Friday, October 11, 2019

In the Land of the Blind

"In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king."
In the land of those who have lost their driving privileges (a.k.a. the foundation house next door) the king is the visitor in the black SUV with chipping, purple wheels and a stereo that lets Wiz Khalifa sing "young, wild and free" to the whole zip code. It's a good jam but as they stand on sidewalk and triumphantly wave their cigarettes up and down to the beat, it's hard not to laugh at the irony of those who thumb their nose at restraint while trying to drink tiny bits of freedom through a legally kinked straw.


I imagine there's a case being made that the legalities that kink the straw are the thing to be scrutinized. No comment. It's always been tricky business for societies to establish laws that strike the right balance between giving freedom and protecting others against the misuse of it. It seems apparent we're fighting our own nature. I'm not immune. Young, wild and free sounds good to a middle age guy watching from the second story window of his business as well. It just conflicts with the rewards of being responsible that I've come to value more than unchecked freedom.

So I guess that's the thing in this bit of musing. If the one eyed man is king in the land of the blind, who's king in the land of the seeing. I'm convinced that truly seeing changes our fundamental nature to be concerned first with the well being of those around us. Perhaps I'm small minded but I can't see that becoming universal in our current reality. So, I dream of it as a component of Christ's kingdom when young is irrelevant, wild is considerate and free is no hazard to our neighbor. I think we'll still dance triumphantly to the best jams ever. We just won't dump our cigarette tray in front of the neighboring business when we're done. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

High Standards. Low Expectations.

There is an awkward tension in the Bible between facing how short we constantly fall of God's standards and still persevering to be like him. And the more you read, the more is on the line! Hoping to do better each day, we prop up our self esteem and motivation with scriptures about his grace and strength in us before abruptly crashing once more into our old nature like a supervillain with an endless supply of kryptonite. "Consider how far you have fallen"? No problem!

I'm one who emphasizes the value of works in our faith. I'm also the screw-up. In that light, a principle I've encouraged myself with for a long time is, "High standards. Low expectations." It can sound derogatory but let me spell it out a little. It applies first to God's attitude toward you and me. "High standards" is the perfect (or even marginally better) person we all hope to be when comparing ourselves to our Father. "Low expectations" is our Father's knowledge that this is grade school field day. From his own humanity, he also knows we're more likely to trip on our shoelaces than win the event. He's the parent cheering for us anyway, even if we finish last. Just finish! There's enough participation ribbons for everyone. That's why that demeaning parent screaming for nothing short of 1st place is appalling.


But after the participation ribbons are given out, the podiums are real. Father's high standards are attached to his interest in passing his kingdom and wealth onto his children, each according to their ability. His condemnation is only for those who don't trust his encouragement enough to try. That's why he's keeping track of your success, not your failure. He's looking for things to reward, not punish. And he's not weighing them against each other to see how much good is canceled out by the bad.

Yes. Sometimes, discipline has to happen for our own good, to make us children who can handle greater privilege. But that kind of judgement is for parents, not children. And we're the children! Beyond that, it's not merely an encouragement that there's no condemnation in Christ. It's the law! You don't have to beg. Now, retie your shoe laces and go persevere at that higher standard you're struggling toward. Between the lines of Father's warnings to never forget his patience and grace is the message that it's not hard to make him proud.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Alarms

With everyone's utterly relaxed demeanor in front of the store, it took a minute to identify the alarm sounding as I approached Home Depot. I entered the unguarded door with no sense of danger along side several other patrons. Inside, the ear piercing beeps and screeches seemed to echo off everything except ear drums as shopping continued unchecked, save one safety conscious fellow who commented that everyone would be dead if the fire were real. A single employee tried to direct a few shoppers who didn't care about his authority any more than the alarm. I obliged him but the alarm stopped after ten paces toward the exit and he ended up apologizing for the misdirection.



"Where there's smoke, there's fire." Where there's no smoke, no one's changing course no matter how loud the alarm is. Maybe they would have back when alarms were hard to set off but now they carry an almost hopeful tone that something sensational really is happening, like every headline on my Google News feed. It's in our nature to hope for the sensational, rubberneck past the accident, tell a great story about what almost happened. So much so that a flood of new predictions stream in undaunted by the shortfall of old ones and the persistence of the status quo.

The end of the world from imminent catastrophe X is always just around the corner. For Christians, that's been true since Christ promised to return. You can hear the heightened anticipation in most New Testament books. Still waiting. It's a great paycheck for those who can market it and great entertainment for the rest of us. Truth is the gospel of Jesus Christ shamelessly caters to our natural tendency to hope that something sensational really will happen. The world will end. Lots of smoke and fire. Heavenly trumpets of epic doom and glory followed by actual epic doom and glory. But it also warns of getting desensitized to the point of saying, "things go on as they always have and always will." Sometimes I think the trigger for Christ's return may just be when we're all sufficiently tired of the increasingly frantic blare of hollow sirens. Till then, I need to find the torx bits that the apologetic employee said where in aisle nineteen.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Low Man

I am the rich man.
I fear it.
I kneel on the warm side of my door.
I am the rich man.
I feel it,
In prostrate comfort on my bedroom floor.

