Saturday, October 23, 2010
"Just as I am, Thou wilt receive; Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve, Oh, Lamb of God I come . . ."
It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to keep this lyric in mind throughout our lives of faith. Unfortunately, once we become believers, once we walk the aisle, once we submit to the 'counselors waiting,' our sinning does not stop. We need welcome, pardon, cleansing, etc., daily -- for the rest of our lives on earth.
Then I wondered if Jesus ever gets tired of forgiving. I wonder if he ever gets exasperated over seeing me repeat the same errors over and over again. I wonder if he ever feels like saying, "Enough is enough! Off to the other place with you."
Peter asked him, "Lord how many times must I forgive my brother?"
Jesus responded, "Seventy times seven." I think most Bible scholars would agree that Jesus did not mean exactly 490 times. No, he meant "as often as your brother needs forgiving, forgive him."
And then my heart leapt within me. No. Jesus does not get tired of forgiving, even though I do the same foolish things over and over again. As long as I come to him, he forgives. Would he do less than he has taught us to do?
Just as I am, Oh Lord, I come . . .
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I pray for my country, the United States of America. The ‘United States of America,’ such a sweet sounding name; a name that rolls out of my heart like honey. This has been a nation that you have blessed, blessed far beyond that of any nation in history.
But this nation has turned its back on you and has gone the way of sin, secularism and evil. It seems we have been sliding down a steep grade and approaching a cliff, a drop-off, and we can’t stop. It seems we are headed for a fall into an unimaginable abyss of economic and moral ruin.
Lord, I ask that you hold back the forces of evil, the evil of terrorism, abuse of power, abortion, sexual perversion, willful ignorance and greed. Grant to us once again, stability in your grace. Grant us equilibrium and peace. Help us to learn to follow the only commandment you ever really gave us: to believe in you, to love you, and love one another.
In the Name of Jesus Christ and for the sake of my country, I ask this.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I went into the room for the coffeepot. I always rinse out the coffeepot before I make coffee. When I came out of the room with the coffeepot, Cookie was still there. It was then that I noticed something else. A dead bird. The cat had killed yet another bird. That’s what cats do, right? They kill the outside animals and bring them inside and present them to their humans saying, “I did it again! Here’s a present just for you!” Cats have no sense of propriety.
I rinsed the coffeepot and decided I had to do something about the dead bird. What? I secured some tissue paper, folded it neatly, and went to pick up the bird and dispose of its tiny carcass in the trash. When I picked it up, I noticed immediately that its eyes were partially open and its little beak opened and closed weakly. As I held it, I could feel its tiny heart rapidly beating through the tissue.
I was angry at the cat. It seemed to me that if you’re going to be a cat and kill beautiful things, that you could be quick about it and finish the job mercifully. But Cookie wanted to play. So she tortured the little thing, knowing that in time it surely would die, she would get bored with it, and walk stiffly off, leaving it on the floor for the humans to deal with.
I gently wrapped the bird in the tissue paper. It was brown with flecks of black, and green, and yellow. Its beak was long and curved. Maybe God made it that way so that it could dig insects out of flowers. At first, I thought it might be a hummingbird, but it was too large for that. It’s little body swelled and retreated with each labored breath. I took it downstairs and outside on the deck; I set it gently on the railing. To my surprise, it stood on both feet. I watched it for a moment, feathers rising and falling, hoping it would get better and fly away and live another day. I came back inside, leaving it to its fate.
So I thought of the song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” followed by the thought , “Yeah, right. I guess he missed this one.” Not much faith in my ancient brain. Not much hope for this little bird. God must have been having lunch.
Then it hit me. Suppose I had ignored this whole thing? Suppose instead of dealing with what I thought was a dead bird, I just made my coffee, and left the carcass on the floor for the cat to eat, or for someone else to pick up. I must tell you, the thought occurred to me. Instead, I cared for it. When I learned that it was still alive, my heart was touched deeply by its plight. I wanted it to live and fly again another day.
So, is it too far-fetched to think that maybe God was using me to care for this tiny bundle of feathers? Is his eye really on the sparrow? Does God really care when a cat kills, or tries to kill, a lovely creature? You know, I think he does! And if he really cares about this little bird, how does he feel about you and me?
When I finished writing about the bird, I went downstairs to check on it. I sort of expected it to be dead.
But it was sitting up, clearly breathing and turning its head back and forth. It turned, looked at me, (I could have sworn it peeped, "Thanks, c'ya! And get rid of that freakin' cat, pal!") and then in the blink of an eye, it spread its wings and flew to a nearby tree. It was indeed going to live another day. And just to let me know that it was fine and healthy, it left a little bird turd on the tissue wrapping.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
OK, let’s start again.
Soph-ist-ry – noun, a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.
If there is anything I despise, it is religious sophistry.
“Who sinned,” they asked, “this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Turns out that neither the man nor his parents sinned. Instead, his blindness triggered an occasion for the glory of God to be seen and experienced.
A married woman was “caught” having sex with someone not her husband; caught by religious voyeurs, “peeping Toms,” who no doubt, enjoyed the show before they burst through the door to arrest her (and not him). “The Law says she should be stoned!” they told Jesus, “but what do you say?” Turns out the only one credentialed enough to stone her . . . didn’t!
The Samaritans refused to let Jesus and the disciples hang out with them. The disciples, infuriated, asked Jesus, “Let’s call down fire from heaven and burn them alive!” Not so subtle. Jesus looked at them as if they had crawled from under a rock. They were clueless. “You are witless of the hateful spirit inside you,” Jesus responded.
Someone did a survey. “What do you think of Jesus?” they asked. “Oh, he was a great guy.” “The Son of God.” “He taught us how to love.” “He forgave us of our sins.” “He was a great Teacher.”
