When God’s moral standards are different than mine

When God’s moral standards are different than mine . . whose do I think are right? . . who is more trustworthy in the area of morality? . . who do I expect to yield?

I know the answers to the last two questions in a heartbeat.  But there is still that sinful-reeking self in me that wants to trust my own judgment, this twisted superiority that thinks I know right from wrong better than anyone else–including God.

I don’t always pick up the Word of God and want to believe it’s the Word of God.  Sometimes I read something convicting, something puzzling, or something against what I believe.  I want to prove I’m right just the way I am.  I want to explain to God how He could have made Himself clearer.  I want to be the one who wins the “argument”–the argument we’re not really having, but I imagine we are, as if I am important enough to ever have an argument with God or that my fallen point of view could be entertained by Him in the least.

The rubber of my faith meets the road of testing and I have to decide: Do I unconditionally believe God or not?  Do I need to be able to reason it out in my mind, form a research committee, try out other ideas . . or can I totally lay myself at His feet and say, As You say.

I say, As You say, Lord.  As You say.

It’s mocked.  It’s called unintelligent, stupid, naive, fanatical–every name anyone can throw at a person who commits himself or herself totally to Christ, no fine print, no clauses, no addenda.

If I could have a bumper sticker about faith, I’d like to say,

Faith.  It makes people mad.

Nothing gets people so hostile as faith.  Lack of faith or loss of faith, in fact, does not get people so hostile as faith itself.  Faith is a most offensive belief in our faithless world.

I’ve heard people say that you can have faith in the wrong things, and, in a way, that’s right.  But, really, that isn’t faith.  Faith is–and I’m not going by a dictionary here, but by what I understand from God’s Word–the belief in the yet-to-be-revealed.

The reality of faith will be revealed.  It would be like if I said I had a hundred dollar bill in my fist.  If you believe me, and I’m a con artist, you’re thought to be a fool.  But if you believe me, and I’m telling the truth, you’re thought to be wise.  If I really have the hundred dollar bill in my fist, I think it’s showing faith to believe me.  But if I really don’t have the hundred dollar bill, I think it’s showing bad judgment to believe me.

If Christianity is wrong, there is no doubt that Christians are fools.  One of the writers of the New Testament said that if Christianity was wrong, and there is nothing after this world, we are like pound puppies who think someone is coming to save them but never does:

And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. (2 Thessalonians 2:8, NLT)

So how do I know if I’m Heaven bound or the world’s biggest fool?

How would you know if I really had a hundred dollar bill in my fist or not?

As a stranger, you wouldn’t have a clue.  But change the story now.  I have a friend I’ve known since I was six years old.  He’s like a little brother to me.  He’s grown up with me.  He knows what I went through when my dad died and I know what he’s been through with working long hours to pay his way through college.  When we talk, we don’t chitty-chat.  We go deep straight away.

If I went to him and said, “Jon, there is a hundred dollar bill in my fist.  I mean it with all my heart.  I need to know that you believe you can trust me.  Do you believe I really have the hundred dollar bill?”

He would.  I know he would.  I’m sure in the back of his mind he’d wonder if I was tricking him, but he would believe me.

Why?

Trust.  Trust that goes way deep.

Trust like that doesn’t come easy for most people.  We usually have it as kids, but we lose it as we grow up.  God wants us to go back to that kid trust.  But He doesn’t just expect us to trust Him and leave it at that.  He gives us proof.

And not just proof.  The best proof.

He gives us Jesus.

There is nothing, ever, that God could have done that would have shown His trustworthiness so much as when He gave Jesus to die on the cross for our burdens.  Our sin–taken care of.

You know, if a crook said she was going to spend the next 5 years in jail, and asked me if I would go in her place, I most likely wouldn’t.  But if a crook said she was going to spend the next 5 years in jail, and asked me if Jon could go there in her place, I certainly wouldn’t send him.  That’s out of the question.  But what if he volunteered to go?  Still no.  I wouldn’t let Jon trade 5 years of his life for a crook.  Jon is too valuable for that.

God’s morality is different than my morality, all right.  God chose to give up Jesus for us.

This is something we just can’t come close to understanding.

