God deputizing people who believed they were hopelessly ill-equipped to do necessary deed. There are scenes of denial and protest and, “Sorry God, you’ve got the wrong guy/gal. Go pick someone else.” Following by that hopelessly inadequate person suddenly stepping up and delivering the goods.

There is Moses, for example.

And Gideon.

And Deborah.

And Ruth.

And Esther.

And David (later, KING David).

And Ezekiel.

And Peter.

And Saul (later, Paul)

And on and on, ad infinitum.

I don’t believe these stories are meant to teach us that sometimes God swoops in and supernaturally imbues hapless schlubs with magical new powers. Although I am sure that does happen sometimes.

What if the point of these stories is more to show us how God intervenes and opens our eyes to abilities we already have, yet which we have somehow submerged under layers of doubt and despair?

What if it is the case that each of those “unlikely biblical heroes” (and each of us, too) already had those remarkable faculties FROM DAY ONE and just needed a godly “nudge” to believe in and USE them?

Imagine that!

 

Gee… maybe I AM a puzzle person after all!

24
Jun
20

Canine Comfort

Rosie and Patrick in the kitchenHere we are on day 1,465,283 of The Great Quarantine of 2020…

… at least that’s what it feels like.

Like most of the rest of you, Joan and I have stumbled upon a variety of strategies to help us cope with the endless days of isolation. Not surprisingly, many of them center around technology; Zoom, Netflix, FaceTime, FaceBook, FacePlant (JK!!), Kindle, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

We have also been known to go a little old-school now and then and throw in a book, a jigsaw puzzle and, if we are really desperate, an Actual Conversation.

But as the blogosphere is my witness, we have both discovered that nothing quite helps smooth out the raw edges of enforced seclusion like a DOG.

In our case, make that TWO dogs… Rosie and Patrick, our soft-coated Wheaten Terrier therapists.

For starters, they are remarkably tuned in to our moods. If either one of us starts to wilt a little and mope, one of them (usually Patrick) is right there at our side, leaning heavily against us and imparting serenity.

Rosie is especially attuned to my need to periodically get off the computer and PLAY. Suddenly she is there at my side; plush, stuffed, squeaky unicorn in her mouth, looking intently into my eyes as if to say, “Bet you can’t get it!”

Most of the time she is right. I can’t.

And since this breed is known to have the energy level of a mini-thermonuclear reactor, multiple walks each day are not optional. They are mandatory! Rain, sleet, snow, or scorcher. And wonder of wonders, it turns out that those walks are really good for us, too!

Rose and Patrick at the doorAs long as we are making a list of their positive qualities, let’s not overlook their ability to endlessly entertain. Sometimes it feels like we could discontinue our cable TV service entirely and just sit outside watching Rosie and Patrick cavort. They roll and wrestle in the grass. They poke their heads through the fence to talk to neighbor dog Porter. They chase anything I decide to throw in their direction. They stand up and chatter back to the squirrels taunting them from the safety of the Weeping Willow tree.

I would probably pay for entertainment this consistently good – if it wasn’t provided nightly, absolutely free of charge.

Furthermore, if we pay really close attention, we discover that Rosie and Patrick are wise teachers as well. Right now, for example, they are conducting a master class on the health benefits of regular afternoon naps.

VERY important stuff.

There is also a lesson to be learned from the way they enthusiastically greet everyone who comes to our house. With their (admittedly excessive) leaping and barking and licking of each visitor, they are saying, in effect, “People are SO AWESOME! We LOVE people!”

If we followed Rosie and Patrick’s lead, we would begin every relationship believing the very best of that person, regardless of who they were or what they have done. (We should probably leave out the butt-sniffing part though.)

Even though Joan and I are definitively more DOG people than CAT people, I am sure there is a cat-equivalent list of all the ways cats can ease the rough patches of enforced isolation.

I just can’t think of any right now…

 

Abundant blessings;

28
May
20

Frozen People

Young and oldI knew it was coming, just as surely as the next episode of The Lone Ranger on Saturday morning TV.

When I was a wee lad and we made the 415-mile trek to see my dad’s parents in St. Louis, Missouri, the first words out of my grandmother’s mouth were guaranteed.