Then they asked, “What do you think of Christians?” “Bigoted!” “Hypocrites!” “Judgmental.” “The last thing I want to be is a “born again” Christian.”
Survey says? Jesus is cool. His followers are not.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
And a melody in your heart
What a wonderful way to start the day!
Click here to hear Tony Bennett sing
This is one of the almost 400 songs on my Mp3 player that I listen to while sweating my way through 45 minutes of heavy stationary cycling each morning.
Ok. So Tony Bennett dates me. I haven't even caught up with "The Boss," not to speak of the stunning Taylor Swift. Next great crooner? Michael Bublé! His incredible voice and tonal characterizations will put you on the edge of your seat.
Bennett's rendering of this song excites me not only because of the catchy tune and its upbeat message, but also because it's true.
I know it is true because of what I learned a few days after I volunteered for the Draft. In those days, that's how a lot of guys went into the military. I can tell you that I learned how to put a spit shine on my boots. And when I volunteered for the Airborne, I learned how to put a spit shine on my spit shine.
There was intense competition in the barracks. All of us wanted to "outshine" the other. We compared our shines and if one guy did it better that the others, we all wanted to know how he got that shine. Was he using a special brand of polish? Did he use a special brush stroke? Did he snap and pop the shine rag better than the rest of us? Or, maybe his spit had a special, mystical quality!
Then we all fell in for inspection by our DI (Drill Instructor). He stood in front of each man looking mean and tough. He examined helmet, shave, haircut, collar, tie, and uniform. Then with one blinding sweep of his hand he snapped our 9 1/2 pound M1 rifle (never a gun) from our hands like it was a toothpick, twirling it around to gaze at the breech, butt and barrel, examining for dust or dirt with microscopic vision.
But these were all preliminaries. The rifle was no big thing. Most of us could take it apart and put it back together in something under three minutes -- blindfolded!
What we really held our breath for was his appraisal of the shine on our boots. If he didn't like that, nothing else mattered. If he saw so much as a speck, he looked that soldier in the eye with an expession of pathetic disdain. His mouth twisted and his cheeks puffed with the portent and distinct possibility of puke all over a clean, starched uniform. Conversely, if he liked what he saw, he leaned over and whispered, "Squared away boots, trooper!" One could not dream of deeper affirmation than this. For the rest of the day and until the next inspection, no matter the sweat and strain, obstacle course or firing squad, you were euphoric.
I can tell you from personal experience, putting a shine on your shoes most emphatically puts a melody in your heart.
Moving on from life in boot camp to life in the frantic world of "Dancing with the Stars," cellphones, texting, video games, Wall Street, foreclosures, divisive politics, shootings in high schools and colleges, drugs and terrorism -- we might do well to put a shine on the shoes of how we deal with life in such a place. Sometimes life feels like an out-of-control locomotive plunging headlong into a tunnel with no light at the end. How do we find a way to rise above these things to a higher, more satisfying and secure plane of living?
Despite his announcement of impending crucifixion, Jesus was no pessimist. Although he may have had the qualifications for being a DI. I can easily picture him barking at the disciples, "Aw' right you weenies, for missing prayers this morning, drop and give me 20!" But he is the one who taught us of the Father who numbers the hairs on our heads as well as the stars in the heavens; the loving God who clothes the lilies of the field better than Solomon, yet cares for us more gloriously than these; the watchful Father who notices the fall of a sparrow, yet is far more engaged in the details of our lives. Jesus is the one who brings "life more abundantly" to those who believe.
Jesus had a shine on his shoes . . . Ok, sandals.
What was the point of Jesus' washing the feet of the disciples? Most Bible scholars conclude that Jesus was giving them an example of humility. Well, maybe. But could it have been that he was also preparing their feet to walk in his sandals? The ones with the shine?
Want to walk on a higher plane? Want to feel the tracks beneath your feet that will take you through the tunnel to the light on the other side? Jesus has a pair of spit shined shoes, er, sandals for you. Slip them on and your heart will sing!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
To my mind, the most compelling moment of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, is not the performance, or the medals, or the cheers. It isn’t even in the incredible stories of the years of hard work these athletes did, nor the agonizing strain it took to get there. Over and over again, regardless that the medal was bronze, silver or gold, regardless if there was a medal at all, in their interviews with the media, you heard them say, “I left it all on the ice.”
Think of it. The countless hours poured into training, the injuries, the logistics of training, the diets, the food and weight management, miles ran, gym workouts, weights lifted, intense, unwavering focus, the determination. How many falls were there? How many failures? Mistakes? How many ripped and torn, how many strained and sprained muscles? How many bruises? How many doctor’s visits? How much demand on time? What sacrifices made? How many goals not attained? Train! Train! Train! Little or none of the goodies we all take for granted: Sleeping in, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, “recreational” drugs, late night hours, TV, movies, computer games, expensive toys, the “pleasure” of dissipation, the obsession to be comfortable and enjoy ourselves.
They left it all on the ice.
The beaming smiles and tears of joy at the end of an outstanding performance tells you that there aren’t many moments in life like that. What a feeling! What ecstasy! What an orgasm of the spirit!
They left it all on the ice.
They earned the right and the privilege to say that. This did not come by doing nothing with one’s life. You know something? I want that. When I step off the ice from this life into the next, I want to look Jesus in the eye and say without shame, without holding back, in total, utter genuineness, with rock-solid credibility, “Lord, I did it. I left it all on the ice.”
Jesus was able to say that. Paul said it. Others have said it. I want to earn that privilege, too. God grant each and every believer, disciple and follower of Jesus Christ the incredible joy and pride in saying, “I left it ALL on the ice!”