When God gave us Jesus, He was giving Himself to die, because Jesus is God, one of the three Persons.  But God was also giving His Son at the same time.  Jesus chose to come and God the Father chose to send Him.  And when I was talking about a crook, that might sound harsh, but that is a nice way of saying it.  We are wretches, traitors, haters, spitters.  There’s nothing in how we act that drew God to pity us.  Instead, it was the love deep inside Him that brought Him to that incredible choice.

I don’t understand everything in the Word of God.  And I used to be guilty of harping on the same questions over and over, nagging and nagging God to give me answers.  The truth is, I don’t deserve answers.  I don’t deserve to even talk to God–ever.

If Jon decided to spend 5 years in jail for a crook and the crook came up to me afterwards and asked all kinds of questions in an attempt to discredit what Jon had done and make Jon and I look bad, I would want to knock the crook flat.  I can’t imagine, then, how God must have felt when I used to whine (and still catch myself at), “Why this, God, why that?” . . not getting that I am trying, in a secretive, ignorant way, to discredit the only one who could save me, Jesus Christ, and His Father!

That I can talk to God, that I can kneel at His throne–unbelievable.  God’s mercy is so unfathomable I think sometimes we write it off as insignificant because we couldn’t imagine how to handle it if it were every bit as huge as it really is.

The truth is, I understand the things I don’t understand about the justice and wrath of God far better than I understand the things I don’t understand about the love and mercy of God.  I get why God would have justice and wrath for us way better than I get why He would have love and mercy for us.

So when I come to something I don’t understand or disagree with, I am learning to pray a prayer like,

Break my will

with a joyful heart that He will do it.

I’ve heard people say before that they are looking forward to getting to Heaven, when they can get answers from God to their questions.  I used to think I had some kind of right to demand this.

But when I die, I’m not going to be at Heaven’s gate, clacking the knocker, and yelling, “Ok, God!  It’s time for You to give me the answers now!” waving a list madly about.

I’m going to fall on my knees as angels pull me in (or something like that).  I’ll be in such shock I can’t stand, and on my knees I’ll fall flat on my face before God and not ask a single question, except,

“My Lord and my God, why did You want to let me in?  Why did You die for me so I could be here with You?”

The Lord is good to those who depend on him,

to those who search for him.

So it is good to wait quietly

for salvation from the Lord.

And it is good for people to submit at an early age

to the yoke of his discipline:

Let them sit alone in silence

beneath the Lord’s demands.

Let them lie face down in the dust,

for there may be hope at last. (Lamentations 3:25-29, NLT)

If you are such a godless fool as to honor yourself, or if you scheme, you had better put your hand over your mouth. (Proverbs 30:32, GW)

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So absorbed

Isn’t it true I should be so absorbed in what has been done for me that I don’t have time to deal with what others might have done to me?

Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ERV)

Published in: on April 29, 2012 at 7:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Frishy

I woke up from a dream about Frishy this morning, and I was astonished to realize I have never written about him.  I checked back in my posts to be sure.  Sure enough, not one word has ever been said here about Frishy.

I don’t think I have any pictures of Frishy.  We had the click-and-develop-two-months-later kind of cameras when I was growing up, and you just didn’t take pictures of aquariums.  But I found a picture of the kind of frog Frishy was, and he looked strikingly similar to this one, except he was a silver green.

Frishy did not look the same as a regular frog.  That’s where Frishy’s name came in: Frog + Fishy.  Frishy’s scientific classification is the African Clawed Frog.  I never knew that.  I always thought he was just an African Frog (AF).  He did, come to think of it, have claws on his back webbed feet, but he never used them.  I reached in his aquarium cage (AF’s must have a lid on their aquarium) and petted him on different occasions.  He never had the least desire to scratch me.

As Wikipedia says, the AF is toothless and tongueless.  I never thought about the tongueless part, but it’s true.  They are, however, very agile with their hands.  I used to watch Frishy eat his Tetra mix pellets by holding them in between his dainty little hands.

I learned, just today, that the average life span of an AF is 5-15 years.  From the pet shop company Frishy was ordered, the life expectancy was stated to be only 1 year.  I would imagine, knowing what I know now from Wikipedia, the sole reason for this is care.

