Posts Tagged ‘order

12
May
22

A Little Corner of Order

We made the bed this morning.

A well-made bed

Yipppeee!! Skippy!!

And when I say, “…we made the bed,” of course I mean JOAN – on her own – made the bed. 

Sometimes I help with the bedmaking. When I am around, that is. But many times, I am up and out the door before the bedmaking time happens.

And so, Joan cheerfully tucks and straightens the sheets, fluffs the pillows, folds the comforter, and carefully puts those little, purely decorative pillows in their places.

Hold on nowWhy does this silly stuff even matter?” you are no doubt asking me right now. “Who cares about you and your absurd housekeeping practices? Let’s spend this time talking about some REAL stuff… stuff like Ukraine… or COVID… or abortion. You are really testing my patience here, clown boy.”

First of all, that’s a little harsh, don’t you think? And second of all, hang in there, bub. You just might discover there is more here than meets the eye. 

Let me start my defense by asking you a question; when you open your front door and peer outside, what do you see? What kind of world lurks out there? 

Here is what I see: I see a world of pain. And chaos. And brokenness. I see a world desperately seeking redemption. I see a world largely without answers. I see a world that – for the most part – I really don’t have even a microscopic amount of influence over. 

I’m convinced it is also a world that God – because of God’s infinite, unconditional love for this world – spends a LOT of time weeping over. 

Beyond what I see, I also hear something. I hear God’s gentle, urging voice. It is whispering to me, “Russell, GO. Do what you can. Be MY hands and feet and heart. Create a corner – even if it is just a tiny corner – in that broken, pain-filled world that reminds people of what MY kingdom looks like.”

And for me, one of the key characteristics of God’s kingdom (i.e., a kingdom that works according to the blueprint God had BEFORE Adam and Eve messed everything up) is ORDER

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Harmony.

Cohesion.

Connection.

Interrelationship.

And so, I choose to start my day with a regular, tangible picture of what order looks like. 

I choose to make my bed.  

(Rather, as you saw above, JOAN chooses to make my bed. But you know what I mean.)

By my count (rather, by the count of the special feature on my Bible app), Jesus talks about the kingdom of God at least 117 times. It is clearly a topic that matters to him… a LOT! 

And yet we remember that Jesus also lived in the middle of a broken, pain-filled, unjust, chaotic world. He lived in a world that was DESPERATE for redemption, healing, and wholeness. 

And so, when he talked to people, he tried to paint vivid word pictures of what a healed, whole, restored world might look like. He talked about mustard seeds, and grains of wheat, and pearls of great price, and treasures hidden in a field. He tried to help them understand the reality of the Hope Beyond Hope at the center of his earthly ministry. 

In other words, he tried to help people visualize what The World According to God will look like when it comes to be. 

And although I can’t provide you any actual, scriptural warrants for it, I am pretty sure Jesus made his bed every morning.

Don’t worry. In case you are not inclined that way, I am pretty sure God loves non-bedmakers just as much as He loves bedmakers. Be that as it may, He is saying the same thing to you that He says to me every morning. He is saying, “GO. Do what you can. Be MY hands and feet and heart. Create a corner – even if it is just a tiny corner – in that broken, pain-filled world that reminds people of what MY kingdom looks like.”

And then, when you get home at night, sink restfully into that beautiful, orderly, well-made bed and REST!

Abundant blessings;

12
Mar
21

Remarkably Unremarkable

Utterly amazing.

After a lot of thought and multiple trips to the thesaurus, I’ve chosen those as the best two words to describe this morning’s trip to the drug store.

Would you believe it? On the short drive between here and there I saw HUNDREDS of motorized vehicles – many weighing a ton or more – moving along the paved roadways in perfect harmony. 

It was like some kind of intricate glass-and-steel ballet!

There were dashed white lines painted on the black asphalt and EVERY ONE of those vehicles stayed within those lines… even as they moved along at 45-50 miles per hour. 

You know what else? I saw light fixtures hanging from wires suspended above the roadways. They periodically changed color from red to yellow to green. And then, as if obeying some kind of silent command, those massive vehicles all came to a stop when the red light appeared, resumed moving when they saw the green light, and waffled with indecision at the yellow. 

INCREDIBLE!

And then, I noticed that one vehicle wanted to turn left from one street to another and then I saw that it WAITED PATIENTLY until it was safe to proceed! 

When I got to the drugstore, there was even MORE calm and order on display! People had parked their vehicles in neat lines, allowing sufficient room to open doors between them. The store itself was clean and brightly lighted. Merchandise was displayed in neat lines under helpful, clearly spelled-out signs with prices clearly marked for all to see. 

Then, when I arrived at the cash register, I saw even MORE amazingness! People stood patiently in line, (some, of course, looking intently down at their handheld devices in order to stay as current as possible with the news of the world. Or their family. Or maybe Kim and Kanye, I couldn’t say for sure), waiting to exchange money for product with the aid of the smiling attendant.

