Will this be published?
Admittedly, by now he was beyond, well beyond, his teen years. And yes, many perceived him as old. I thought of him as elderly, mature.
He had reached 92 years, 4 months, and 17 days. But, he wasn’t a tired old man. That is why he couldn’t sleep that April night. His bed was one of two in the small room that the administration labeled “assisted living”. In the other bed slept Mabel, his wife, soundly. She was unaware of Merv’s restlessness.
During those 92 years, Merv’s life was full: a formal education through college; a multiple sport athlete; 55 years as a senior pastor, preparing sermons, comforting the bereaved, counseling the youth; raising a family; 65 years with the nicest lady in the parish; the father of three, two reverends and a daughter-wife of a pastor. Now, he had time on his hands.
So, at 11:15 pm “now what do I do?” was in his mind. He went to his little desk, found the mechanical hand counter that you operate with your thumb, walked to the window that overlooked the intersection where the facility was located, checked the clock for a starting point, and began to press his thumb for every vehicle that went underneath the traffic light – there were no sheep.
Using the hand counter to be accurate, from 11:15 to 11:30 he pressed it 115 times. But, Merv didn’t complain about his situation. No, not Merv. Rather, he said to himself after those 15 minutes and looking at the hand counter, “this retirement center is at a strategic place for publicizing to the public. Wow!! Thanks, Mr. Paul, for your foresight!”
With that thought in his mind, all was well. He went back to his bed, counted his blessings, and went to sleep.
The two children, 2-3 years old, were impressive. The third was still in a baby basket, never making a peep. They sat with their mother near the Passport Office door.
Playing with several items from the display counter, they were quiet and happy. The mother softly spoke with two little boys.
I was transfixed, thinking, “These children did’nt magically drop from heaven. This mother is invested time, graciousness, kindness and confidence into these children.” Then the mother, so quietly that I did not hear her, gathered the children, softly taking their hands, and started to walk toward the Passport Office.
I watched this behavior with rapt admiration. The children’s unusual behavior drove me to say to the mother,
“Ma’am”, permit me to congratulate you on how well you are educating your children. You’re guiding them when in public places.”
She broke into a broad smile, saying, “Thank you, very much.”
“I am very impressed,” I said.
Mother continued to smile. She was gratified for the compliment from a stranger. I watched mother and boys walk toward the door. I was thinking, “These young boys have a good future ahead of themselves. The mother is doing it right. And, I was privileged to be able to congratulate her her.
“Today’s going well!! Thank you, Lord.”
God Never Stops Inviting Us To The Banquet Table
I’m unapologetic in my admiration of Pope Francis. His Argentine background, admittedly, probably plays a par. But, I also admire the clarity of his public statements. I saw this most recently in the coverage of Pope Francis’ canonization mass of 35 priests on October 15. (One Voice. October 20, 2017, published by The Birmingham Catholic Press, Inc. of Birmingham, AL.
Hannah Brockhaus’ lead article, “God Never Stops Inviting Us To The Heavenly Banquet”, precisely lays out Pope Francis’s issue. She says,
“No matter how often we reject him, the Lord will continue to love us and invite us to participate in his heavenly banquet.”
“The Gospel tells us that, even before constant rejection and indifference on the part of those whom He invites, God does not give up, but continues to invite. . . . When God hears a ‘no’, He does not close the door, but broadens the invitation. In the face of wrong, He responds with an even greater love.
“When we are hurt by others, we often harbor grudges and resentments. But God, while pained by our rejection of Him, does not give up. He tries again and again.
“He keeps doing good even for those who do evil, because this is what love does. Because this is the only way that evil is defeated.”
“Today, our God never abandons hope. He tells us to do what He does, to live in true love, to overcome resignation and the whims of our peevish and lazy selves.”
Francis’ argument is not naïve. It is not the portrait of a helpless God. It is the portrait of God in His moral greatness. It is not the portrait of a helpless God vis a vis evil. God is not helpless concerning evil. Rather, God is SO TRUE to HIMSELF, that even human rebellion of every sort, evils and depravities of all forms cannot seduce God to be other than a completely loving God.
Back to the starting point – God loves His creatures. – past, present, future. DON’T expect God to treat even the most malignant of sinners with anything less than the LOVE of God.
Just remember – God’s love. The banquet room is always open. May we never try to “out-God God and close the door to His banquet room!!!!
“Have you ever promised a friend with . . .
Perhaps you have concluded a conversation with a friend with something like, “I’ll see you next week. OK?”. “Sounds fine. I’ll be home all week, so whenever it is convenient for you.”
But, what if you said had said to your friend, “I would like to stop by “within a month”, or “before the snow falls, or “within a year”, or “before the next decade”, or “before I get married.” ???.
In those kind of cases, would you expect your friend to be sitting in the living room all those days, weeks, seasons, or with a cup of hot coffee waiting for your arrival? Of course not. The more tenuous the closing statement, the less concrete your plans will be. That is how communication goes. With that being said, allow me to go to my point.