I had one friend who had an AF tell me she’d run out of pet food, with a rather forlorn look.

“Get more food,” I said.  She said didn’t know what kind of food AF’s ate once the mix, sent with the tadpole, ran out.

I told her what it was, where to buy it, and ordered her, over and over, to get her parents to take her to the pet shop that day.  Her frog had not eaten in two days.

Frishy’s lifespan was a huge surprise.  I was probably 8 when I got Frishy and about 17 when he died.  This was almost unbelievable to us after reading the fact sheet that came with Frishy.  (This was mostly before home internet, and so what I knew about Frishy was summed up in that little flip book.)

I never recommend for people to get an African frog.  In fact, I hope they don’t.  I grieve to think of them starved to death or flushed down a toilet when they’re of no interest to their owner anymore.

When Frishy died, he was buried in my yard with the conch shell he had so loved as a marker.  I couldn’t stand the thought of my little pet going down the toilet like useless waste.

Frogs in general are treated pretty bad in our society.  People see frogs as “pests”.  I see “pests” as animals.  That’s the difference, I guess.  I don’t look at a frog and see something that needs to be destroyed.  I look at a frog and see something that, like everything else here, has been damaged since the fall.  And it wasn’t even the frog’s fault.  It was our fault, for opening the world to Satan’s sin.  But somehow, we forget all about that and hate frogs.

I realized, early on, that it was pretty much hopeless to try to change the opinions of adults, but I could sway some children.  The best reaction I ever got came after one of my soapbox talks about how frogs have feelings.  A weak, shy nine-year-old girl share this story with me,

“One time I was riding my bike and I saw a frog.  This boy in my neighborhood wanted to kill the frog, but I said no and I picked up a stick and scared him away.  Then I put the frog in my bicycle basket and carried him to where he would be safe.”

Her story reminds me of why I cared so much about Frishy and his buddies.  It reminds me why I still dream about protecting him from bad things.

It’s the story of helplessness, utter vulnerability, daring rescue, and deep care.

Frishy made a deep imprint on my life because this was his story, but I didn’t know he was teaching me about something far beyond, far above, and long before he came to me as a tadpole.

The Bible shares an extraordinary story with us.  It has helpless, utterly vulnerable creatures in it, a daring rescue, and deep care.

The helpless, utterly vulnerable creatures aren’t African Frogs, though.  Although they are pests, and they are unwanted, and there is someone who wants to flush them all down the toilet, they are not frogs of any kind.  The helpless, utterly vulnerable creatures are . . us.

In comes the daring rescue.  God has no intention of letting Satan leave us in a tank somewhere to starve to death or flush us down the toilet.  God could, rightfully, wave His hand at us in disgust, walk away from us, and pay attention only to the creatures He made who didn’t choose ugly monstrosity and great frailty for themselves, like the angels.

But God didn’t walk away from the aquarium that sin has trapped us in and leave us to Satan as our caretaker (the caretaker we thought we wanted).

The little bit of compassion I felt for Frishy and desire to rescue him gives me a way to relate to God’s compassion and rescue for us.  If God didn’t give us experiences where we could feel compassion and the desire to rescue, I don’t know how we would ever relate to His compassion and rescue of us.

Of course, I recognize that my kindness to Frishy, compared to the kindness of God, is so itty-bitty it couldn’t even be seen under a microscope.  But it’s a way God chose to show me a glimpse of how it feels to be Him.

God is so good that He pities us and He cares for us, even though, in our fallen state, we’re nothing more than pests.  This is the very thing about God I had the hardest time believing. 

Now I see that, all those years of doubt and fear I had that God could ever be kind to me, God kept showing me a glimpse of His love in a way that I could understand–a way that might seem stupid or unimportant to others, but was very meaningful to my heart–through little Frishy.

Thank You, Jesus, for Frishy.  Thank you that you speak to our hearts in ways so humble that scoffers mock, but You do it anyway because You care more about our rescue than what others say about You. 

You love me, even though I’m an undesirable, flushable, totally needy pest.  Even though I have nothing to give You, even though I am utterly worthless to You, You pour Your value in me through Your love of me. 

