Month: December 2015

What Child is This?

There will be no attempt to describe the birth of Jesus in any unique way here. He was born like no one had been, nor has been. He was conceived from out of this world, into this world. The couple responsible for raising this child only had a slight clue what they were doing. They were honorable people.

The weight on their shoulders was nothing like the weight on his. He would bear everything that is bad and separates us from God. He willingly came here and left here to be everything we will ever need.

It is still unbelievable and is the best example of the mystery that can only be explained by immense love on the part of the father and the son. We can only marvel that all this was done for us, each of us and all of us. If we agree and accept, we will live forever. If not, we won’t. We must be confronted with our need, and act accordingly.

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The Trouble with People

The trouble with people is … well, people. We are our own worst enemy. The comic strip character Pogo’s famous quote, “We have met the enemy, and he is us”, rings true. What’s worse, we all qualify for this category. Perfection eludes us, as individuals as well as nations. Try as we might to overcome our shortcomings with the next perfect solution, we often make things worse.

All this leads us back to where we are: sinners in need of a savior. It’s painful to watch those who try to ignore the fact that we will never get it all right by trying to solve everything for everyone. Government cannot do it, nor can politics. There is no party that will bring back our country, because it wasn’t really ours in the first place. We can only become a better city, county, state or nation by  becoming once again dependent on an everlasting, perfect God. Those who did their best to organize the separate states into a unified whole recognized the fact that people cannot long remain pure in thought and intent. Somewhere the pull for power will overcome. Thus, the best ideas were brought together to slow down the pace of change so no one person could mess things up too badly.

As trustees of our surroundings, we can do our part by leaving it better than when we came into it. This is our watch. We are at our post. Being strong spiritually, physically and mentally will be our best gift to those who follow us.

 

 

Too Complicated

Humans have trouble keeping things simple. We tend to add to any truth by trying to explain it further. We over-explain it to the point that no one recognizes the truth, but our version, which is not the original. Preachers who have not prepared well usually talk too long. It’s kind of a joke among preachers, but a nervous one. We know it’s true.

If anyone reading is like me, you are having a tendency to want to simplify. Most of the time, unless absolutely necessary, leave the truth alone. It will speak and stand for itself. This doesn’t necessarily mean keep silent when truth is being subverted, but still do so as efficiently as possible.

Anything beyond the simple truth quickly becomes about us, rather than the truth. The human pull is to impress others with the fact that we know the truth (and none of us believes he doesn’t). As Proverbs speaks eloquently, truth is God’s and no one else’s. I like it that way.

 

Tiny Life

Life is a blessed, amazing thing, even if it only lasts a couple of hours. Today I was reminded that a baby at 23 weeks is the tiniest human I have ever seen. Entering the room by request, I expected small, but I was amazed at tiny. Though weak and unable to keep breathing without help, he was still perfect in shape and the detail of his fingers was nothing short of a work of divine art.

The decision to transfer him to a larger children’s hospital was changed just before the trip, so five nurses in flight suits brought him back into the room to be with family. So gentle and respectful they were that I felt like an intruder. One explained to the family what to expect once support was withdrawn, and the invasive tubes were removed.

His mother could feel the impulsive grip on just a part of her finger and she had to say it. The love that surrounded him amidst the pride, sadness, and fleeting moments of presence magnified this moment to the level of world history to me. No amount of proclaimed greatness for any world leader could surpass this little man. They had asked that he be baptized. A small bowl with warm water was provided by quite, loving caregivers. Methods and doctrine do not enter this picture. Three drops of warm water on that precious forehead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) brought comfort to family, and was simply a weak gesture in a God-owned atmosphere. He had a name! I was privileged to say it out loud just above a choked-up whisper asking God to welcome him only a brief time after he was separated from his mother’s womb. A little while here, and back to the warm embrace of Almighty God. We were in the middle doing all we could do. We are left to wonder.

 

Language

When stationed in Germany, I had the opportunity to visit several other countries. I had learned German in college, so I could practice and get along in most things I wanted to do there. With the exception of England, I knew little or nothing of the languages of France, Italy, or Belgium. Neither did I have any expectation that they should learn English simply to accomodate me. It was nice if they did if I was having difficulty, but my expectations were low. As a Military Police Station Commander, part of my job was to conitnue good relations with the local German police. One particular police chief was nearly impossible to understand, so I talked with his deputy who spoke good (British) English. He explained that the chief did speak with a different rhythm and dialect and was a little more difficult to understand. Still, the problem was not his, but mine.

