Friday, April 29, 2016

A Silly Little Boat

There was a lake just out of town,
Accessible from all around,
Where rules had all been voted down
And men did as they pleased.

Along its shorelines, one could find
Diversions of most every kind,
The basest to the near divine,
Where satisfaction teased.

And boats of course with pomp and bling
As bases for the basest things
Or bases where the moral cling
To all that’s good and true.

But best of all a boat could show
What you thought everyone should know
About how well your boat could go
About the water blue.

Of course, sometimes, a boat was lost
To storms or thieves or maintenance costs
And everybody’s nerves were tossed
In search of something stronger.

Some put armor underneath
And some on top for all to see
Or boats in boats in boats to be
In fear of loss no longer.

But one man knew the whole parade
Was shallower than where they wade
From boat to shore where he got paid
For fixing boats and barges.

He’d seen enough and done enough
To know that none were quite as tough
As all their window stickers bluffed
With much inflated charges.

He’d also learned a thing or two
About the water deep and blue
And thought he ought to share the truth
With all the anxious boaters.

But as he tried and tried and tried
With any he could pull aside,
They seemed to hear nothing besides
The sound of their own motors.

And so he took his little boat,
In view of those who loved to gloat
Who said, “That thing should barely float!”,
Out to the deep to show them.

“His test will fail,” they all thought
When he pulled out his gun and shot
A few rounds through the floor and brought
An ax out quick behind them

And chopped the rest to little bits
Until they thought he’d lost his wits
As, stroke for stroke, he didn’t quit
While everyone was guessing.

And then he stood where once it was.
The talk began to hum and buzz
About what must be left because
The boat was clearly missing.

He walked back and tried to explain
What now he thought should be quite plain
But found them rather vexed and strained
And bothered by the show.

“And reason says obviously
You have a boat that none can see
And that’s no use to flaunt what we
Think everyone should know.”

“And, still, it makes you walk about
As if a boat you’re still without.
That silly little boat can tout
Nothing that would sell us.”

And then his friends encouraged him,
“Continue not this silly whim.
Replace your boat. It’s rather grim
To hear this awful fuss.”

He let them finish. Then he spoke,
“Perhaps it’s better that I don’t.
Not that I couldn’t but I won’t
Forget about the water.”

His friends went on a little more
With arguments he’d heard before
Till satisfied that their implore
Wasn’t worth the bother.

And so he went on fixing boats
And fixing thoughts that didn’t float
But always found the common vote
Against what he would bring.

And rare it stayed that boaters cared
Of more than boats on waters where
Distraction kept away the scare
Of losing useless things.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Toothpicks and Legos

Like most most households with young boys, mine is full of Legos. Designated containers hold all the ones that don't fit in the nifty, see-through vortex chamber in our vacuum cleaner. I have come to regard them as the trademarked building materials of young, male life. Yes. I've seen and own the girl's sets but they don't seem quite so indispensable yet (though they're actively working on that). At any rate, the imaginations of any day take shape through them and get brought to me for display. I have a reputation for being tough on fragile things so they frequently come with special handling instructions like; "Don't touch this, Dad. Just look at it", or "Don't try that lever. It's not finished yet." More than once, the creation has been nervously snatched from my hands only to implode on its own. Thankfully, these are usually quickly built and easily repaired.

Scripture says our lives are likewise a building project that gets tested in the end. The goal is to build something that lasts into the Kingdom, something fireproof. We all start with the same foundation, Christ, and go by the same basic rules. But that is perhaps the end of the similarities. Some build mansions that blow away in a stiff breeze and some build sheds that double as bomb shelters. One clue we're given is to carefully select our building materials. Some burn. Some don't. Patience, generosity, selflessness, and the like are generally invincible. The more earthen things, not so much. But don't think the earthen things are automatically useless. Just like safety glass is made from sand (a bad foundation for sure), generosity and selflessness are often made from groceries and hand-me-downs.

Another clue is there's a careful balance between the earthen materials and the eternal ones. The resources we spend on getting and maintaining that bigger, better anything are resources generally diverted from generosity and the like. I say that on the assumption none of us are working with endless resources (If you are, I'd like a large, interest free loan). In our own favor, we really can do a lot with a little when we're devoted to it. I was always proud of one school project in particular where we had to build a toothpick bridge. Beyond a few dimensional specifications, the design was up to us and the finished bridge was tested for its strength to weight ratio. My instructor doubted my minimalist design but it went on to set the record with toothpicks to spare. In toothpick land, I could have built built a shelter with what I had left for the people who lived under my fantastic bridge. Get it? Got it.

To perhaps put you at ease a bit (though not too much I hope), when The Judge was here in person, no one got rebuked for being rich, though some got rebuked for being mastered by riches - their wealth determined their character. Another perk is you'll have trouble building anything eternal that doesn't benefit you now. You're basically plugging your favorite virtues into the "goes around - comes around" circle. But however we work the balance, we still don't get to turn in our project with special handling instructions. Some slide through the test with little more left than a red hot surf board and singed hair while others receive a rich welcome. Whatever you build, don't forget the foundation is Christ. Then, you'll at least have a place to call home, even if the test peels the roof off. You'll have have time to build a better one anyway.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Missing the Point

Growing up, church often seemed like a lot of strange fragments loosely connected through Christianity. Healing was one of those fragments. Everybody liked it. I did too, it was fun; lots of excitement and loud prayers bossing Satan and his sickness causing demons around like we were the masters of the WWE spirit world, "in Jesus name" of course. I can't criticize the excitement too much because Christ's first round of disciples were initially excited about it too, until he redirected their excitement to The Lamb's Book of Life. I imagine their transition was as difficult as ours. Legit or not, the natural sensationalism of miraculous healings is much more immediately gratifying than a guaranteed ticket to the good side of the afterlife.
My family and I have been sick in the last weeks same as many of you, not the worst but still the kind that makes you wish faith, anointing oil and group prayer where as magical a combo as we're led to believe. Misery really tests us. I do join the rest of you in praying for other people to get well, especially when it's close to home. It's a matter of obedience, and, despite my tone, I don't believe it's any more futile than it is predictable. But I do think we might be looking at it from the wrong end. As I hacked in bed and contemplated the credible healings from scripture, a striking thought recurred to me; They're all dead! In all the hope and excitement, I don't think that point ever stuck with me as well as it should. Christ even made it himself while he was healing people!