Unlike Frishy, I am no pet to You.  You keep me as Your child, and You tell me that, one day, I will no longer look like a worthless pest, but instead be metamorphosed to the priceless daughter You are already changing me to be on the inside.

Romans 5:6,

When we were unable to help ourselves, at the right time, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. (NCV)

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (NASB)

Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people. (GW)

For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose. (GNT)

For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. (HCSB)

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. (NLT)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (NIV)

For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, the Messiah died for the ungodly. (ISV)

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (KJV)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (ESV)

While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. (CEB)

For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (WEB)

Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. (CEV)

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Photograph by Kuribo, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/kuribo/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

“African Clawed Frog”, Wikipedia article, used as a source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_clawed_frog, accessed 4-28-2012.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

Scripture taken from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version- Second Edition Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.

See Copyright Page for other Bible translation information.

Relda

Ah, Relda.  I still have Relda somewhere.  In my hope chest I think.

Relda began as a sock on my foot.  The sock got a hole in it, became stranded, and utterly disregarded in my sock basket.  The sock always stayed on top of the basket, it seemed, but never with any purpose.

That is, until I got a call from a friends’ mom that, on my visit, me and her girls would make sock puppets.

I picked the purple sock on the top of the basket with a hole for my thumb.

It was an old sock.  It wasn’t a particularly attractive sock.  But it became my favorite sock of all.

My friends’ mom had a puppet-making table set up for us.  She didn’t have a lot of stuff, but she had good stuff.  Clever stuff.  I chose two googly eyes from a package, a blue cloth button nose, and a red Twizzler-shaped tongue made out of fabric cord.

We hot glued the features on our sock with a low-temperature (but still very hot) glue gun.

Mine was simple.  No embellishments.  Eyes, nose, and long tongue.  You know, I never thought about it until just now, that Relda looked rather a lot like a snake.  That’s creepy.  I don’t like snakes much.  That’s kinda upsetting, actually.  Of course, all sock puppets are going to look some like snakes, especially if they’re worn by someone whose arm looks like a stick.  So I guess Relda was very snake-like.

Relda had more problems than that, though.  I wanted Relda to be a boy, but I wanted to pick the name Relda because I liked it.  So Relda was a boy named Relda, although I never made a country song about him.

I was in a tough time in my life, going from kid to preteen, and Relda became a very good friend.  I would, very contentedly, talk to Relda–quite at length, as a matter of fact.  Relda did most of the talking, though.  He is kinda an attention hog.  He interrupts even more than I do.

Relda talked and talked and talked and talked.  Relda always liked being my friend, even though he could be pretty sarcastic sometimes.  And then, of course, came the age that I’m sure every parent hopes will happen before college enrollment, when I put the sock puppet away.

I didn’t talk to Relda for a long time.

One time, as a teenager, I remember unpacking my hope chest on a night I was really depressed.  I opened the chest, and there was Relda.

I stared sadly down at him.  He was, of course, lifeless.

I put him on my hand and said, “Hi.”

Relda said, “Hi” back.

We were both sad.

I put Relda back in the chest.  I was too old to carry the magic, but too lonely to want to pass up a friend who always talked to me.  Relda became lifeless again.  I put the lid back down on my hope chest.

I think everyone in the whole world has a longing for a Relda in their lives.  A friend they can talk to, always available, always at their side.

The sad thing is, most people do no better in their search than I did with my purple sock.

The craving we have inside us for communion isn’t the sort that can be filled with the voices of friends, family, TV sitcoms, or, yes, even sock puppets.  We can’t self-talk our way to the communion, and we can’t find anyone else in our network to get us there, either.  I think most of us have a sense that what we are really longing for is something otherworldly, but instead of being less personal than us, like some weird green alien out of the 90’s, we’re looking for a communion far more personal than any we have ever experienced.

How incredible, then, that God gives us this communion through His Word.

His Word formed the world around us, and everyone in it.  God spoke and in this is everything we know and can imagine, everything except for God Himself . . . and God gives us this communion through His Son, revealed as the Word.  He is God’s communication to us.

