Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Dog Yeller

Grady came out of the house and into the front yard. Goober was yelling at Jack, their old, lab. “Get the stick, Jack!” he shouted. Jack just sat there. “Jack! Get the stick!” Nothing.

“Goober, why are you yelling at Jack?” Grady asked.

“You ever heard of the dog whisperer?” Goober said. “He’s the guy that gets dogs to do whatever he wants.”

“Yeah, but you’re yelling, not whispering.”

“Well, I tried whispering, but Jack just sat there. Figured I’d try yelling.”

“Looks like you’re getting the same results. He’s still just sitting there. Maybe he’s confused by all the yelling. Here, let me throw the stick and you go after it so he’ll understand what to do.”

Grady grabbed a stick and threw it to the edge of the yard. Goober got on all fours and trounced after it, picked it up with his teeth and trotted back to Grady. Grady took the stick and threw it again. Goober headed out to fetch it.

About that time, Pastor Jerguson drove by and stopped. He looked at Goober and shook his head. He got out and went over to where Grady was standing. “Grady, what the heck is going on, now?”

“Well, Pastor J, Goober couldn’t get Jack to fetch this stick, so we’re showing him how to do it.”

“How’s it going so far?”

“Goober’s doing pretty good but Jack just sits there and watches. He’s either the dumbest dog ever invented or we are.”

Pastor J just shook his head, got back in his car and left. The answer was too obvious to state.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Cow With Lipstick is Still Just a Cow

Perspective is important. Perspective has the power to affect our lives. Through perspective, we can bend facts around our little fingers. With perspective, who needs absolute truth.

I’m looking at my grass, or what’s left of it. And, of course, the weeds. I’ve decided, since weeds are a shade of green, anything green will be called grass. Wallah, I no longer have a weed problem in my lawn.

I’m looking at my gut. Though medical science says it’s fat cells pooching my belly out, I’ve decided to call it muscle. Who needs a six-pack when you can just enjoy a whole case. Ergo, I no longer have a gut problem.

This is actually fun. Take whatever’s bugging you and change your perspective. Rename it something else and the problem goes away.

Little hairs growing out of the side of my ear I will call tentacles. Like Spiderman they will help me feel my way around in the dark. They now have a purpose and I rejoice in them.

Snoring is a sign I’m not dead. So by snoring, I am sending messages to Jan throughout the night that she can rest well, knowing I’m still with her.

Who needs truth when you can make up your own reality by simply changing what something is called, or redefining its purpose. I love perspective.

By my own might, I can recreate the world. I can supersede God’s commands. I can rewrite the Bible. All I need is a little creative perspective and I can change God.

Perspective is basically our take on what we are trying to understand. It’s our assessment, our coloring, our taint, our bent. Perspective is not interested in discovering what’s right, it simply wants a platform from which it may declare its opinion.

Curious thing truth. The Bible holds it up as a standard for the practice of living. It’s given much more attention by God than perspective is. In fact, never will you read: perspective will set you free, but you will find: truth will set you free.

Finding our perspective may be fun, but it comes with bondage. I wrap myself in a package of myself and walk around like some stupid mime trying to get out of a box of our own imagination. The freedom I thought I was expressing has enslaved me.

I prefer God’s approach to setting me free. I choose truth over perspective.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

I prefer slow pitch softball. Once the pitcher releases the ball you have about fifteen minutes to wait for it to get to you, decide where you want to hit it and swing away. Such leisure doesn’t come with baseball.

A major league fastball humming around 95 mph takes less than a second to leave the pitcher and reach home plate. In fact it’s less than half a second. That’s not a lot of time to deliberate. A hitter needs to know what he intends to do before the pitcher begins his wind-up then change that plan within the blink of an eye if the ball isn’t where he wants it to be. That’s why averages in the .300’s are remarkable.

I remember the coach saying, “Wait for your pitch.” In softball that’s no problem. You’ve got half the day for the ball to get there. You’ve figured out everything about it: how it’s spinning, when it will arrive, what brand it is, what you want to do with it. But to only have .4 seconds within which to make those discoveries, waiting on your pitch is asking a bit much.

For most of us, our brain can’t react within .4 seconds to get make a decision and get our bat swinging. The catcher’s already throwing the ball back by the time we finally swing through. How do you wait for what you can’t see?

God says repeatedly in Scripture to wait for Him. It implies He has things going on we just can’t see, and, if we wait, it will all be clear soon. Like calling 911. They don’t instantly appear. They usually have to drive a while to get there.