She would grab each one of us, give us a big hug, hold us out at arm’s length and say, “Well just look at you! Look how you’ve GROWN!”

Of course, I always smiled and blushed, but inside I was thinking, “Well, DUH! We haven’t seen one another in over a year! Did you think I would stay the same size FOREVER?”

Nowadays, of course, I do exactly the same thing to my own grandchildren. Joan and I just drove back to Kansas City for the first time in six months and MY… how those three girls had grown! And I didn’t hesitate saying so!

I know that part of my reaction stems from genuine shock. I have clearly forgotten the explosive power of hormones between the ages of nine and 13… especially in girls in that age range.

The last time we saw her – in February – middle grandchild was a little girl. By some strange magic she is now a young woman.

The other part of my stereotypical grandpa reaction – I’m sure – is a kind of wistful sadness… sadness at the fact that my grandchildren are growing up. Somewhere inside me, irrational as it is, lives a desire to freeze them at their cutest, cuddliest ages and experience them that way forever.

But here is the truly weird thing; I do the same with EVERYONE. I expect every person in my circle of relationships to be exactly the same today as they were the last time we met. For example, when Joan tells me that her daughter (my stepdaughter) is dropping by for a visit, I fully expect to see a bright, young, 17-year-old woman coming through the door.

In reality, she is a 40-year-old medical doctor… a partner in a thriving practice here in Fort Collins, CO.

As Keenan Thompson, a.k.a. Diondre Cole might ask, “What’s up with that?”

What’s up with that, I believe, is a robust urge to evade the reality of mortality. By any means possible I long to be able to pretend that time does not advance… that bodies do not age… that physical death does not wait around the corner for me and everyone I hold dear.

All of which, of course, is utter nonsense. And yet a whole bunch of us continue to pretend otherwise.

The psalmist knew this truth over 3,000 years ago when she/he wrote, “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSV).

And yet even when people know of and even accept their mortality, finiteness, and temporality it doesn’t mean they are happy about the state of things.

It is time to face the truth; in the midst of a decaying, mortal world, we have to see that it is foolishness to freeze grandchildren, shoot up with Botox, or hop on a skateboard at the age of 75 (although I have no doubt some do exactly that. More power to them!).

There is nothing we can do to stop the inevitable march of time.

What we CAN do… indeed, what we MUST do is to hang on to the One who stands beyond time itself.

Only in God’s loving embrace can we find the infinite that we so desperately seek. As the psalmist continues, “… the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 103:17, NRSV).

 

Abundant blessings;

18
May
20

Best Foot Forward

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…  you are familiar with all my ways.”
Psalm 139:1-3, NRSV

Chatting over the fenceI had a nice backyard chat with Neighbor Dave the other day. It was my first time to meet Neighbor Dave since we moved here in November.

Don’t worry… Neighbor Dave stayed on his side of the fence and I stayed on mine. We were at least six feet apart the entire time we chatted.

As it turns out, Neighbor Dave (can I just call him Dave from now on? Thanks) just moved here to Fort Collins a month before we did. He and his wife came from California.

Like Joan and me, Dave and his wife are recently retired.

It was a lovely chat. Dave and I each talked about the little projects we are doing on our houses, the things we like about the area, our families, and our sheer delight at the nice, warm weather that was allowing us to get some much-needed yard work done.

When I finally broke it off with my new best buddy, I went inside and told Joan about the great neighbor I had just met and how cool it was that he lived just across our back fence. I probably even said something like, “When all this is over, we’ll have to have Dave and his wife over for dinner.”

And because I had my best foot forward and avoided picking my nose for the ENTIRE time we talked, I am sure Dave went inside and said something very similar to his wife.

That is one reason I like being “the new kid in town.” Every relationship is new. Every person you meet starts out thinking the very best of you. The only thing they know about you is the friendly neighbor face you were holding up as you talked.

They know nothing about all your little quirks and idiosyncrasies… your phobias, fears, prejudices, and flaws. Your bad habits and neuroses and weird notions are utterly invisible to them.

You walk away from your chat, shaking your head and thinking – as I often do, “If they only knew…”

And then – if you happened to think back on the words of Psalm 139 at that precise moment – you recalled that God DOES know all that stuff about you. God knows all the dirt and grime about you there is to know.