In affluent dismay,
My prayer begins.
The low man lights the way.
Remember him?
He pleads from phantom cage
To let me in.
A holy light sustained
Yet flickers dim.

Entrapped in pleasures drowning desperate sounds,
I feel the distance.
Sparse excess I have dared go without.
A grasp at closeness.

How large a gift yet sacrifices slight.
A holy ember strains to flicker bright.

Draw him near or take me far,
From both within me, here we are;
That mindful place, that abstract home,
In low man's space we fear to roam.

Between prayer and prayer again
I am the rich man, now and then.
I cast a glance. The gold grows thin.
I bid the low man let me in.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Mind Blown


The best reactions to being a calico adoptive family happen to my wife when she's out without me. Today in Walmart she changed directions in an aisle only to find another woman in her face who asked, "This is gonna sound weird but can I blow your mind?"

"Uhhh...maybe," my wife answered trying to make the abrupt transition from grocery list to stranger danger with all five kids in tow.

The lady pulled out a large wad of twenties and appeared to debate how many to part with while evaluating Leah closely. A single twenty was offered with the advise that it was for ice cream or something else fun for the kids... "not cigarettes and alcohol." At this point the evidence indicates this lady didn't realize the kids were adopted so the impression was that my wife "gets around" and still doesn't have a man to help her through Walmart. Tough life.

Scripture says if someone's gift is giving let them give generously. So twenty bucks bought an awkward "thank you", a four pack of kids movies and some fancy school folders. Mind blowing? Uhhh, maybe. God has a good sense of humor that's hard to track with sometimes. But even when the joke happens in the canned tuna aisle, it's funny. If anybody needs a mind blowing twenty dollars, I can officially afford to pay it forward now.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Growth

I'm tired of hearing about the church's ambition to grow. To be fair, I have to carefully balance my own perspective. We all like the "body of Christ" analogies and I think it has a lot to offer on this topic. If you have the mind for it, feel free to analogize just about everything that follows. I'm sure you'll see I'm only scratching the surface of this smelly sticker enough to see if its aroma makes your mouth water.

First, growth in general is good and good growth calls for rejoicing. It replaces dead cells and adds new ones where more strength is needed, whether for bones and muscles or immune and circulatory systems. It turns babies into youths into adults. It makes hair fun to cut and style and it makes finger and toe nails resilient tools. And all this good growth has one obvious thing in common, only God has true control over it. We can boost it with steroids or send it sideways with gluttony, but we are helpless when it refuses to happen and sometimes equally helpless when it just won't stop. That's the pattern for countless disorders.

If the world is teaching us anything right now, could it be that growth is not always good? Stock market bubbles. Cancer. Inner-city food deserts. Extremism. etc. Can we make the transition to concerning ourselves with the health of Christ's body rather than it's size? Not only do we have much more control over that but scripture aims us straight at it with the assurance that a healthy body grows (and stops growing) "as God causes it to grow" according to what's best for it. There are already books on this topic so I won't try fit one in the space of this post. But I would definitely encourage you to give it some thought before we're too spiritually obese for our part of the body to support itself. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

You're Adopted!

For anyone who's more than ten months behind the curve like I am, I have four five children now! The headcount always seems one off and being a family is officially challenging. Adding a four year old boy is not the same as adding a two year old girl, our previous addition. I know you all gasped with disbelief just now but it's true. He's the butterfly effect that has brought an exponential increase in energy, adventure and chaos to my wife's well oiled family machine. I say my wife's because, without her, chaos would already play a much larger role. I've long joked that I live in the magical house. So named because it cleans itself, refills the refrigerator, does the laundry and a dozen other routine chores all with reliable precision and very few demands. But the magic is a little glitchy lately.

Affairs of the heart are life's most challenging. In a Spirit led life, sometimes loving has to precede liking, caring has to precede affection and forgiving has to precede the other's repentance. That's especially true in a family, perhaps most of all in adoption. Let me say one thing before you decide this might not pertain to you; if you're God's child, you're adopted. God made it plain he has no natural born children. You came to Christ with baggage from another parent even if you "grew up" in the church. And God's "magical" house usually works on the heart before it works on the laundry. Welcome to the glitch, to priorities that don't square with keeping the status quo even if it was a well oiled machine.


From our recent list of hard-won but worthwhile rewards, I want to share this piece of clarity. Your emotions are not your heart. Your heart is the reason you persevere in spite of your emotions. I take that from the many times Israel narrowly survived God's wrath because of his patience. That distinction matters when you're feeling the pressure to keep working with a good heart while you're also feeling emotions that make you want to braid whips and flip tables. Christ can relate... and he was sinless. Take that to heart. Yes, we make the Spirit groan. But he keeps interceding for us till the work is finished. That's real family, groaning, persevering and highly rewardable in the Kingdom. Now, where's that boy?