We read [in the Gospel of Luke 12] that Jesus, during His time on earth, told His followers (disciples / apostles) that He would depart from the earth. (a colloquial way to say, “Guys, they are going to kill me). Of course, that someone is eventually going to die should not surprise anyone. We all know that death eventually comes our way. We will only live for so long. But, Jesus also said that at some time in future, He would return to be with them.
We should keep in mind that Jesus didn’t tell them how long He would be gone; that seems to have been left open!! Of course, as we read in the Bible, Jesus was only dead for three days (which is long enough to be thoroughly dead!! It is true that Jesus clearly told His followers, albeit in cryptic and symbolic language, where He was going. He also made it clear that His followers could not go with Him. Jesus’ people would, in their minds, be on their own, fending for themselves. To say it pictorially, the One who could feed 5,000 would be gone!!
So, where are we at this point? It has been over 2000 years since Jesus physically left His followers here on the Earth. We have had over TWENTY centuries to get the message of Jesus out across the world. That seems to me to have been plenty long enough for the followers of God to get the truth about God spread around the world.
How well have we Christians done in accurately shaping that message about God? Are we satisfied with the honest answer????
I leave with the reader to confront the answer.
Reference: Luke 12.35-59 (in the New Testament of the Bible)
Christmas, John Stuart Mill, and Jesus
While reviewing some personal items, I read again several lines by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). In his work “The Contest in America”, published in the Harper’s New Monthly Magazine of April 1862, Mill addressed some of the public thinking during the Civil War in the United Sates. Mill’s article included his famous lines:
“. . .war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.. . . A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
Perhaps you wonder what Mill’s statement has to do with Christmas. It has much to do with Christmas – the real “why?” of Christmas, not the syrupy reasons that barely even touch the edges of the real reason.
Christmas celebrations over the past 2000 years, and in a multitude of social contexts, have taken many forms and practices. We are far removed from the first Christmas!! We will do well to ponder why celebrate the birth of Jesus. We will do harm to ourselves if we fail to ask the deep question, “Why did the Son of God take on flesh in the first place? And why, in the second place, did Jesus die? Mill points to the answer, even if what he said was in the context of the deadly War between the States in the 1860’s.
Jesus, the incarnated Son of God, came to earth to take part in a war. It is true that He held infants in his arms. Yes, He gave a hungry multitude their fill of fish and bread. But, His reason for being on the Earth in the first place was related to the war between good (God) and evil (Satan). It was a war “in a good cause”, that of freeing humanity from the bonds of moral evil and restoring humanity to God’s family. This war ultimately cost the innocent Jesus his life, as he bore the “ugly” murder of crucifixion.
Jesus, born to die – it is, admittedly, ugly. But, as Mill states, it would have been even more ugly if Jesus would have thought that nothing was worth His death!!! Although not referring to Jesus when he wrote it, Mill’s point is appropriate. If Jesus would have cared more for His personal safety than the spiritual freedom of His murderers and their sympathizers, Jesus would have been a miserable creature “with no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
But, Jesus was free. He was noble. He knew that there was something worse than dying in the war for humans’ salvation – It would have been morally worse for Him to not die!!
This, my friends, is taking us deeply into the Why of Christmas. The original Christmas was the necessary first step to His victory over what is even worse than dying for the sins of others. That worse thing? to not die for the sins of others!!!
"a God behind God???", "Adam and Enoch - walking with God", "critical thinking", "lying as a act of conversion?", "short thoughts waiting and wanting to grow up", "telling the truth for self-serving reasons", Rahab
The expression “surrendering your mind to God” can easily be misunderstood. It certainly does not mean that we are to cease thinking. Rather, it means that we are to control the topics of our thinking according to God’s agenda. We are, to some degree, responsible for that about which we think. This issue is related to the mind-body debate in philosophy which, in part at least, looks for an answer to this question – “Is there ‘something’ in us that is responsible for some of what we think? If there is, then that means that there is something in us that is vital, but that is not “matter.”
* * * * *
When addressing some Christian college students, a friend of mine raised the issue of suffering, specifically the suffering that can happen when Christians are persecuted, even violently. He went to the point of affirming that Christians facing such suffering should not shy away from it, but rejoice in the midst of it.
His statement clearly forces us to think about courageous Christianity. And, many of us have some degree of doubt about how courageous we would be when facing torture and/or violent death. Yet, are we treating the issue properly when only personalizing it that way, affirming that we are to rejoice in suffering?
On one hand, how do we rejoice in suffering without promoting injustice, since so much suffering is the result of someone’s immorality? And, on the other hand, how do we rejoice in suffering and also hate sin, which we should be doing? I am not sure I have answers to either of these two questions.