We can do nice things for people who come to our country to accomodate them, especially if they come here to do business or missionary work. Yet, I feel no pressure or responsibility to learn every language of every people group who I may meet. It would be courteous to do so, but being required is not helping them to learn anything about us.

It may seem heartless to some, but I would have expected to learn German extensively if I had decided to remain there for longer or permanently. This is not incorrect (politically or otherwise) but an invitation to welcome them into our country where we speak English.

Outward Appearance

I must admit I have put too much emphasis on how a person looks at times. I have consistently been fooled about a person because of that tendency. A person who strikes me first as a certain type of individual turns out the be much different, sometimes with their first sentence.

Using a different approach, it takes at least a neutral view, and then look for the good there. People as I remember them may look different (especially with age), but I still know them, and they are still there despite physical changes that have occurred. Once a conversation starts, it doesn’t take long to realize it is the person I knew, in a good way. A few who weren’t so enjoyable to be around in the past have turned out rather well in my limited opinion. Many of them have expressed faith in God that shouldn’t surprise me but does.

I hope to get better at this as I continue to look older and run the risk of being misinterpreted myself. I wouldn’t want to be treated differently than I attempt to treat others.

 

 

Under Construction

Twice when I visited in Montana, the residents there remarked there were two seasons in Montana: “winter” and “road construction”. That seems a lot like the way it is with us. We are either frozen, or needing a lot of work.

The “winter” of our lives, those times when we seem to be stuck and unable to get any traction, are frustrating but needful. We have time to squirm and whine, but also realize we are not in control of the weather, nor of outside variables. That can give us a better insight into what needs to happen during the “construction” times.

We are in the process of being shaped and molded into something useful in this world. Scripture talks about the potter and the clay, and the continuous shaping and changing the master potter uses on us.

So, whether we are in our winter time or construction time, if we don’t interfere, we will be transformed in the likeness of our Father. I think it’s okay to be uncomfortable if I know the one who is working on me also loves me dearly.

Shut Up and Trust Me

In the biblical story of Job, we find a difficult narrative that hits at the very heart of human dilemmas: trusting that which we do not understand and seems unfair.

Job was a righteous man, yet bad things happened to him. These were not merely inconvenciences, but major disasters involving our worst nightmares. Job questioned, demanded, and begged God to come and tell him what he had done wrong so he could admit it. Yet, for a long while, no answer.

Friends tried to explain it: Job had sinned terribly, thus God was punishing him. This didn’t make sense to Job, especially since he was unaware of his violation.

Finally, God answered Job with a series of questions, which neither Job nor we could answer. My version of what God was teaching Job was, “I am God and you are not.” My blunt version is, “Shut up and trust me.”

The very things we do not like are caught up in this story, that of not being in control, and not knowing why we are not in control. This is God’s business, though we want it to to be ours. One more thing that tops off all the unfair things we learn from this story is that Job likely could not have handled the background of the whole episode. As far as we know, God never told Job why the bad things happened. An agreement between Satan and God allowed Satan to ransack Job’s life and possessions, so God could continue to show that Job was faithful.

Does God still do this today? I do not know, but if he did, he would tell me the same thing, shut up and trust him. I’m working on it.

Where Credit Is Due

The atmosphere today has gotten to the point where any hint of racism, bigotry, inconconsistency, or spitting on the sidewalk is offensive in some way. The most extreme of those sentiments is of past leaders.

Who among us (or them) is perfect in every way? Why can’t we not admire those things they did that were good, and not agree with everything they did otherwise? Does not the good given to our legacy warrant something more than destroying every semblance of history?

These overeactions are typical of those who expect perfection in people, including those brilliant minds who authored the most important documents that created our nation. God can redeem each soul, we could at least redeem their good works.

Weddings and Funerals

A little over a month ago I presided over a funeral and a wedding on the same day. I was glad they were in that order. At least the latter part of the day was a happier occasion. I don’t like those kinds of days, because the emotions are on a roller coaster, and I was in front of people for both.

It did remind me that life is just like that. Some days will be joyful; others will be almost unbearably sorrowful. Between the two we are stretched to  our current maximum limits. Afterward, our limits seem to be greater, as if the tension made us larger and more capable of coming crises. These are painful, but also enlightening.

So, the bottom line is we are much more powerless than we like to admit, and either we collapse under the weight or we become dependent on a greater power. The God who created us  constantly reminds us to stay out of his way so he can teach us about him. In the process we also learn things about ourselves.