Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Warning: If you haven't read The Golden Compass you're going to receive some spoilers.
The scriptwriters for the movie apparently decided to stop reading. That or they read the whole book and decided not to share the ending for whatever reason (my guess is because it is pretty shocking). The movie ends shortly after a climactic battle in the Arctic where the main character Lyra is able to break her best friend, Roger, out of a facility where the bad guys are experimenting on children. The final shot consists of the two of them flying off in search of Lord Asriel, anticipating the adventures that are coming next. There is a slight sense of foreboding, but overall it's a happy ending.
The book does not stop there. Lyra and Roger catch up to Lord Asriel, Lyra's father. In the movie he is portrayed as a wise and heroic man who can be a little harsh at times. The book portrays him as a man that will let nothing stand is his way. He wants to open a portal to another world, but this requires energy. Apparently the only thing that will create enough energy is the separation of a human from their daemon, or animal spirit partner. Of course, this means you kill the person. Lord Asriel certainly can't kill himself, and since he's such a good father he spares Lyra and promptly kills Roger, an eleven year old boy. The portal opens, and the last scene is Lyra leaving her world, scared, brokenhearted, and completely clueless as to what will come next.
When I first read that all I could think was WOW! Had they put that in the movie they really would have ticked off some people. As I stated earlier, you really miss a lot when you don't read the whole book. Now I have to ask, "why do we do that with the Bible?"
Be honest, we've all done it. We open our Bible. We find a verse we like. We read it, memorize it, and then we stop reading! Why? The biblical authors didn't write verses, they wrote books or letters. If we don't read these in their entirety, we really miss what's going on.
The book of Titus is a perfect example. Paul goes at this book in a sort of backwards manner. Usually he starts with a theological foundation, then gives exhortations based on the theology he has just outlined. Romans is probably the ultimate example of this. However Titus is different. Here Paul starts with exhortations (another word would be instructions) and then moves into theological reasons for doing what he says. The book can really be summed up by saying "do these things, live this way because of what Christ has done for you." If we simply read the instructions and then stop, we miss the point of the book. We really can't do any of the things until we understand what Christ has done for us!
In my next few posts I want to take a deeper look at this letter. If you want to really follow what I'm writing about, you need to read the whole book of Titus. It's only three chapters long, so it won't take a lot of time. Notice how the whole letter works together, developing its main themes. As I explore the book, evaluate my thoughts to make sure they fit with the themes of the letter and the Bible as a whole.
Wait, did I just mention the entire Bible? Better keep reading!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"Why do you recommend marriage Mr. Willis? Some people really don't like it."
A fun comment had just turned into a serious question. I'd been going over vocabulary words as a warm-up activity, and our word for the day was "engaging." One of the students mistook the adjective I was teaching for the verb that leads to marriage. I tried to correct him in an encouraging manner, adding that although we weren't talking about marriage, I did highly recommend it for those who are old enough. I'm a newlywed, I couldn't help myself.
This prompted a question from another student we'll call Danny. Danny is one of those adolescents that would make a great cartoon character. When asked for an example of something he found to be engaging, his response was "me" without skipping a beat. I rarely see him without a smile on his face, and as I watch his feet kick back and forth under his chair while most of the other sixth graders' feet easily reach the floor I can't help but laugh a little. However at that moment Danny's face had taken on a genuine seriousness.
I had just been asked a big question, and I knew I had to give some sort of answer. I realized that I hadn't learned enough about this new class. I had no idea which students went home to happily married parents and which came from broken families. Then another thought hit me, do I know enough to answer that question?
As I write this I have now been married 4 months and nine days. That still puts us within the lifespan of your average Hollywood couple. Can I honestly say I've figured it out already? No. Have I figured out enough to at least give a recommendation? I think so, so I gave it my best shot.
"Well Danny, I know that I have someone in my life that has committed to stay with me for the rest of her life, and I know that I have committed to do the same. It's more than feelings, although the way she makes me feel is great and gets even better the longer we're together. It's not just because she's beautiful, and believe me, she is…"
At this point I know I was probably blushing a little, and other students had to chime in.