* * * * *
Do you also experience frustration when hearing people present their ideas in an overly simplified way? (My question, as you see, tells you what I sense in such situations.) One of the overly simplified presentations is to lay out a false dilemma, saying that there are only two options before us. In such cases, making an argument for one option automatically negates the opposite option. On the other hand, a person can negate the case for one of the options, and on that basis alone affirm that the opposite option is valid.
But let’s face it, our decisions rarely involve only two options. Yet, we want to make things simple, and ignore all the options except two of them. Flee such over simplification, whether done by a politician, a professor, a preacher, or a prosecutor!!
Episode # 4 — When the spelling doesn’t help
What solutions do you propose??? >
The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Your proposed solutions ? ? ?
Our Quirky Language – Episode # 3
There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England, nor French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
Writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham. If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? It’s one goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? We can make amends, but can we make an amend?
If we have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do we call it?
If teachers taught, did preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? People recite at a play and play at a recital. Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
Your house can burn up as it burns down. We fill out a form by filling in the information.
An alarm goes off by going on.
English reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. . . That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
Having fun yet????????
a house in flux, around the block many times, chocolate chip cookies and cold milk, Communicate by implication - not by declaration, fear and love, Give me several days, Minnesota nice, Mr Im, no return number, three days later, what do we need to talk about?
8. Follow up visit with Mr. Im
A week passed without Mr. Im contacting Sam. Sam was not surprised; they had not made arrangements for a follow-up conversation or visit when concluding their first time together. That was when Sam went to the house where he had left the note saying, “At first I wanted them to like me; now I want them to fear me.”
Additionally, Mr. Im hadn’t given Sam a phone number where he could be reached. That had to be intentional, thought Sam, although he did not take it personally. That didn’t, however, lessen Sam’s desire to touch base with Mr. Im, especially in light of the growing number of questions he had.
During their first conversation, Mr. Im’s had provided only a sketch about his specific employment. It was way too slim for Sam to track him down without leaving traces of himself in this era electronic information gathering. So, Sam resorted to the “old fashion” way of communication – mailing a simple note with no return address, sent to the house where Sam had deposited the original “note” about “like me versus fear me.”
Three days later, Mr. Im called, and graciously told Sam to feel free to stop by the coming Thursday afternoon. “Great”, Mr. Im, “I am looking forward to it.” But Sam also realized that Mr. Im had called from a non-trackable phone number!
Mr. Im greeted Sam at the door with the same warm openness he had shown on their first visit. This time, Mr. Im served, not apple pie with ice cream, but big chocolate chip cookies with cold milk, another of Sam’s favorites, going way back to his childhood. Again, how did Mr. Im know that? Mr. Im had discreetly communicated his awareness of Sam’s personal life. It was uncanny. Sam couldn’t help but catch the implications.
Although from the outside, the house looked the same as before, the great room now opened from the east side of the interior, and the kitchen and dining area was on the west side. What had been the office / bedroom suite was now at the back of the house. And, Sam realized that the windows were in different places! The resulting interior layout, however, seemed as natural as the former one had, and Mr. Im didn’t even allude to the change. Could this change have been done for Sam’s sake, to make an unstated point?
“Sam, I am glad you feel confident enough to want to visit with me again. How have the past several weeks been for you? And, how is Sherry? And, by the way, have you delivered any notes to anyone else?”
“I’ve been doing fine, Mr. Im, I think. Sherry is fine, cheerful as always. Still has no idea I am in contact with you, nor would she have any reason to imagine why, in any case.
“Tell me, Sam, how I can be of help to you. I expect that you had something particular in mind for wanting us to get together. I may have an idea, but I would like to hear it from you. So, what do we need to talk about? How can I help?”
With that, Mr. Im had opened wide the door for Sam’s thoughts and questions. Sam needed no more encouragement. And, he was really pleased that Mr. Im was genuinely interested.
“I admit that the little note I left on your desk could have been saying a lot more, by implication and innuendo, than I had when first reading it. Some of the various possible meanings never occurred to me at the time. But, I can see them now, especially the one about ‘communicating by implication, not by declaration.
“I keep going back what seems obvious in the little message, ‘I wanted them to like me. Now I want them to fear me.” It seems clear to me that the person who wrote the note thinks that fear is more productive than is love, or ‘like’.
“I was raised to believe that love is the strongest motivation, to believe that being nice to someone is more likely to make things go well than being mean to someone. I grew up in a little town in the western rural part of our state where ‘Minnesota nice’ was not just a slogan, but considered a virtue, the way to keep things running smoothly.
“Even though my work sometimes puts me in rough situations, where rough and mean solutions seem to be the most productive, I find that the note goes directly the opposite direction. It seems to be saying that creating fear in the other person is the way to get results.
“Mr. Im, you are a wise man. I can tell you have been around the block many times. You know how things really work. What is it? Fear? Love? When cutting to the chase, should I want people to love me, or to fear me? Am I going to get better and more predictable results if they fear me, or if they love me?”