In fact – God being God and all – God probably knows stuff about you that you have somehow managed to forget.

God knows it all; the Good… the Bad… and the truly Ugly.

And yet… even with all that super-detailed knowledge… God loves you more than you can possibly understand.

Here is the really shocking news: God’s regard for you is even HIGHER than your high regard for Neighbor Dave. It is that high for two very good reasons:

  • First, because God – through his Son Jesus – has wiped your entire slate of screw-ups clean, and
  • Second, because God knows – far better than you do – what you are truly capable of.

Is that cool or WHAT!

The challenge for most of us is to be able to humbly receive God’s magnificent, unconditional love and then to go out and actually live INTO the lofty vision God has of us.

It is entirely possible that the better Neighbor Dave gets to know me, the less enthused he will be about deepening our relationship.

But Praise God that will never be true about HIM!

 

Abundant blessings;

13
May
20

Final Exam

Stressed out dudeUrgent: [ˈərjənt]
Adjective. calling for immediate attention: PRESSING

 Today I am thinking back to that time when urgency seemed to rule my life.

It was a time when everything had to be done RIGHT NOW! Nothing could wait.

It was a time when I seemed to vibrate with nervous energy, spinning first this plate, then that one, praying I could reach each of them before any wobbled wildly and fell to the ground.

Back then, no matter how fast I ran, or how quickly I got there, some plates still fell and broke. Most of the time, I am embarrassed to admit, the plate that broke was the one labeled “Family Time.”

The thing is, I knew better. I knew my pace was unsustainable. I knew the value of keeping Sabbath time and allowing all my dendrites and synapses to stop their machine-gun firing and cool off a little.

But see, it was so INVIGORATING! When you live in the Urgent Zone you just feel so ALIVE!

Right up until the moment you don’t, of course.

Of course, these days, all of that has changed. Here in quarantineretirementland, there is very little that can be called urgent. If I don’t get it done today, there is always tomorrow. And if I don’t get it done tomorrow, well, there’s always the next day.

No one will die. No buildings will collapse. No sermon will be unpreached if essential “To Do” list items remain unchecked.

I’m not going to lie… it feels GREAT not to be spending my day chasing deadlines, shooting off emails, making phone calls, and driving across town. I especially love spontaneously taking naps just because I can.

But it also feels a little… I don’t know… indulgent? Self-centered? Lazy even? Shouldn’t I be building something, or planting something, or writing something instead of sitting here reading this novel?

This moment of discomfort – I now realized – is exactly the moment Jesus always picks to show up with his next Teachable Moment.

He interrupts the antsiness of my reading time and says, “Russell… I can see it is time to refresh your memory about one of the key lessons from my Sermon on the Mount. Because either you dozed off in the middle of it or have completely forgotten what I said.”

“Uh, sure, Jesus,” I stammered. “Go ahead.”

“Before you retired, you seemed absolutely WEDDED to the idea that your WORTH was tied to your PRODUCTIVITY. I had hoped retirement would have shaken that idea loose, but clearly it has not.”

He continued, “Since it has clearly slipped your mind, here is what I had to say on the subject… I said, ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.’” (Matthew 6:28-29, NRSV).

“Remember that one?” He paused, obviously waiting for a response.

“Uh, yes! Of course!” I said, proud to be able to show off my Bible knowledge to the Lord of Life.

“Well, I really meant it.” He continued, “You are in good health and – Me willing – have a lot of good years left. The thing I want you to focus on is really LIVING the time you have. Smell the roses, sip the coffee, sing along with the radio, gaze at the sunset, cuddle with Joan, walk the dogs.”

“When it is all said and done, I am not going to ask how many sermons you preached, how many churches you built, or how many “likes” you got on Facebook on a given day.”

“My questions are going to be: ‘Did you love God?’ And, ‘Did you love your neighbor?’ And the bonus question will be, ‘Did you truly LIVE while you were alive?’”

And then he gave me that sly Jesus wink and said, “Now that you know the questions on the Final Exam, get out there and prepare to ANSWER them!”

 

Abundant blessings;




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