"Is she fun?"
"Is she an Illini fan like you?"
"Of course, who do you take me for?"
"Does she like hot sauce as much as you?" (Note to self, kids remember any random fact you tell them, no clue how this can be used to make them remember their homework.)
"No, but she still kisses me as long as I brush my teeth."
At this point I had to get the class back on topic, but the moment has stuck in my head for the rest of the day. This morning my Bible reading was once again from Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Paul has been writing about the wondrous grace given through Christ that justifies us before God and gives us new life. Today I read a little about his response to grace.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21
I'm finding that the love I share with my wife keeps pointing me toward the love I receive from God. Granted, I'm still a rookie at this marriage thing but I think that's how it's supposed to be. My wife loves me in a way that I don't deserve, that I can't fully comprehend, and she's only human! Her love is nothing compared to the love my Father in Heaven has for me in Christ. It is a love that forced its way into my life while I was still a dead man. It compels me to think and act and live and love in a manner that is completely contradictory to my nature.
Therefore what can I do? I think Paul gives the right response. So, I bend my knee, knowing that the mind of God and the love of Christ are far beyond what I can grasp but trusting that God will fill me through His Spirit. I keep no glory for myself but give it all to God.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
"That's not fair!"
You just can't sneak anything by twelve year olds. I'm currently in week two of a new rotation of students. It's that time when the initial niceness starts to wear off and the students decide to test me to see if my rules are really the rules.
I have a strict policy about leaving one's seat without permission. Anyone I catch moving about gets an immediate detention. Today a young lady decided to test that rule. You guessed it; she got a detention (after trying to briefly plead her case of course). Ten minutes later another student did the same thing, except they did it while I was answering another student's question on the other side of the room. I knew what I should do, but there were more questions to get to, my detention slips were on the opposite side of the room, and wanting to resolve the situation quickly I simply said, "Sit down." The boy immediately returned to his seat, so the issue was solved right? Wrong.
"THAT'S NOT FAIR!!!!"
No way was that young lady going to take a detention and watch a stupid boy get away with the same thing. To be honest she was right. In order to be fair I should enforce behavior equally among everyone. I made a quick cover of saying that he was going to receive a detention as soon as I finished the question I was still in the middle of answering. I think she saw right through the cover, but justice was being served so she relented, and once again the class was at peace.
As the students left and I let out the usual post-class sigh of relief, I flipped back to my Bible reading from yesterday.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10
As I read this passage I thought about how imperfect I am as a teacher. Yes, I can say that I've learned a lot since first starting, but I'm finding more and more that the more I learn about this profession the farther I see I still have to go. This fact quickly spills over into the rest of my life. I'm not as good of a husband as I should be. As I write this I'm avoiding cleaning up the kitchen even though my wife cooked dinner. I could keep going but it would take the rest of the night and then the dishes definitely won't get done. The point is that these moments of self reflection always tend to get ugly. I'm far from perfect, I'm a sinner.
When I get honest with myself and read that passage from Ephesians I realize something. I'm really glad that God isn't fair.
I give students a fifteen minute detention when they are out of their seat. If God were fair, and gave me a fifteen minute detention for every sin I've ever committed, every wrong I've done, every right I could have done but chose not to do, I would owe a lot of minutes. I try to calculate it and I start to realize why those medieval guys came up with those ridiculous numbers for time owed in purgatory. I think that whole doctrine must have been invented by a Jr. High teacher.
However, according to this passage in Ephesians my minutes are erased. I've been saved, raised up and seated in the heavenly places while I was still in the process of racking up minutes! I have to be honest, that's not fair! And I'm really glad for that!
I guess that's grace. I guess that's why the Gospel when delivered in all its fullness is such a revolutionary idea. This just isn't the sort of thing humans would think up. It flies in the face of all that makes sense!