Sam felt relieved to have finally expressed to someone else the dilemma he had been feeling inside for a while. He sure hoped that Mr. Im could give him some ideas, some direction, and some counsel. A picture of Sam’s life quickly flashed through his mind. He didn’t know how many more years he had. He wanted to live them well. He didn’t want to finish them with regret
“Sam,” said Mr. Im, “you have asked a good question, a good series of questions. I will be happy to work with you. You will need to be patient as we think through the fear-love topic. In a way, it is not complicated, but it is quite radical in its scope. As we get into it, you will see that other concepts have a role in the fear-love issue. If we skip over them, we will lose our way. So, you will have to be patient and steadfast.
“I want us to begin by reading some material I will make available to you. I will give it to you in sections. It will have connections to a variety of areas, such as psychology, religion, history, politics, deviate behavior, and ethics, to name several.
“So, give me several days to put the material in the form that I think will best work for us, ok?”
Sam was relieved. His questions didn’t seem silly for Mr. Im. Mr. Im was willing to help him get an understanding about fear and love. What all would he learn? He would soon start finding out.
– – – – M O R E T O F O L L O W – – – –
Among other things, he told stories. In fact, He was the world’s greatest story teller. Ask him a question; he’d answer with a story.
Give him an argument; he’d give you a story. . . . Give him a real tricky, catchy question; he’d give you a real trick, catchy story.
Have you ever watched seven-year-old children listening – inhaling – a story? Eyes wide, mouth slung open, mind churning . . . they live, accept, and believe. They are totally absorbed.
This man-God, Jesus. He was a good story teller. He knew what he was doing. (1)
“What happens when we are sorry for our sins?” people asked Jesus. “Let me answer you by telling you a story,” said Jesus. So, he began.
A young man was walking the long road home. His father ran to meet him.
“Where have you been?” asked the father.
“A long, long way from home,” said the son.
“Where’s the money I gave you?”
“I spent it.”
“What have you got to show for it?”
“Just the rags I’ve got on.”
“You look thin.”
“I haven’t eaten for days.”
“How come you’re so dirty?”
“My last job was taking care of pigs.”
“You look it,” said the father.
“Father, I’ve been thinking.”
“That’s a good start.”
“I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against you. I’m sorry,” said the young man. “Well, aren’t you going to slug me?”
“I’m going to give you a party,” said the father.
“But I don’t deserve it.”
“And I’m inviting everybody to come.”
The father threw his arms around the young man’s neck. The young man kissed his father. And they headed down the road toward home.
“But I don’t want to go to his party,” said the father’s other son.
“Why not?” asked the father.
“It’s not fair! You never gave me a party.”
“Why should I?”
“I didn’t run away from home,” said the other son. “I stayed home and worked..”
“May I tell you something?, the father asked his son. “Just between you and me?”
“When you brother left home, your mother and I never heard from him. We thought he was dead. Seeing him again is like having him brought back from the dead.”
“I never thought of it like that,” said the other son.
“When you and I are together,” said the father, “it’s always good times. Let’s go into the party,” said the father, putting his arms around his son’s shoulder, “and get something to eat. A little singing. A little dancing. It will be our party too.” (2)
Yes, Jesus could tell a good story, eh?
(1) Lois Cheney. God is No Fool. Nashville: Abingdon, 1969. p. 23
(2) William Griffin. Jesus for Children. Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985. p. 69-71
Calvin Miller’s “A Gathering of Angels” was originally published in Breakaway, December 2006 prior to being included in The Book of Jesus.
Christmas Eve had come at last. Gabriel and Michael sat talking.
“What time is it, Gabriel?” asked Michael. Gabriel looked down at a rather immense calendar watch, studied it a moment and looked back up.
“It’s exactly the 14th year of Augustus . . . you know, annus quattuordecimus, as these Romans say.”
“No, no, no! I want it in the new time. I can’t remember! Is it B.C. or A.D.?”
Gabriel looked again at the big watch.
“It’s about time for the changeover! Tonight at midnight, the Lord God puts the new star in that elliptical orbit that passes over Bethlehem . . . then all the angels have to set their watches ahead to A.D.”
Michael scratched his head.
“A.D.? What’s that mean?”
“How do I know what it means? The Lord God’s the only one who knows everything. I think it stands for some more of those Roman words, anno Domini or something like that. Anyway, it just means Jesus Time. The whole world is going to use it; it all becomes official as soon as the Lord God takes the brakes off that new star.”
Michael cautiously ventured one final question: “Look, Gabriel, how are they coming on that new star?”
Gabriel looked excited.
“I just flew by the Star Foundry yesterday. Mike, this is going to be a big one. Bright, too. You remember how all the angels were wearing sunglasses when the Lord God started dumping the hydrogen in Andromeda? Well, this one’s bigger and brighter. It makes Halley’s comet look like a sulfur match.”
