Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grady, Goober and The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and Santa was crazy.

He’d left all his reindeer with Goober and Grady

He said just to keep them all happy and safe,

And they did, ‘til someone left open the gate.

When Santa came by to load up the sleigh,

Goober told him they’d all run away.

Grady said, “Santa, you don’t need not to worry.”

And off like a flash they went in a hurry.

“We’ll find some replacements for what we’ve done lost,

And I bet we can do it without any cost.”

So down to the river they went in a snap

And hoped that by midnight they’d find in their trap

Eight tiny reindeer stacked neatly as logs

But to their amazement were dumb feral hogs.

“Eight of them buggars,” Goober was happy to say.

Exactly what Santa would need for his sleigh.”

So back to the house they hauled off their prize

Then harnessed them up according to size.

“The fat ones should be back here in the rear,

 And let’s put the small ones further up there.”

The hogs were all squealing and making a fuss

Then Santa yelled out “Stop all this ruckus!

Now Earl, and now Floyd, and Leon and Claude

On Gertrude and Agnus and Wanda and Maude,

Get up and get going, let’s head to the skies.”

They grunted and groaned but nothing would rise.

Down the dirt road they drug the red sleigh,

Kicking up dust and rocks on the way.

Then Goober yelled out, “I think you’re too heavy.

Throw something out or you won’t clear the levy.”

To lighten the load, Santa threw off his sash,

But the weight was too much and they started to crash.

Grady and Goober just stood asking why.

But everyone knows that pigs can’t fly.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Compared to You...

We rarely give our best. Best requires effort beyond what anyone else would expect from us, even beyond what we expect from ourselves. All we expect from ourselves is to be better than bad. Bad is the unacceptable performance. Anything better than bad is good enough.

Problem is: the line we’ve drawn to indicate where bad begins isn’t fixed and is quite blurry. We’ve made it that way so we can always find a favorable point to make our comparisons. I may not be a good singer but as long as I find someone who is worse, then by comparison I’m better. If I’m better, then at least I’m not bad. I may not be good looking, but if I find someone less good looking then I am, I’m better. If I’m better, then at least I’m not bad.

Behavior is where we make the most comparisons. Forget for a minute that God has a standard of holiness held up to our lives, a standard that requires our best. Since I rarely give my best, I choose to ignore the standard and find another way to rate my life, usually other people. If I find someone whose actions are distasteful to me, then I have a great place to set the bar for my behavior. The things they are doing are things I wouldn’t do. And since I don’t do them, I’m better than they are.

If I do hold up God’s standard, I will typically place other’s behavior next to mine. If they are doing a worse job of it than I am, I’m better. If I’m better, then at least I’m not bad, so I must be okay.

I’m able to justify everything about my life through comparison to others. I don’t have to shoot for the best, just shoot for better than them. And even if I can’t find a way to be better than someone else, I can always accuse them of dishonesty or hypocrisy. One way or the other I’ll find a way to label myself as better. And if I’m better, then at least I’m not bad.

2CO 10:12 For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Glad I’m Not God

If carrying all the responsibility of being God wasn’t hard enough, how about answering prayer? Take today: it’s raining. We need rain. We’re in a drought. How many people pray regularly for it to rain? But many don’t like to work in the rain. Many, like me, are home unable to work because of the rain. How many of them prayed it wouldn’t rain? What’s God to do? How does He choose which prayers to respond to and which ones to disregard?

Or, football games. You’ve got Christians on both teams praying to win. You’ve got fans in the stands or in front of a TV praying to win. Who gets God’s favor?

Or, a person with great dreams begging God for success? God’s got to look at much more than desire to determine if what they are asking is best. What if my idea of success ruins another person’s life? Or, gets in the way of future plans God has for me? Or, turns me into the kind of person I don’t want to be? What if my plans aren’t God’s plans?

Isaiah wrote: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

That’s why I don’t always get what I ask for. My thoughts don’t come up to the level of God’s thoughts and my ways are far inferior to His ways. Not only do I not have the perspective He has, I don’t know what’s best in every situation. He does.

If I throw up to Him a list of preferences and desires, He sorts through them with greater patience and understanding than I used to create them. Much of my praying is impulsive. I have no idea what I’m really asking for. Fortunately God isn’t obligated to me to do what I ask. He loves me too much. He is obligated to do what’s best. That’s His promise—working things out for good—accomplishing good as He determines it.

I may pray for someone’s healing when God’s ready to take them home. I may ask for comfort when discomfort will accomplish a greater purpose. I may beg for mercy when justice is God’s intention. Not that it’s wrong to ask, only wrong to assume God is being unfaithful if His answer doesn’t match what we asked for.

So, when it comes to praying, I’ll continue to ask but I trust God will answer, not according to what I’m asking for, but according to what He knows is best.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You Need to Use a Template

When I’m woodworking and need to duplicate several pieces, I often make a template. It represents the standard that I wish to use as a pattern for how each piece should look. It makes reproduction a whole lot easier.

Occasionally I need a piece to fit into a particular space. Instead of risking messing up that piece, I’ll get a scrap board and work it down to the right size. It then becomes my template.

Cutting crown molding can get confusing. You have to think upside down and backwards. To minimize the brain drain I’ve made templates of inside and outside cuts so all I have to do is match my blade to how I need the cut to go. They are my templates.

Templates are not essential but very useful when you need to hold to a standard.

When I read Scripture, I find quite a few commands that bring me to a certain response. That response is a standard God has set for how my life needs to be lived. But more than just tell me how to act, He has provided me with examples of men and women who have lived out the response He is expecting. They aren’t the standard but rather are a template to which I might adjust my actions.

If I need to test my faith, I might place my actions next to Abraham’s. Have I abandoned my trust to God as strongly as he did? If I need to test my obedience, I might place my actions next to Moses. Am I committed to follow God at all costs? If I need to test my worship, I might place my actions next to David. Do I wear my devotion like a linen ephod as I dance before Him? If I need to test my proximity to God’s intentions, I might place my actions next to the Prodigal Son. Am I wandering or resting at home with the Father? If I need to test my vision, I might place my actions next to Paul. Am I intent on following God through the doors He has opened? If I need to test my heart, I might place my actions next to John, Mark, Ruth, Samuel, Saul, Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, Abednigo, Rahab, Deborah, Samson, Mary, Martha, Nichodemus, Mary Magdaline, or a hundred other templates God placed in the story to help us flesh out what it means to walk with Him.

I don’t have to make up the agenda. I don’t have to recreate the wheel each time I need a circle. I need to read the story with an open heart to see how God worked with people throughout the book. Since He’s the same God and works in the same way, maybe I can learn from their lives how to bring my life closer to the pattern He expects from His children.

Who is your template?