That's grace. It's from God, and it's given freely.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Shut up Walker.
He didn't say it, but I knew it was what he was thinking. At the least that's what I was thinking as I looked into his eyes. The man staring me down was my former Sunday school teacher. He wasn't the most educated guy. He had spent his life farming and pouring concrete. At 6' 4'' and a solid 300lbs, he was an intimidating sight. I suddenly remembered a lesson he taught on anger where he related that he had once lost his temper and thrown a piece of rebar that nearly hit one of his co-workers. Now I was one of his co-workers and he had another piece of rebar in his hand.
Shut up Walker.
I was nineteen, home for the summer and working construction. It was early July, we were pouring concrete, and it was hot. I was a young Christian, full of zeal and excitement and ready to condemn anyone that didn't produce regular displays of outward excitement and spirituality. For some reason I had been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes, not exactly a fun read. However as a sarcastic know it all college student coming to understand the complete vanity of everyone in the working world compared to us righteous college students with plans to take mission trips and join the peace corps, I was eating it up.
That fateful day I began the morning with a reading that included Ecclesiastes 2:22. "What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun?" I had been having a lot of good talks with Bob, my former Sunday school teacher and current foreman. Seeing as it was hot and we were toiling under the sun, I thought it would be fun to share this verse with him, and jokingly explained how vain all our work was.
Yes, I took that passage out of context. Did I mention I am describing my early college years with some sarcasm? In case you couldn't tell I was kind of dumb.
Bob stopped working, took one look at me, and said "I don't know what the hell you're doing, but I'm trying to feed my family."
SHUT UP WALKER!!!
Thankfully I did shut up, and Bob, being far more mature than I, did not throw the rebar in his hand. I went back to work and spent the rest of the day in thought.
As Christians it is so easy to hold up certain occupations as holier than others. Pastors, missionaries, Christian rock stars, these are the people that really live out God's call for their lives. These are the people really doing God's work. Those other folk that try to get ahead in business or go to work in a factory every day are worldly and missing out on the true life of a Christian.
One of the greatest things I've learned since that hot July day is just how stupid that last paragraph is. God calls each of us to a vocation. These are as varied as the human race, and often we'll have more than one vocation at once. I'm in the process of beginning a career as a teacher and recently married the woman I love. Husband and teacher are now my primary vocations.
How do I serve God? I love and support my wife. I teach children. I do all this to the best of my ability because I'm actually doing all this for God. Christ has reconciled all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross. Now I, who was alienated from God am now holy and blameless and beyond reproach not by anything I've done but through everything He did. This is how I live the Christian life; this is how I serve God.
I'm really glad Bob shut me up.
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:17-24
Oh, one last thing. If you really want to read that passage properly, you need to understand this is one of those big "therefore" statements Paul loves. To see what he's pointing at, open up Colossians 1 and have a look, I sort of alluded to it in the blog. Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
It's a great thing to learn about family.
For most of my life I didn't know much about my father's roots. I knew he came from Indiana, and chose to be adopted by his stepfather as a young man. My last name may be Willis, but my family line is actually Arnett. As an adult I have gradually come to learn bits and pieces about his life, and am amazed at what I find.
My grandfather, William Francis Arnett Jr. was born and raised in a small one room shack near Bull's Gap Tennessee. He was a true member of what Tom Brokov called "The Greatest Generation." He lived through The Great Depression, was forced to quit school to support his family, but still chose to eventually return and earn his high school diploma at the age of 20. He then joined the Army Air Corps, and was accepted to pilot school. Soon the boy from Bull's Gap was piloting the experimental new B-29 bombers. On May 11, 1945, Lt. William Arnett Jr. departed Guam with the rest of his crew. He never came home.
As I continued to investigate my grandfather, I learned he was not the first of my family to die in the service of his country. Arnett's were in the first World War as well, and the Civil War. In fact we're fairly certain the very plot of land near Bull's Gap was a gift to members of the Arnett family along with other families that served in the Revolutionary War. The more I learn of my family, the more grateful I am to live in a free country.