“Never mind, Michael. They’re pumping the hydrogen now. This is going to be some star. It’s gonna slam smack into the middle of the constellation Pisces. There are some astrologers out in the desert at a big stargazers convention. Those guys are really in for a surprise. Remember how mixed up they were during the last meteorite shower? Think what it’ll do to their charts when Redeemer 1 comes a-slicin’ through the sky.”
Michael beamed. “Redeemer 1. . . . I like that. Is that what they’re calling it: Redeemer 1?”
“That’s what it is, Michael.”
“Man, what a name for the Jesus star! Say, speaking of Jesus, where is he, Gabe?”
“Still tucked up under the heart of Mary, but not for long. Mike, I’m so excited!”
“Me too. I’ve been practicing the Christmas music all day long. I hate scaring those shepherds like we’re going to have to do. Still, I know I can’t hold my song past midnight.”
“Me either, Gabe. I understand the whole anthem is going to be in Aramaic. Of course, I really sing it best in Latin—you know, like Gloria in excelsis Deo. But you know the Lord God. Those shepherds don’t know a word of Latin, so we’re going to do the whole thing in Aramaic.”
“Man, this is some anthem. I can’t remember. Is it double p or double f on the refrain?” he asked, studying the sheet music.
“Triple f. We start out loud; and we just keep the whole piece a-swelling. I have the tenor obbligato. Crashing crescendo, it is going to be quite a night. Still, why is time draggin’ so? Will A.D. never get here?”
Meanwhile, Down Below
Michael paused and walked a few steps and looked over the crystal balustrades.
“Look, Gabriel. See the little couple down there? They’ve been traveling for three days.”
Gabriel leaned out and looked over. He struggled to fight back tears before he spoke. “He’s been to all six inns in the city. She’s in so much pain she can hardly stand it. She’s only 18, and this is her first baby. How time flies! I was just down in Nazareth nine months ago talking to her. She’s a beautiful girl. You wanna hear the song she wrote, Michael? It was pretty good for an earthling.
. . . . . My soul glorifies the Lord
. . . . . and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
. . . . . for he has been mindful
. . . . . of the humble state of his servant.
. . . . . From now on all generations will call me blessed,
. . . . . for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
. . . . . His mercy extends to those who fear him,
. . . . . from generation to generation. (Luke 1.46-50)
Gabriel stopped. Michael went on, “Wow that’s some poetry, Gabe. When did she write that?”
“Right after she found out that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah.”
“Look! Gabriel, they’re going toward the stable. It must be getting time.”
“It’s time all right! Say, what’s the name of that unfriendly place?”
“It’s Bethlehem. Why?”
“Bethlehem? Why in the world Bethlehem? I mean, why not Athens or Rome or Thebes? Where’s this Bethlehem, anyway?”
“It’s about six miles from Jerusalem; that’s where King David was from.”
“Couldn’t it be somewhere more cosmopolitan than Bethlehem?”
“I suppose the Lord God could have picked a bigger place, but after all, this isn’t a world’s fair, you know. Besides, half a millennium or so back, Micah said it would have to be Bethlehem. You know Micah, don’t you?”
“Well, of course, I know Micah, doesn’t everyone? I just saw him and Jeremiah and a couple of the minor prophets the other day. But I didn’t know he said it would have to be Bethlehem.”
“I even heard him telling a couple of the younger cherubim the way.”
“The way where?”
“The way to Bethlehem. He was real insistent to them. Told them to watch their altitude and steer clear of Mount Hermon. ‘Set the glide pattern at 30,000 feet,’ he said, ‘and fly left at Damascus.’”
It Is Time
“Say, what’s that light?”
“Wow, Gabe, look. It’s Redeemer 1. Better get into your choir robe.” Quickly Gabriel slipped into his choir robe.
“Can I set my watch on A.D. now?” he asked.
“Not yet, Gabe! Not yet!”
Gabriel looked as if he was about to burst. In a nervous minute, he asked again.
“Please, can I set my watch now, Mike?”
“Shhh! Not yet, Gabe. Now be quiet.”
Redeemer 1 rolled out into the night sky and spilled its light.
Everything was all golden!
It was magnificent!
Down below, the astrologers panicked in the splendor of the light.
Nervously Gabriel continued to play with the stem of his watch, 10,000 angels stood in rapt attention waiting for the downbeat of the Aramaic anthem.
Far to the left of Damascus, the shepherds gazed out into the night silently. The universe was hushed. Nothing moved.
Then the great Lord God of all the universe raised His hand, and the great Redeemer 1 rolled right over Bethlehem. The prophet Micah beamed from ear to ear. And the Lord God dropped His hand.
And distinctly every angel heard a faint redeeming sound above the sleeping world. At that very moment when God dropped His hand, they heard it. A baby cried!
And Gabriel set his watch to run a billion years on Jesus Time.
“An exercise in brevity: an extremely short story”
After explaining the circumstances, he asked me, “What should I do?” I responded that he should send her this note: “You will know when it is the right time to contact me. Our history will not fail us. I will do and be what you need and want.”