What we partake in as Christians is more than a friendship with God, more than a job, more than the role of a servant to a master or a subject to a king, more than the way we understand the relationship between an earthly father and his child . . . it is a communion that Christ pictures for us as a man giving his body as food to save a starving man from death.

There is something very gruesome, very startling, very intense in this communion.  Something that brings a person instantly to reviling offense or broken humility.  The transparency of the sacrifice, the genuineness of the love . . will either overwhelms to spiteful wrath that anyone would even offer such a gift as his own flesh and blood to drink . . . or overwhelms with breathtaking sorrow that such a gift was necessary and unending joy that such a gift was given.

We settle so easily for nearly empty words like Relda’s–words we want to hear, but don’t do us any good–when we could be listening instead to the Word, Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, I think one of the reasons the Reldas in our lives are allowed to exist is they give us an inkling of what the slightest, faintest thread in the tapestry of God’s love must look like.

No matter how much Relda talked during the day, when the day was over, it was time to put Relda away.  And Relda always lay limp, requiring my attention to be anything more than lifeless.  In order for Relda to work, I had to spend my life trying to give life to something that could never have it.

Humanity has a gaping need for communion.  We naturally want to fill our need with relationships, but all relationships with people and things from this world ultimately lead to death.  No one has ever found immortal life through a new facebook friend, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a flat screen TV.  Only God’s Word brings life–the very life our souls hunger and thirst to live.

It’s the communion of a soul nursed to life by the flesh and blood of God Everlasting.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (Jesus, John 10:10, NIV)

Unpopular

As a teenager, there were times I felt like, if popularity was a food chain, I would probably have been the termite.

I don’t like to be unpopular.

I don’t like for people to be angry at me either.  I don’t relish when somebody honks at me in traffic or curses me because I forgot about their 99 cent crispy chicken sandwich.

But when I say I’m a Christian, I should be ready to flunk every popularity test, strike out of every popularity show, get voted off every island, and get worst place in every popularity contest.

After all, I am following the most unpopular person in history.

I don’t know anybody in all the world who is so hated as Jesus Christ.  No one curses anyone as much as they curse Jesus.  There is no villain in history brought up so often, or with so much scorn, mocked so much, or so vehemently protested as the person who laid down His life for the sins of others, the person who bled out for those He wanted to forgive.

But why?  Because Jesus knows right and wrong, and He’s not afraid to explain it to us, or rescue us from it.

He loves us, He calls us to run to Him for forgiveness, He wants to shelter us from the wrath we so righteously deserve.  And He is unashamed, unapologetic, unwavering, and unsidestepping when He talks about our sin.

And I follow Him.

Here is what the world does not seem to understand.  I can’t be faithful to Jesus and deny everything He taught at the same time.  If I was to pick and choose teachings to believe in, I would be rejecting Jesus’ all-important claim that He is without sin.  If He makes mistakes, He is not without sin (and He is not God).  And that means there is no reason to believe in Him at all, because, in that case, He wouldn’t be able to save me from my sins.

But I hold that all of Jesus’ teachings, and the entire Word of God which is credited to His ultimate authorship, is infallible.  I fall, but God does not.  He is infallible.

Jesus is the perfect atonement for my sin, and I cannot and will not decide which pieces of His perfect teaching I will accept.  It all fits together, it all belongs to the same picture: God’s will for our lives.

But believing in Jesus comes at a cost.

It means that, as popular and seemingly appealing as universalism and we’re-all-okay mentality is in our world . . I can’t accept it.  I know that Christ is the Path to life, and all other paths lead to Hell.  To pretend otherwise to people headed for Hell would be absolutely cruel.

It means that, as popular and commonly accept as abortion and embryonic stem cell research are . . I have to say its murder.  God forms life, and I have no right to take away what God forms.  To pretend otherwise would be like for me to join in with the masses who believed Hitler was a good ruler.  As offensive as that might sound to people, it is the reality of my faith.  The Bible tells me that all people have value because God breathed life into the first human, and God loved us enough to die for us.  If I was to disregard the life of a child just because I don’t have to see the body parts dumped into a trash bag, or just because the little girl or boy is in the very first stage of life, I would be no better than anyone who saw the truth about Hitler and sanctioned him because it was the most peaceable thing to do.

