"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Good Grief

Charlie Brown only wants to be understood. Is that asking too much? Trouble is, most of the people in his cartoon life just don't get him, and despite his frustration, his response doesn't get any rougher than, "Good Grief!" Everyone is misunderstood. Everyone experiences frustration from it. Grief happens when we are separated from something we believe is essential to our well-being. It might be a loved-one's death, a relationship's dissolution or the discovery of a deeply held belief's fallacy. Grief can cause a unique, excruciating pain that stabs to the depths of our souls, that can make us wonder if we will survive it, or if we want to survive it. Even such extreme grief can become good if we allow it to change our lives and make us emotionally, mentally and spiritually stronger. Maybe Charles Schultz never meant for us to analyze Charlie Brown's frustrated exclamation, but even the most unlikely subjects often yield deeper meanings when closely examined. "Good grief" suggests the best grief of all: the life-changing grief that occurs when God first opens our sin-blinded eyes for a glimpse of His holiness. At least four kinds of traumatic separation occur in that moment of divine revelation: first, our prized illusion of personal goodness dies. Second, the relationship with our world that we've built upon that illusion dies. Third, the deeply held belief that God loves us because we're not so bad dies. And once we accept those three deaths, our long list of prized excuses dies. Schultz's Charlie Brown always seemed aware of his imperfections. If he were real, I can just hear his exclamation when God made His infinite love known to the poor, bald-headed kid, "Good grief, it was there all the time."

Forgiving Solomon Long

Some people I respect raved about Chris Well's FORGIVING SOLOMON LONG. In response, I risked a few short minutes by reading the excerpt on his web site. It was good. I might have started such a book differently, but this was good ... good enough that I intend to read the book.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Chain of Command

Peter, the "stone" of Jesus' disciples, at times seemed as useful to his Master as a pebble in His sandal. Yet, the "stone" humbly subjected himself to his Master's discipline and learned to love his place among Christ's body. So well did the bombastic fisherman fall into line that Jesus inspired him to write letters to believers that became part of our guide for life. The man who denied Jesus three times at His point of greatest need became a chief officer in Jesus' chain of command. Leadership is both a high privilege and a grave responsibility. Has any one of us, in his most secret thoughts, not wondered how someone else was assigned some church office while we weren't even considered for the job? We wouldn't call it envy; far from it. But the thought was there. Before any of us consider him or herself qualified for some high-profile position, whether in the church, at work, or with the government, let us examine our performance in our existing sphere of influence. Every one of us, for example, has the responsibility to govern his own mind, to keep it focused on whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. If we can't control our own brains, how can take in charge of anyone else? Each of us has charge of our own eyes, to view only what is profitable for godly living. If we can't control our own eyes, well ... Each of us has charge of our own hands, to possess only what is rightly ours, working honestly for our daily bread. If we can't control our own hands, well ... Each of us has charge of our own feet, to follow the righteous path God has prepared for us. If we can't control our own feet, well ... Most of us rank-and-file Christians have no aspirations toward church leadership and cannot imagine ourselves in charge of anything. But the most lowly of us are already high up in a chain of command. God has commissioned us with the responsibility for controlling ourselves. Let us fulfill that most basic of commands before taking on broader responsibilities.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Every life is a story. Every story deserves to be told. Every told story conveys a message. Every message offers answers to life's conundrums, be they superficial, trivial and erroneous, or deep, profound and truthful. The story-teller's job is to distill a life's grist, or just a handful of that substance, into a powerful, flavorful, satisfying brew. Since not everyone can tell a story, those few who possess that gift hold a mandate to share their insights with a world thirsty for meaning. Jesus' Great Commission of Mark 16:15-18 imposed on his followers the obligation to proclaim His good news to all creation. Then He revealed the signs that would establish their authority. While Luke's gospel doesn't relate the same sermon, he gave a more general, implied commission: "And ye are the witnesses of these things." Each little Christ must therefore, as a sworn witness, spend his or her gifts toward testifying of God's good news. If those gifts happen to include sensitivity to the messages in peoples' lives, and translating those messages into compelling stories, then that little Christ is a "baker," chosen by God to supply His Bread of Life, in styles and flavors to meet each need, to a starving world.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What Happens?

What happens when God gives a young Catholic boy complete confidence in His word? What happens when that confidence rejects theologians' interpretations, traditional teachings or encyclical declarations? What happens when that kid becomes a man who tries to live for the catechistic God about whom he learned as a young Catholic? What happens is a huge, life-long growth opportunity, punctuated by periods of doubt, failure to fulfill his own religious expectations and panicky quests for spiritual experiences. What happens is God's loving hand reaching out to him in a dream wherein he experiences just a glimmer of God's love, but enough to finally apply that supernatural love to himself, personally. What happens is a life turned from low self-esteem to high God-esteem.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Yes, it's a spade ...

I received this as a forwarded e-mail and was skeptical.  But according to http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_pastor_joe_wright.htm it's authentic.  You might find this plain-talk prayer interesting, even prophetic, since Pastor Wright delivered it before the Kansas State Senate in 1996.

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and seek your direction and guidance.

We know your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that's exactly what we've done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.

We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it moral pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.

We have abused power and called it political savvy.

We have coveted our neighbors' possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us O God and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by you, to govern this great state.

Grant them your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the name of your son, the living savior, Jesus Christ.



"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn't.
A sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
   --Horace Walpole