Readers are invited to use the comment feature to propose what this story is all about. It should be an interesting experiment!!!!
The card I would have given her – October 5
Five years ago today, her birthday card was ready. But, five years ago today it was already too late to give her that card. Joyce had already taken wings to go home, to be with Father God, to dwell in the home the Son of God had prepared for her.
Before she left, I had said to her, about her new home, “I’ll take care of the painting when I arrive; leave something for me to do!” I don’t know how aware of her surroundings when I told her that. Nonetheless, it was an affirmation for her, one more time, even if in a light hearted fashion, that she always stayed on top of things. She was better at that than I was . . . and am.
Another way she expressed that same trait was to buy birthday cards well in advance. Although picking up some of that habit, I never became as diligent as was she. Nonetheless, I had had the birthday card for her five years ago today. Now, five birthdays later, I still have it – the card I would have given her – the card not delivered.
Why keep it now, I ask as I see it here on my desk? The answer really is not complicated. It is because the card’s expressed sentiments still remain as true now as then. They capture truths that have not faded nor gone out of style. And, what are those sentiments expressed on that card I would have given Joyce on Oct 5, five years ago? I was hoping your would ask.
No one means more to me than you . . .
And nothing means more to me that your love
The joy your smile gives me,
Your sweet kisses every day,
Your loving arms around me
In a warm, romantic way,
Songs that make me think of us,
A favorite photograph,
Memories of the fun we’ve shared,
The way you make me laugh,
Your eyes, so full of tenderness,
The soft touch of your hands,
The way we often think alike,
And always understand –
All love’s little treasures,
Everything we share and do
Are very special reasons
Why my heart belongs to you
More Than Yesterday . . . Less Than Tomorrow
my Love, my Life, my Wife
a grandeur that overpowers me, Alexander - Caesar - Charlemagne, can Jesus be God?, Jesus and Napoleon, Napoleon, should have vanished into thin air, The Book of Jesus - Calvin Miller, time - the great destroyer- is powerless
This is another “chapter” (but edited and amplified – see references below) from The Book of Jesus by Calvin Miller
“I know men, and I tell you that Jesus is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. . . It is not so with Christ.
“Everything in Him astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Beside Him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideals and His sentiments, the truths which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things.
“His birth and the history of His life; the profundity of His doctrine, which grapples the mightiest difficulties, and which is, of those difficulties, the most admirable solution; His Gospel, His apparition, His empire, His march across the ages and the realms, is for me a prodigy, a mystery insoluble, which plunges me into a reverence which I cannot escape, a mystery which is there before my eyes, mystery which I cannot deny or explain. . .
“The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me, everything remains grand — and of a grandeur which overpowers.
“I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of my self, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant — Jesus — should be able to stretch His hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.
“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him.
“I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man; none else is like Him: Jesus Christ was more than a man. . . . I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me . . . but to do this is was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lightened up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts. . . .
“Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of time Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful!
“In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. . . . This phenomenon is unaccountable. . . . Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.”
Harper New Monthly Magazine. Making of America Project, pp. 177-181.Harper and Brother Publishers, New York, 1855.
Liddon, Henry Parry, The Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 147-148. Scribner, Welford and Armstong, New York. 1868
Miller, Calvin. The Book of Jesus. pp. 63-64. Simon and Schuster, 1996.
COMMENTS ARE INVITED
"Calvin Miller", a party in Cana, a wedding, Jesus, looks like a laborer, Max Lucado, property on Jupiter, show off or show up, the apostles, The Book of Jesus - Calvin Miller, the harps of heaven - the parties of extortioners, walking 90 miles to go to a wedding
This article is another “chapter” about Jesus, taken from The Book of Jesus, edited by Calvin Miller. Miller, in turn, takes us to Max Lucado’s comments on Jesus attending a wedding party. The story is part of the Gospel of John, chapter 2.
I (Lucado speaking) was planning to write a chapter on twelve verses this week, but I never got past the second verse. I got stuck. The second verse wouldn’t release me. It took me hostage. I’ll tell you about it, after I set the stage.
Picture six men walking on a narrow road. The gold dawn explodes behind them, stretching shadows ahead. Early-morning chill has robes snugly sashed. Grass sparkles with diamonds of dew.
The men’s s faces are eager, but common. Their leader is confident, but unknown. They call him Rabbi; he looks more like a laborer. And well he should, for he’s spent far more time building than teaching. But this week the teaching has begun.
Where are they going? To the temple to worship? To the synagogue to teach? To the hills to pray? They haven’t been told, but they each have their own idea. . . .
Jesus lifts his hand and says softly, “We’re on our way to a wedding.”
Silence. John and Andrew look at each other. “A wedding? John the Baptist would have never gone to a wedding. Why, there is drinking and laughter and dancing . . . Why would we go to a wedding?”