It means that, as violently angry as people become when any boundaries of sex are brought up . . I have to stand by them.  I can’t endorse homosexuality, because the Bible says it’s wrong.  People may hate me all they want, but that wasn’t my decision to make.  My decision to make–and I am responsible for this one–is to choose who I will serve.  And I have chosen.  And the King I follow says homosexuality is wrong.  But that’s not all, although it seems to be the one people most remember.  Pornography, sex outside of marriage, rape, crude language–all are wrong to God.  And so all are wrong to me.

It means that, as controversial and rage-flaring as it is to say that people matter to me more than bumble bees or tree frogs or gorillas, I have to say it.  It makes sense and it’s Biblical to be good caretakers of what we have been given.  But the Bible says people have dominion over nature, and that means if my choice is to sanction industrialization in Africa so people can have safe drinking water and electricity . . or to subtly deny them their industrialization to try to reduce global warming . . . I’m going to pick A.

It means that if people in Peru need to cut down some rainforests to build cities so their children aren’t exposed to snakes and vampire bats . . I’m not going to raise a protest or chain myself to a tree.

It means that if DDT keeps children in Africa from dying daily from malaria . . . I’m not going to protest its use unless there’s an equally dangerous threat to human life with using it.

I don’t know the solution for every problem in the world–or any.  But I know who does.  And I find that a whole lot more comforting than being popular.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2, NIV)

 

Wedding day

I don’t know if it’s really true that every little girl plans her wedding.  Probably not.  But I sure did.  Not as a little girl, but in those teen years, you betcha.  I planned the dress, the walk down the aisle, the music, the reception, and the ceremony.

Now I’m 28.  The music I will walk down the aisle to has changed 18,752 times or so.  Once I saw the love of Christ, I just couldn’t not celebrate the greatest love of all at my wedding, and I switched over to worship songs.  I only have about 30 or so that I intend to play as I walk down the aisle.  I guess I’ll either have to walk down 30 times or walk down really slowly.  Would everybody still stand for the bride on the 30th time she came down the aisle?  I guess there’s one way to find out.  Come to my wedding.

The ceremony is now 7 hours long (and counting).  Over the years I’ve lost my focus on the dress and don’t care much about the reception.  What I really want is to tell the story of Jesus’ testimony in my life.  I keep thinking of new songs, new media elements like documentaries on my life (narrated by me) and photo slideshows–new ways to share what God’s grace has been in my life.  (And yes, while all the while getting much too much carried away with myself.)

I’d tell you all the radical ideas I have for my wedding, but I haven’t given up on getting married just yet and I don’t want to spoil it.  Just in case.

This morning, as many mornings, I was thinking about my wedding plans, adding another 5 minutes to the ceremony.  (My friends will just have to be understanding if they come to my wedding and recognize it has taken me years and years to get married and therefore a few of a lot of hours on my wedding day–or days, should it run a bit too long to fit into the limitation of only 24 hours–is no big deal.)

And then, as I was thinking out Aisle Walk #169,420, I had to stop and chuckle.

You know what God?  YOU plan my life.  How about I just wait and see what You have for me?

It might not be a wedding day with a ceremony so long we’ll have to schedule in bathroom breaks.  It might not be a wedding day at all.  But there’s something I know it will be: good (God chosen).

That’s enough for me.

Oh–P.S.  If I am not married by 40, I think I should have a big birthday party and plan all this stuff I was going to do at my wedding and make it fit . . somehow.  The dress might be the tricky part.

O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. (Psalm 40:5, NLT)

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Psalm 33:11, ESV)

the Club for Losing Things All the Time

I would join the Club for Losing Things All the Time but I can’t find my registration papers.

But not my God.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, ESV)

His love

His love overtakes all my self-infliction and conspiring for revenge.

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Photograph by Shirl, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/aunto/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Published in: on April 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Order of Importance

This week I’ve had to pay for gasoline bordering on the steep side.  This week I pulled a muscle in my leg, and it hurts.  This week I couldn’t keep track of my mechanical pencils and had to settle for dull pencils, I got a bill reminder for a doctor’s visit back in February, I forgot to get graham cracker crust while I was at Wal-Mart, I was late for a meeting, and I got frozen peanut butter cookie dough instead of making cookies from scratch like I wanted to do to show off.