And then…

… and then I arrived safely back home, took off my hat and coat, and stored my purchase in its allotted place. 

Remarkably unremarkable all around.

But see, that’s the point.

Any time I feel I am on the verge of wailing, wringing my hands, or cloaking myself in sackcloth and ashes about the hellishly disastrous state of the world, I find it useful to pause for a moment and look around. 

And usually when I make the time for that pause, what I see is an abundance of peace, order, and civility. [Of course, just as I typed that last sentence, I heard the distant wail of a siren, signifying some kind of breakdown of the social order]. 

I’m not blind. I know there is indeed mayhem in this world. There is chaos and cruelty. I am fully aware that disasters of the manmade or natural variety happen constantly. Random, senseless violence erupts without warning. Global pandemics sweep through the world, snuffing out millions of brilliant lives.

But it is good to remember that those realities are the outliers… the bizarre exceptions to the overall rule of peace, order and civility under God’s reign. 

Their rarity is the reason they are noteworthy.

As Psalm 96 reminds us: 

“Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
    The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
    He will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.”
 (Psalm 96:10-12, NRSV). 

So may you have a remarkably unremarkable day today. 

And may it bring you deep joy.

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;

18
Jun
20

Order out of Chaos

Extension cordsLook at this.

Isn’t it amazing?

My organizational genius of a wife took our laundry basket full of a mishmash of all sizes and styles of extension cords and – armed with only her labelmaker and a few plastic containers – turned it into this miracle of peace and harmony.

Ahhhh! Satisfaction.

So inspired was I by her de-cluttering, systematizing prowess that I immediately turned my attention to the task of taming the long-ignored Garage Beast!

Mission accomplished!

Satisfaction AGAIN!

In spite of the fact that I occasionally seem to be content to wallow around in an untidy environment, there remains something deeply satisfying about bringing order out of chaos.

It seems almost as if this ordering drive might be hard-wired into our humanness, doesn’t it?

Some theologians, in fact,  have argued that the Genesis creation story begins, not with God creating SOMETHING out of NOTHING, but rather with God creating ORDER out of CHAOS. Indeed, we read in Genesis 1:2, “… the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” (Gen. 1:2, NRSV).

But I wonder… if it is true that the impulse to ORDER our world is an essential, defining quality of the human experience… can we ever go overboard with this impulse? In other words, can there be such a thing as TOO MUCH order… and not enough CHAOS?

Lately we have certainly seen a whole lot of chaos in the streets of our major cities. Violent protests have erupted in the wake of murders by armed police officers. Chaos erupts. Order is imposed. MORE chaos erupts. And even more order is imposed.

But then sometimes… somehow… something new gets born out of that chaos. Ask anyone who has ever been present at the moment a brand-new baby is delivered into the world; it is a moment with more chaos and mess and disorder happening all at once than you will likely EVER see anywhere else!

And lest we forget…

  • From the chaos of 40 years of wandering in the desert, the new people Israel was born.
  • From the chaos of the American Revolution, this country was born.
  • From the chaos of riots and unrest in the early 60s, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was born.

There is no doubt that this moment is calling forth the need for something new to be born in the way our governments go about the work of ensuring public safety. The day when we need heavily armed, militarily trained phalanxes of police officers to keep the peace is gone… if indeed it ever existed in the first place.

Yes, we need order. Yes, we need peace. But not at the price of our freedom. And not if it means whole segments of our population end up living in daily fear of the very institutions appointed to ensure their safety.

You see, God has been trying to teach us this lesson from Day One… first through Abraham, then Moses, through the judges, the prophets, the kings, and through his only begotten Son, Jesus. God desperately wants us to understand that the only sure path to both peace and freedom is by following the Big Two…  1.) Loving God, and 2.) Loving Neighbor.

Loving our neighbors… WHO they are, AS they are… can be a little chaotic at times. Because let’s face it, some of them are just not that lovable.

But it is also an essential part of the people we are each made to be.

 

Abundant blessings;

22
Jan
19

Maintenance Man

sweeping the floorIf it is out, I need to put it away.

If it is crinkled, I need to iron it.

If it is dirty, I need to clean it.

If it is untidy, I need to tidy it.

If it is askew, I need to straighten it.

If it is awry, I need to set it right.

Immediately.

Right away.

Without delay.

Because…

Who knows what manner of chaos might be unleashed on the world otherwise?

In the meantime

While all of the externals of my world are getting squared and lined up nicely

While I’s are being properly dotted and T’s are concisely crossed

The world within is in shambles.

Half-drunk cans of Diet Coke

Potato chip crumbs and

Cookie wrappers

Litter the floor.

Dust bunnies the size of tumbleweeds

Roll hungrily along interior walls

Looking for mates

Or possibly victims to devour.

This cleanup task is invisible

Overwhelming

And so it remains undone.

I want to leave it to the experts.

The specialists and witch doctors…

They know this stuff SOOOOO much better than I do.

I can’t be trusted to tend and feed anything as delicate

As sensitive

As temperamental

As a soul.

Can I?




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