Good question. Why would Jesus, on his first journey, take his followers to a party? Didn’t they have work to do? Didn’t he have principles to teach?
Wasn’t his time limited? How could a wedding fit with his purpose on earth? Why did Jesus go to the wedding?
The answer? It’s found in the second verse of John 2 (the verse I could not pass). “Jesus and his followers were also invited to the wedding.”
When the bride and groom were putting the guest list together, Jesus’ name was included. And when Jesus showed up with a half-dozen friends, the invitation wasn’t rescinded. Whoever was hosting this party was happy to have Jesus present. “Be sure and put Jesus’ name on the list,”he might have said. “He really lightens up a party.”
Jesus wasn’t invited because he was a celebrity. He wasn’t one yet. The invitation wasn’t motivated by his miracles. He’d yet to perform any. Why did they invite him? I suppose they liked him.
Big deal? I think so. I think it’s significant that common folk in a little town enjoyed being with Jesus. I think it’s noteworthy that the Almighty didn’t act high and mighty. The Holy One wasn’t holier-than-thou. The One who knew it all wasn’t a know-it-all. The One who made the stars didn’t keep his head in them. The One who owns all the stuff of earth never strutted it.
Never. He could have. Oh, how he could have!
He could have been a name-dropper: (Did I ever tell you of the time Moses and I went up on the mountain?”}
He could have been a showoff: (Hey, want me to beam you into the twentieth century?”)
He could have been a smart-aleck: (I know what you’re thinking. Want me to prove it?”)
He could have been highbrow and uppity: (I’ve got some property on Jupiter . . .)
Jesus could have been all of these, but he wasn’t.
His purpose was not to show off but to show up.
He went to great pains to be as human as the guy down the street.
He didn’t need to study, but still went to the synagogue.
He had no need for income, but still worked in the workshop.
He had known the fellowship of angels and heard the harps of heaven, yet still went to parties thrown by tax collectors.
And upon his shoulders rested the challenge of redeeming creation, but he still took time to walk ninety miles from Jericho to Cana to go to a wedding.
As a result, people liked him. Oh, there were those who chaffed at his claims. They called him a blasphemer, but they never called him a braggart.
They accused him of heresy, but never arrogance.
He was branded as a radical, but never called unapproachable.
There is no hint that he ever used his heavenly status for personal gain. Ever.
You just don’t get the impression that his neighbors grew sick of his haughtiness and asked, “Well, who do you think made you God?”
His faith made him likable, not detestable. Would that ours would do the same!
Where did we get the notion that a good Christian is a solemn Christian? Who started the rumor that the sign of a disciple is a long face? How did we create this idea that the truly gifted are the heavy-hearted? . . .
May I tell you why I think Jesus went to the wedding? I think he went to the wedding to have fun.
Think about it. It’s been a tough season. Forty days in the desert. No food or water. A standoff with the devil. A week breaking in some greenhorn Galileans. A job change. He’s left home. It hasn’t been easy. A break would be welcome. Good meal with some good wine and some good friends . . . well, it sounds pretty nice.
So off they go. . . . to Cana
His purpose wasn’t to turn the water to wine. That was a favor for his friends.
His purpose wasn’t to show his power. The wedding host didn’t even know what Jesus did.
His purpose wasn’t to preach. There is no record of a sermon.
Jesus went to the wedding because he liked the people, he liked the food, and heaven forbid, he may have even wanted to swirl the bride around the dance floor a time or two. (After all, he’s planning a big wedding himself. . .
So, forgive me, Deacon Drydust and Sister Somberheart. I’m sorry to rain on your dirge, but Jesus was a likable fellow. And his disciples should be the same. I’m not talking debauchery, drunkenness, and adultery. I’m not endorsing compromise, coarseness, or obscenity. I am simply crusading for the freedom to enjoy a good joke, enliven a dull party, and appreciate a fun evening.
It’s been awhile since I pegged Jesus as a party-lover. But he was. His foes accused him of eating too much, drinking too much, and hanging out with the wrong people!
Loosen up. Don’t you have some people to hug, rocks to skip, or lips to kiss?
Jesus took time for a party. . .shouldn’t we?
COMMENTS / REPLIES ARE WELCOMED
basic self centeredness, being in a hedged lane, evaluating the current scene, if there is no joy, John Naisbitt, MIND SETS!, once the first step is made . . ., true? of interesting?, what is rewarded and what is punished, when the benefits are not transparent
Several months ago, a friend sent me a selection of very provocative thoughts and quotes, chosen from John Naisbitt’s Mind Sets, and gathered by David Mays. I have, in turn, selected some of what I received.
You may find them provocative, supportive of some already held ideas, irritating, comforting, truncated, and perhaps puzzling in some cases. I doubt that you will find them boring. My including them is not to be interpreted as indicating my carte blanche agreement with the entire selection. Take them as an opportunity to experience iron sharpening iron, ok?