Today I continued my reading of the book of Galatians.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:1-6
After reading this a thought entered my head. What if, as his first act as President, George Washington swore fealty to the English crown? What would my forefathers, who had fought and died, think of Washington? Would they think that all their suffering was a waste? What kind of an insult would that be?
Here's the kicker. According to Paul, whenever we Christians chose to live under the law, we are just like George Washington surrendering to the British after the victory had been won. A group of believers were considering becoming circumcised, believing they needed to fulfill all of Jewish law in order to become true Christians. Paul warned them that if they went through with it, everything Christ did for them was worthless.
Paul isn't playing around here. He doesn't offer a soft rebuke of "Oh, you want to get circumcised? Well if it make you feel better go right ahead, just don't forget about Jesus!" Instead he reminds them of the price that was paid for their freedom, and they better live as nothing less than men that were truly free.
This takes me back to my family. As I learn the price that has been paid by my forefathers to provide the political and social freedom that I enjoy, the very thought of giving that away and making myself a slave sickens me. Yet every time I make Christianity about me, the good deeds I do or the spiritual disciplines I practice to draw myself closer to God, I make myself a slave to the law. I slap Christ in the face and tell Him His suffering and death weren't necessary.
The reason my Grandfather fought and died was so his children wouldn't have to. I will always love my grandfather, and be thankful for what he did, but even his sacrifice was less than the sacrifice made by my Lord. He fought the ultimate battle, a battle I never could have won. He gave everything of Himself so that I would be free.
I am free. My freedom comes through faith, that faith itself is a gift, given and sustained in love.
Thank you God.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Yesterday I spoke a little about questions. I came to the Bible with questions, and it asked questions of me, in the process I learned to ask the right questions and was given the sweet Gospel of Jesus. I came to the Bible not getting it, and the Holy Spirit gave it to me. In my Gospel reading today I read of some others that didn't get it. Our story picks up in John 5.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me." Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed." But he answered them, "The man who healed me, that man said to me, 'Take up your bed, and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you." The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working."
I think this is a pretty familiar story. Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, this ticks people off, and the lesson is don't be a Pharisee (although the word Pharisee isn't actually in the passage )who questions everything or you'll miss out on what Jesus is doing. Guess what, I have a question. Just what is Jesus doing? If you're going to read this passage you really need to read Jesus' response to the grumbling to get what is really going on.
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Huh? People get mad a Jesus for healing a guy on a mat and He starts talking about life and death and judgment? Where did all that come from? I know the life expectancy was much shorter back then, and Jesus was already in his thirties. Was He having a senior moment? Or perhaps Jesus was directing the people away from the peripheral issues they kept obsessing over and getting to the main point.
The many Sabbath laws enacted by the Jews over the years are a classic case of not getting it. God gave His law to Israel so they would know who their God was and be His people. However over the years they became so obsessed with finding ways to follow the laws they lost sight of their God.
So here is Jesus, God in the flesh, revealing Himself through a miracle, and the people are so obsessed over the details of the when and where of the miracle they miss God standing in their midst! Jesus recognizes this and rather than allowing Himself to get sucked into the debate He gets to the point.
Jesus wasn't just randomly wandering and healing, He was doing what God the Father wanted Him to do. His work was God's work, and it was about much more than miracles. Jesus was here to judge, and to give life to the dead. The dead He spoke of were all those listening, and includes us today. We are dead in our sin, and because of that we don't get it.
It's so easy to read the part about the miracle, get excited, and run to Jesus looking for and talking about miracles. But this isn't the point. The point of the miracle is to clue us in to who this Jesus guy is. He's the Son of God, doing what God does. If you want to know God you better pay attention to this guy!
He came to judge, and He knows full well that we all fail. For this reason He took the judgment meant for us and applied it to Himself. This is the greatest miracle Jesus ever performed, and above all else it's the reason He came here.