God can work instantly but often times out events with resources. We call them coincidences while in reality, God is simply making divine appointments. He is not surprised when we call out to Him and doesn’t have to travel to get there. But the answer to what we cry out for may be a not yet, simply because all the pieces aren’t in place yet.

The doctor that’s going to perform the surgery that saves your life may still be in medical school. The person that’s going to help you in your time of grief may have yet to move next door. The dog that’s going to smell the fire and wake you to escape your burning house may not even be born yet. The kid that’s going to help you understand God’s love is only a toddler.

And a hundred other things God will use to work out His intentions in your life may need time to get in place. But without doubt, God is faithful. They will be there when we need them.

Wait on the Lord. He’s never early, never late, always right on time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Soul Surfer: a random act of God

During a storm a few months ago, the alarm in our church went off, requiring one of our men to get out of bed and meet a deputy to verify no break-in had occurred. It hadn’t. The next day we discovered the code on our alarm indicated two office windows had been broken. They hadn’t. What had happened was a tree a hundred yards behind the building had been struck by lightening. The thunder that accompanied that strike rattled everything around, including those windows. The force was so great the windows thought they had been broken.
I’ve been rattled like that. Several years ago, I was caught in a thunderstorm while playing golf. A lightening strike hit so close you could taste the electricity in the air. Needless to say we made it back to the clubhouse in record time.
Lightening is a real danger with real consequences. Annually over 500 people in the United States are hit by lightening. Ten percent of them don’t survive.
Getting struck by lightening is the best example of the old expression: being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lightening isn’t looking for you. It’s not targeting you. It’s simply a natural response to electrodes colliding. Where it goes and what it hits is totally random.
A lot of what happens in life is random. Car accidents, falls, hitting your thumb with a hammer, catching a virus, cancer—things happen with no directed purpose. We’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then there are other things.
I watched Soul Surfer again last night. The story of Bethany Hamilton, a promising, teenage, professional surfer who had her arm bitten off by a shark. It is an amazing story of courage and faith. Sean McNamara did an incredible job bringing the story to film.
In the backstory she and her mom talk about them praying for a couple of weeks prior to that moment about how God might want to use her to His glory. And though a shark bite seems cruel and heartless, it was an event that God used to send her story and His love around the world. She said she would not go back and undo what happened because of how what happened to her has helped change lives.
I believe heavily in the sovereignty of God. With all knowledge, power and presence, He is without limitation. He has the right to use whatever means He chooses to accomplish what’s best in our lives.
I have no problem believing God answered Bethany’s prayer of willingness to be used, and even though it seems an extreme answer, it obviously fits the criteria through which God can be glorified.
I do not place every event in that same category. There is still random stuff going on. But even in the random stuff God is there to implement a plan as soon as the random stuff's dust settles. Intentional or random both come under God having plans for us. (Jer. 29)
There are those occasions through which God chooses the crisis to work His plans. On other occasions those crises are simply random moments in time. But in those random moments, though God is not causing what happens to happen, when it happens, He has a plan through which we might see His goodness working in our lives. For me that works. It forces me to look forward to the therefore, not backwards to regret.
To see it as a therefore makes me acknowledge something happened and believe that it came with a plan attached.
I have no problem believing Bethany’s story. In my faith, God remained faithful to her while having a shark bite off her arm. But if not, and it was random, God was still there, working out His plans for her that brought about His good in her life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Time to Chunk the Swimmies

Playing in the shallow end is fine unless you’re a diver. Divers need deeper water. If I’m going off the high board, I want there to be plenty of space below to absorb the force of my body piercing the surface. I need to be able to know that I’m not going to suddenly stick my head into the concrete at the bottom of the pool.

Now I’m not saying that splashing around isn’t fun. It’s just not as exciting as a purposeful freefall from three meters. You can enjoy lots of fun games in three or four feet of water, but none are going to increase your ability to swim. If fun is the goal, shallow is fine. If maturing your ability is the agenda, you gotta go deeper.

The shallow end has a good purpose. It’s where we can become introduced to the joy of the water. The risks are minimal, since, if we become distressed, all we have to do is stand up. Moving to the deeper end adds challenges and risk.

You don’t begin in the deep waters. You’re not equipped to handle it yet. If I’m beyond being able to touch bottom and I don’t know of another way to rescue myself than standing up, I’m probably going to drown. I need the shallows until my skills push me out to the deep.

The shallows are the elementary phase of life where I learn faith. But the goal of faith is to dive and go deep. I’ll never experience the ultimate intentions of faith splashing around with the babies. I’ve gotta decide to follow the urge to dive.

And for goodness sake, take off those swimmies!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

God Help Us!