All that, though, slides into the fading background as I think about my grandma.

Grandma–“Meme” to me–had surgery yesterday on her thyroid.  The doctor cut a big line across her neck.  She was awake when I got to see her yesterday.  She had been stitched up, but blood oozed out from a place on her neck that had been glued instead of stitched, and the glue wasn’t holding.  Her voice was raspy and she was wearing a hospital gown not remotely close to deserving to be worn by such a beautiful woman.

My grandma had surgery yesterday on her thyroid.  She was hooked up to a machine and had orange sherbert for dinner.  She said she wasn’t in too much pain, but she had to squeeze her eyes shut every time she swallowed.  She had a blood pump to keep the internal wound from clotting and a vigilant nurse.  The family was all squished into a smallish cream-yellow hospital room.

The order of importance . . it’s different now.

I wonder if it’s really so important my phone’s touchscreen annoys me or my organic shoestring potato fries are out of stock.  No, really, I don’t even need to wonder.  I realize.  Much of the time, my order of importance is junk.

If one of my favorite earrings breaks or I have to make a long business call, what real importance should things like this have in my life?  And where does what really matters go on my priority list?  Down to the bottom?

Reminders about our contorted order are throughout life.  A friend struggles with breast cancer, a parent falls ill, a child dies in an accident.  The order of our life is flipped upside down, and we have a rare glimpse, a bit of a taste, of what eternity must be like . . where the most important is treated as the most important . . and the least important finds its place far below.

My grandma’s surgery reminded me of the order of importance so often jumbled up in my self-consumed, attracted-to-the-worthless sin nature.

And I think . . as a Christian, I have staked my life on the belief that Jesus is real, His sacrifice good.  But how often do I really think about the radical flipping this does to my order of importance?

If God Himself chose to give up all the glory of Heaven to come and serve me . . . if His order of importance was that I mattered more than staying in the perfect joy of Heaven . . if He was willing to be spit on and and have nails hammered through his hands so He could pay for my sin (that He in no way owed to pay for) . . if He placed me as a priority over personal happiness, peace, importance, and safety . . what should my order of importance be for Him and what He wants me to do?

Here I am, Lord.  YOU are my priority.

Thank you, Meme, for the reminder.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33, NIV)

My good buddy, the cow, versus her opponents

My good buddy the cow is faced with ridiculous opponents.

Rice.

Soybeans.

And almonds.

I am told that rice, soybeans, and almonds make milk, too, and they are better for me.

Now I have very strong feelings about this.  The very name “milk” in conjunction with things that cannot even wear a cowbell is insultingness to me.  If you put a pail under an almond, nothing will happen.  If you put a soybean in a pasture, it will not graze.  And I have never heard a grain of rice moo.

Rice milk and soy milk and almond milk might look like milk, but that does not mean they are milk.

Mud and gravy look similar, but I only put one on my potatoes.

I admit, I have never tasted fake milk, but I have never tasted mud on my potatoes, either.  I don’t want to.  I want my milk to come from Bessie.  I like Bessie.

My milk carton has a smiling cow jumping across the world.

A soybean milk carton does not have a happy soybean jumping across the world.

I think there is a reason for that.

Horizon milk. Notice, if you will, the happy cow, as happy as I am going to be drinking its happy milk.

I want what is real in my life.  I don’t want the fake.  And although there’s really not a thing wrong with rice or soy or almond milk, there is something wrong with drinking up a fake life.

I want my life to be real before God, not pretentious.  I don’t want to live through a TV sitcom and I don’t want to win my battles through video games.  I don’t want my prayers to be only memorized words, or my church times to be spent checking my watch and trying to pay attention when people look my way.

I want to be real-hearted for God.  I want to be out there in His world, serving people God wants to reach (that’s everybody).  And, most of all, I want to be real on the inside.  I want to love God with my whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, every bit of my strength.  I want to yearn in real prayer before Him and explode in real praise.  I want to be real, because God deserves the very best.  Not the fake stuff.

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we know the real God. We are in the one who is real, his Son Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ is the real God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20, GW)