Understand this doesn't mean we shouldn't expect miracles. Far from it! By taking on our judgment, dying on the cross and rising again, Jesus defeated the power of sin that has entangled the whole of creation and let loose His Kingdom on this Earth. We can expect that where Jesus is at work through His Holy Spirit many amazing things will continue to happen. However we can't make our life about seeking these things. The whole point is that it's not about what we do it's about what Christ does for us!
In short, get out of the way; thank God for forgiving you, allow Christ to do His work, and when miraculous things happen, praise Christ all the more!
Do you get it?
Friday, October 10, 2008
What does the Bible say about….
Money? Relationships? Sex? Stress? Success? Politics? Entertainment?
I could probably continue the list of questions we ask and easily fill an entire post. I'll admit these are all questions I've asked myself. Sometimes I even start asking questions about why we ask so many questions. As I begin to question the questioning of questioners and the questions inherent is such questioning a question consistently comes to mind. Are we asking the right questions?
Over the last few years I've heard sermons on just about every topic I can imagine. I find that these interrogations of scripture often tend to lead to the same place. We always go looking for advice on what we should do. This is the point where I have to ask, are we asking the right questions? We look for relationship advice, money management tips, ways to deal with stress, even tips for a spicier sex life.
I have to be honest, when I perform these searches, I usually don't find what I'm looking for. Jesus talks about money yes, but His discussions on the topic don't really seem to be about money at all, but use money as a means to point to something else. I would think that a book inspired by God would offer definitive answers for my issues, but so many of them are open ended, or susceptible to multiple interpretations.
Here's where it gets really freaky. Quite often the Bible answers my questions with questions. I ask about how to deal with money and it asks me why I'm worrying about that. I ask for success and it asks me what my definition of success is. I ask what I must do to draw closer to God, and my daily reading takes me to Galatians, and suddenly I'm the one being questioned.
Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"? Galatians 3:1-6
For some reason once we become Christians we are so eager to get to work. God has saved us, now we must make ourselves better! We look to the law found in the Bible for instructions on how to do this and Christ has some questions for us. What are you doing? Did someone mess with your head? You couldn't save yourself, what makes you think you can sanctify yourself? Who do you think you are?
I come to scripture with questions that I hope will bring me benefit, and scripture responds with questions that cut to the core of who I am. I haven't found what I'm looking for, but God has pointed me to where I should have been looking all along.
Here's the funny thing. Now I have more questions, but my questions have changed, and now I'm getting some answers.
Who am I? Someone that is cursed (Galations 3:10)
Is there anything I can do to fix it? No (Galatians 3:11)
Is there any hope?
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14
All I can say is… Amen.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Certain places just seem to facilitate great conversation. The coffee shop, the quad on a college campus, even the local bar when it isn't overly busy all have a way of making people relax and talk. Perhaps like me you've found yourself at one of these places, having a conversation, suddenly realizing the topic has moved past the weather to more fundamental concepts. Whether you are ready or not, God is calling you to share the Gospel with the person sitting next to you.
So earlier today there I was, standing on a chair, paint can in hand, the smell of marijuana seeping from the window next to me, rain pouring down all around me, and I'm talking about Jesus.
Ok, I should back up. I'm currently working two jobs. During the day I'm working a long term substitute position at a middle school. From there I proceed across town to paint houses. I'm currently working on a rental property inhabited by college students. Usually it's a pretty solitary job. I plug in the IPOD, forget my surroundings, and go to work while my partner does the same on the other side of the house. Today the rain changed that. The only dry place I could work was the porch, which meant my partner and I were working in the same area. Deciding not to be rude, I unplugged the IPOD, and we struck up a conversation.
We talked about everything from the geeky shows we both watch to the election to the residents' apparent drug habits. The next thing I knew he brought up a parody South Park did on Christian music and asked my opinion.
So there I was, standing on a chair, paint can in hand, the smell of marijuana seeping from the window next to me, rain pouring down all around me, and before I realize what's happening I'm talking about Jesus.