Ever feel overwhelmed by life? When all you have to do is more than the amount of time you have to do it in? When things you thought were wrapped up become unraveled and need attention again? When you go to bed tired from the day, only to wake up tired in advance from the day you face? When you know for certain if the phone rings again you’ll scream and pull somebody’s hair out? Feeling overwhelmed is overwhelming.
Emma didn’t want her Granna to leave yesterday. She began saying no and then escalated to a full-blown emotional breakdown. There are times I wish it were that easy. Just let the emotions flow. Just let it out, let the world know that I’ve reached my limit. I’m not sure how that would help my schedule or weave back the unraveled ends or fill me with strength for the day, but it might reduce “overwhelmed” down to just “whelmed” for a few minutes.
I can live with whelmed. Whelmed says, “I’ve got much to do and the capabilities by which I can do it.” It means, if I place one foot in front of the other, I’ll get to where I need to go, if I turn this wrench a few more times I’ll have this nut tightened, if I strain a little more I’ll have this load lifted. Whelmed is the realm of being equal to the task.
So, how did I go from whelmed to overwhelmed? By not taking care of business as I go, letting stuff pile up. It comes when I take on more than I should, saying "yes" when the more appropriate word would have been "no". Making too many promises and then carrying the fear of letting everyone down. For me, it starts when I begin a new project before I’ve completed the old.
Great, now how do I go from overwhelmed back down to whelmed? Staying faithful to what’s important. In medical emergency treatment an assessment is taken to determine the level of injury and the urgency of treatment required. The higher the need, the faster the help. I can begin by prioritizing what I’ve committed to. Somebody may have to wait. In time, I’ll get it all done. That’s what time is for. I can get nothing done all at once.
The provision of God is to wait upon Him for strength. “God help me!” is a legitimate prayer for the overwhelmed. I don’t know how I need help, just that I need help. Once I’ve given Him my burden, He provides the extra “lift” I need to go on. I will mount up with wings like eagles, I will run and not become weary.
Let me lead us in prayer: “God help us! Amen.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Grady, Goober and the Communion Lie

The truth needs to be told. It was time for communion and the usual precautions had been taken. Typically, the deacons filled the trays with cups of grape juice and crackers, set everything on the table in front of the pulpit and covered it all with a white sheet. At least that’s how they used to do it until the rumors of dead bodies in the basement got the children too afraid to attend.
It all started when the Masters Brothers’ Funeral Home had a power failure back during the summer and needed a cool place to store a couple of folks over night. Pastor Jerguson suggested they bring them over and put them in the basement, which typically stayed cooler than the rest of the church.
Within a couple of hours the first of the bodies arrived at the church by hearse. Grady, Goober, Pastor Jerguson and a handful of deacons met at the church to get the caskets into the basement. They all grabbed a handle and started down the first section of steps but were stopped at the landing. Seems the stairs never weren’t intended to accommodate a casket.
Goober suggested they stand it on end and scoot it around like you would a tall dresser. Grady agreed but Pastor Jerguson vetoed in fear that the body would crumple down at the bottom and they wouldn’t be able to get him straightened back out.
They turned around and brought the casket back up the steps. “I’ve got a better idea,” Goober said.  “Since we need a cool place, why don’t we take them over to the Piggly Wiggly and put it in their freezer. That’ll keep them really cool.”
The men actually agreed and took the two bodies to the meat department. But that didn’t stop the rumors that there were dead bodies being kept in the basement of the church. In fact, when that rumor was evaluated over against the truth, it seemed better for folks to believe in bodies in the basement than find out they had been stored at the Piggly Wiggly.
The solution was for the deacons to quit covering the table with the white sheet so the children would go into the auditorium when the Lord’s Supper was being served. It looked too much like a body covered up with a sheet. And though communion did deal with Jesus’ death, and the elements represented his body and blood, the sheet covering the table made it all too authentic.
But on this day, Goober could bear the lie no more. Just when Pastor Jerguson was repeating “Take this in rememberance…” Goober jumped up and yelled, “It’s all my fault!”
Not knowing what he was behind this confession, the church folks thought he was having a spiritual moment of identity with the death of Christ. The Deacons, Pastor Jerguson and Grady knew better.
Having someone tackled and dragged out of the service after such a proclamation was highly unusual. Grady had one leg and Ralph Pigeon had the other. Pastor Jerguson crammed a hymnal into Goober's mouth. As Goober was sliding across the floor he kept mumbling, “It’s my fault. It’s my fault.”
The Lord’s supper became pretty much routine after that. Try as he might in urging the people to personalize the death of Christ as having been done for them personally, Pastor Jerguson could get no one to express that identity out loud.