The fresh meaning struck me when I asked when sickness started, between coughing fits. I'm a young earth creationist so the answer is the curse...from God. Uncomfortable as that point may be, it makes solid sense of why scripture frequently connects healing to proof of authority to forgive. God put the curse (sickness and punishment) in place with his own authority and he alone can lift it (healing and forgiveness), as he pleases. And his earthly life was a preview of that bigger plan. As novel or necessary as a healing may be, The Lambs Book of Life really is the offer you don't want to miss. And with the authority of that greater offer already well established, miraculous healings for perishable bodies may be the dead horse God isn't going to beat much anymore. Guess I'll have to slum it this time and rely on his perpetual miracle of my immune system.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Your WHAT Hurts?

It's been a rough couple weeks...also really good...but rough. I say that with all due humility in light of the fact that I'm winding into the second half of an unprecedented six week vacation on behalf of a generous Paid Parental Leave policy from my employer (stop cursing me. I'm about to make you laugh). I repeat as a family man the proverbial sentiment, You can't make this stuff up. The "rough" comes from a few different sources.

1) Two of my children are (re)learning that they have to eat what they're served. It's an understandably bad turn of events for them when mom (the loving, gourmet, short order cook of the universe) has ever patiently indulged their every taste for last several eons of their lives. Perhaps, even worse from their perspective is that she seems to have been permanently corrupted by dad recently.
2) The children have gotten even. I believe the strength and perseverance of the crud they brought home to decimate our digestive and respiratory systems for the last two weeks was intentionally selected by them. They must know they're more resilient and we're responsible for the mess. I'm sure that some of the cough's from around the corners of my house have been covered up laughs at listening to me eject a partial trachea. No one has escaped it's wrath.
3) Spicy food. Normally harmless to the trained consumer, I have (carefully and responsibly of course) trained them in it's righteous usage. Sometimes nothing feels better on what's left of a partially ejected trachea than some plain old heat, the kind that makes you sweat a little even if the food is lukewarm.

So this ends up having a comic upside as well, starting with dinner and Mr. Bean's Holiday (Don't judge me. It's a good movie). Laughter really is exceptional medicine but it's also an exceptional headache when you can't stop and you've already been coughing all day. None the less, it helps clear the lungs... and a bit more than that apparently if you've had spicy food and stomach problems recently (Related? Nah.). My youngest son jumped up in the middle of the movie to use the restroom. Within a few minutes, we heard some nearly honest blubbering from the porcelain throne calling for the loving, short order emotional comfort of the universe (yes, same lady). She was holding an onion poultice to her ear to ease her own pain so I answered the call myself. I was as gentle as I could imagine when I opened the door but the tears and sadness vaporized the moment he saw me, like he was fishing for blue gill and hooked a shark. The next look was a perfectly composed one that said, "Everything couldn't be better. You can leave now." I asked what was going on just to be caring and responsible. Without breaking his composure, he took only a second to come up with a cheerfully delivered answer that would explain everything, "My butt was hurting. It stopped." Couldn't have said it better myself. Actually, couldn't stop laughing to say it at all.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Playing the Odds

Surveying my house after the last storm, the trend is obvious. Nature is trying to destroy it (and I'm a little slow to repair it). Some of the paint is cracking. A shingle has been relocated to the yard from the roof. And my recycle bin is a little more broken from another wind driven tumble down the street. But the odds still favor my house because I'm here to take care of it.

Yes. Of course this is a spiritual analogy so you can bail here if you like. In kind, it's a tired analogy too, a spin-off of the tornado-in-junkyard example where a whirlwind happens to assemble a Ferrari (or a Honda, depending on whether the junkyard is in Japan or Italy). Watching anything deteriorate at the hands of nature serves the same purpose, one that's still convincing and ironically encouraging to me regardless of how tired it is. It goes like this: In regard to home maintenance or the existence of anything beyond a perfect vacuum, the odds don't favor us (though they do seem to favor insurance companies. I think there's something going on there). Anyway, we cling to million-to-one odds (or much worse) as if the the rest are merely non-instances, non-events. We just need enough one-in-a-million successes in a row and we will get our desired result, say a house. And the infinity of numbers provides however many one-in-a-millions are needed to build it, so long as we pay no attention to the 999,999 shingles the odds blow off for every one they place correctly. But leave those out and it becomes believable that the house could not only build itself but could gain consciousness and decide how best to do it. We just need enough one-in-a-million's.

Let's cut to the point. My reasoning proves that I'm a marginalized, unscientific idiot. Wait...I meant my point, not everyone else's. I just read it in the funny's this morning. Moving on, at present, nature as we can observe it does not produce things like us. It produces things more and more similar to junkyards and black holes, and leaves us still searching for the thing that produces things like us or complexity in general. For me, this rationally leads to the conclusion that order of any kind is a supernatural product, even nature itself. And, again, not as we imagine but as we actually observe, we are the pinnacle of order and complexity in the natural world. A supernatural creator is indeed what we are rationally looking for. And whether I like him or not, I haven't found one more convincing than the God of the Bible.