Friday, February 12, 2010

the clock

I am so happy. So darned happy.

Happiness is not joy, but sometimes choosing joy will lead to a strange realization: hey, I'm happy. It's a splendid thing.

A friend of mine whose family is going through a very difficult time right now told me a story about how they had been praying God would answer several prayers - several big prayers - and were feeling rather neglected. Then one day, they left a really expensive, really sentimental clock on an airplane. Sounds like a random sidenote, but losing that clock sort of put them over the edge. We all get there: that place where things seemed, moments before, to have descended as far as they could possibly go, and then... you lose the clock. Frantic, they called the airline, they made every effort to track it down, but ultimately - nothing. Something prompted them to utter a prayer - God, help us find that stupid thing - and then, back to reality. Back to bigger problems.

A few weeks later, still no "major" prayers answered, a phone call; it's the airline, and, "ma'am, we have your clock". What did my friend's mother say to God that day? "About time, Lord"? No. She simply said, "Well, it's not financial stability or perfect health, but Lord, I'll take it. Thank You." I'll take it. Sometimes it's the downward spiral that forces our eyes upward.

I loved that story. Every day, God wants us to "open our mouths so He can fill them" (Psalm 81:10). Sometimes we get so concerned with what He's going to give us, we just plain forget to open up. He may not give us exactly what we were hoping for - but He'll give us what we need. And sometimes what we need is just to know He's still interested, He's still around, He still cares about the little things. Oh, the little things! How often they are the ones that deserve our attention, when for all the world we're convinced we'll be left behind, or left poor or sick or friendless, if we shift our allegiance from worry to wonder! This is the God who gives us fireflies, the God of summer breezes and waterfalls and daffodils and snowflakes and the crunch of autumn leaves beneath our feet! Would we all remember to breathe it in and whisper gratefully to the sky, "Father, I'll take it"...

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."
Colossians 3:14

Today, what is your 'clock'?

Friday, September 11, 2009

for which you stand

Last December, I had lunch with a friend. We talked about the election, the war, the Middle East, Israel, and Jesus. She reminded me of the verse in Matthew that I referenced last week. I found myself balking a bit because quite honestly, I had missed it. In all my years of being a Christian, I hadn't remembered what was possibly one of the most piercing things Jesus would utter.

That word - that many will turn away, or, as some translations put it, that the love of many will grow cold - sat within my soul for weeks. I found it disturbing. Why would Christians - those who had claimed to love Christ and His church - turn away? Especially when we are, as believers, educated about what's coming, at least to a degree, and what we stand to inherit through Him? My heart felt heavy as it became clearer to me: maybe we don't all totally understand anymore what defines a Christian, what sets us apart, what can give us assurance, despite our own weakness, that we won't turn away. As I look at my daughters, I wonder if the road they will walk will be darker than my own? Most certainly. At every junction in their path, they will be confronted with a choice: God or man. This may sound blase, considering this choice seems to have presented itself to believers for generations. But I think the choice will get less clear - grayer, if you will. No longer will it be black and white - here I stand for Christ, here the world. Instead, I believe they will begin to experience a world in which they are taught they can stand for both. In fact, to do so in the eyes of the world and in some cases, the church, will be a mark of progressivism, or realism, in the faith. Indeed, even now we are living in a time when black and white are no longer considered appropriate symbols for, well, anything. Nothing can be completely good or bad, completely wrong or right - everything must be draped in the uncertainty of gray. To determine anything as absolute is to be determined absolutely backward.

What a weapon Satan is wielding! He knows that we "have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside [our heads]....[that we don't] think about doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical', 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'" (The Screwtape Letters, p. 1).

Are you swept away by being good? Even as a Christian, are you convinced, somewhere in the corner of your heart, that goodness does, in fact, matter? There is a video on YouTube about the new American pledge. What we should all be standing for. I heard it was atrocious; I found it actually rather innocuous. It is a five minute stream of celebrities determining to pledge themselves to one endeavor or the other, from turning off the lights to being good parents. Aside from a few overtly politicizing statements, they're all good objectives. Most of us could stand to do more good things. But Good will be the enemy of the Best every time.

How do you know you won't be one of the many? Be near to Him and He will be near to you - live in Him, and He will live in you. Do good not to get to Him, or to please Him, or to make a good impression - no, do good when you can't help but do good. When you are swept away by Him, and goodness - and love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and faithfulness, and gentleness and self-control - flows out of you, not because of you, but because of Him.

When Jesus said that we are to love Him with all of our hearts, and all of our souls, and all of our minds, He was giving us a clue. A tactic for battle. We are dimensional. We are multi-faceted. We are made to feel, to understand, and to know. With these three things, we can experience love and hope and faith. We can find a relationship with Christ that isn't flat and conventional and based on routine or ritual - hardly a relationship, I daresay - but rather something messy and difficult but rewarding and rejuvenating. Something living, breathing... something alive that keeps us alive. But the battle rages. And Satan will use the Father's gifts against us. Be careful not to let what you think you feel, or what you think you understand, or what you think you know become what you proclaim as truth.

He is Truth. And there is nothing gray about Him.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

pop quiz

"Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, 'I am the Christ, the Messiah.' They will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don't panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming.

They are going to throw you to the wolves and kill you, everyone hating you because you carry My name.... it will be dog-eat-dog.

For many, the overwhelming spread of evil will do them in - nothing left of their love but a mound of ashes." (from Matthew 24)

Question 1:
How do you know you won't be one of the many?