I don't know how well I did. We spoke for a few minutes about who Jesus was, I honestly can't say I remember exactly what was said. The moment passed as quickly as it came. Suddenly we were talking about Metallica's new album. At the time it sure didn't seem like anything earth shattering.
However one thing I've learned over the last few years is that I am never going to convert this guy. That's the work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and He'll use me however and whenever He chooses.
It makes me wonder, how often is He doing something that I don't even pick up on?
Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
Monday, October 6, 2008
Drop off the movies.
Pick up some dinner.
Get to class.
Clean up the kitchen.
Relax and watch Heroes (DVR is obviously a blessing from God).
What am I forgetting?
Two steps out the door and I realize I have forgotten my IPOD. Driving from Champaign to Bourbonnais can't happen without it. I run back inside, pick it up, go over the list again.
Grab my homework….almost forgot that one.
Homework in hand I start the list over, now pedaling home.
Grab my homework.
Drop off the movies….MOVIES! I change course and stop off at Blockbuster, now wishing I had just driven to school rather than trying to be healthy and cost efficient and environmentally friendly or whatever else I can come up with to brag about the fact I ride a bike around town. Time is ticking away, and just to be difficult God has the wind blowing right in my face.
As I move on from Blockbuster I see a police cruiser diverting traffic. Wonderful, someone was careless, got into a fender-bender, and now I have to figure out a way around it. I draw closer and see another cruiser, and a fire truck, and another fire truck, and an ambulance. I see EMTs and firefighters surrounding a van that has been through more than a fender-bender.
I am stressing over completing a list and arriving at a class on time. Less than a block away someone is hurt badly, possibly dying. What was my list? Why am I worrying about it? Oh yeah, I need to get this stuff done so I can sit down and watch Heroes tonight. I think I remember another guy that made a list so he could "earn" some relaxation.
And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."
And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
I pause, I think, I should probably pray.
Every moment God gives me is a gift. A gift I've done nothing to deserve and constantly squander. I forget the list, I spend the rest of the ride praying for whoever was in that van, and for the workers living their vocation to serve and care for others. I find myself a little more aware that God is present, God is working, and God is giving me moments.
I thank God Christ has forgiven me for all the moments I waste.
Forget Heroes, I have grace.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
"I just don't..."
Saturday, August 2, 2008
“Dad, come take a look.”
I stared down at the curved reflection of my face on the red fender and smiled. For the last two hours I had washed every inch of my truck. I had swept out the cab, polished the dashboard, washed every window inside and out, even scrubbed off every bit of tar and bug guts I could find. As I stepped back and observed my work, I had to admit I felt a little proud.
My dad emerged from the garage and stared at the little red pickup. The ex-Marine and Illinois State Police Captain was currently managing a car dealership. His running joke with his detailers was that they better have the cars clean enough for him to inspect every inch in a pair of white gloves (actually, it wasn’t a joke, he really did that). He may not have had the white gloves on but at that moment he was definitely in inspection mode.
“Well son, it looks pretty good, but…”
I knew what was coming, and my pride quickly fizzled.
Forty five minutes later, I had finally touched up all the spots he had found, then he started me on waxing. My morning activity ended up taking the better part of my Saturday, a valuable commodity for anyone seventeen years old. By the end I was sun burnt, I was frustrated, and my legs hurt from constantly squatting to reach the low areas (afterward my dad showed me the little stool he always used, revealing it beforehand wouldn’t have been enough fun).
However, at the end of the day, I had to admit that little truck looked beautiful. My dad had a vision of what that truck could be and it exceeded anything I had in mind. I may not have liked most of the process but I couldn’t see where it was going and he did. I stood pondering these things and admiring that bright red pickup; and felt a hand on my shoulder. My dad was still staring at the truck, but his face was no longer in inspection mode. He was smiling.
“That’s my boy.”
“I will bring that group through the fire
and make them pure.
I will refine them like silver
and purify them like gold.
They will call on my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘These are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” Zechariah 13:9