According to Naisbitt:
- While many things change, most things remain constant.
- The future is imbedded in the present.
- It is powerful to not have to be right.
- Resistance to change falls if benefits are real.
- Look at what is rewarded and what is punished.
- Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly.
- See the future as a picture puzzle.
- A proposition doesn’t have to be true; it just has to be interesting to be a good way to stimulate thought.
Quotes taken from Naisbitt:
- To appraise the viability of a society or a company, examine its ability to be self-correcting. (94)
- “I match and measure information against my own experience, using my values and mindsets. And so does everybody else.” (xvii)
- “Differentiate between basics and embellishment, rules and techniques, trends and fads, breakthroughs and refinements.” (10)
- “Basic change is the result of a confluence of forces, rarely because of just one force….” (17)
- “In business, politics, or private life, the gap between words and facts widen when personal pride is involved. Often it’s not the promises made but the problems hidden.” (24)
- “It is in the nature of human beings to bend information in the direction of desired conclusions.” (31)
- “If you have to be right, you put yourself in a hedged lane, but once you experience the power of not having to be right, you will feel like you are walking across open fields, the perspective wide and your feet free to take any turn.” (39)
- “You don’t bend down unless something is worth picking up.”
- “Do not underestimate people. When they resist change, change you think they ought to readily embrace, you have either failed to make benefits transparent or there are good reasons to resist.” (62)
- “Almost all change is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Things just take time, almost always more time than we expect.” (76)
- “The economic borderlines of our world will not be drawn between countries, but around Economic Domains.” (157)
- “Economics will continue to overwhelm politics in the running of the global economy, and the impact of the global economy on our lives is far greater than the rhetoric of politics.” (180)
- “What scientists will not have is the key to our souls, our spiritual nature, which we will therefore cling to and obsess about.” (248)
- “changes made in the genetic codes that are passed on generation to generation will overwhelm the importance of all previous technologies. But it will also include the danger of catapulting the human race into an undreamed future. . . . Once the first step is made, we will be on a path of no return.” (248)
- “Whatever the future holds, it will be worth nothing if there is no joy.” (249)
COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED
at home, chasing down some thoughts, dehumanizing people, ends and means, Jesus - a means to an end??, some positive consequences that are not goals, wanting protein - needing liquids - social interaction, when we can't be more home
Permit me to chase down some thoughts with you. If I need protein in my diet, I can eat meat, seafood, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds (and perhaps some other things as well). In other words, if I make protein consumption an ends, there are various means. If I want liquids, I can drink water, milk, juices, wine, and other items; I can even be hooked up to an IV unit!!. In other words, if I make the consumption of liquid an end, there are various optional means. If I make physical pleasure an end, there are various means to accomplish that end. If I want social interaction, there are various ways to accomplish that end. If I want to increase my muscle tone, there are various ways or means to reach that end.
Once thinking in the terms of ends and means, let me move to a different aspect of living. If I want to exist with God for eternity, are there various optional means? If I want to experience peace of mind, are there various means I can employ? If I want to have friends, are there various means to achieving that end? Many people certainly think (rightly or wrongly) that the just mentioned ends have optional means.
When thinking in terms of ends and means, as the previous two paragraphs do, what parameters do we use to decide which means to select. If we set protein consumption as an end, and recognize that there are various means to that end, on what basis do we select among the options of meat, nuts, sea food, eggs, etc., as our means of choice? Some people would choose on the basis of taste. Some people factor in the issue of allegories. Other folk would factor in the issue of cost.
By now, I think the picture is somewhat obvious. We have goals (ends) that we want to achieve. And, we normally have some choices concerning the means to those ends. That is simply a fact of life. Some people have different goals / ends. Some people use different means to get to the same ends.
But, here is where I am going with this line of thought. Is Jesus a means to one of our chosen ends? Does it make more sense to think of Jesus as an end, or even the ultimate end?
For most of us, we know how easy it is to treat other people as means to an end. In this context, we sometimes see, hear, or use the expression “dehumanizing a person.” Basically, the term refers to treating someone as a means to an end. For most of us, “dehumanizing” someone is considered to be a pejorative behavior. We don’t want anyone to dehumanize us. In fact, we would say that such behavior is insulting.
Let me return to the issue of Jesus. When he was alive on Earth, it was not uncommon that people would treat Jesus as a means to an end. For example, some people saw Him as an effective mean to better health, a means to political freedom, a means to achieving power or position. But, are those constructive views of Jesus? No, they aren’t.
It may be the case that if I give my life to Jesus I will become part of a group of people who are more kind to me than the people with whom I have been associated. I may have more honest people at my side if I give my life to Jesus. If I give my life to Jesus, I might have mental peace that I have not previously known. I may have people who will protect me from enemies, who may provide for me in times of financial crisis or want, who may care for me in times of sickness. All of these “benefits” may be traced back to my being part of a particular group of people, with all of those people “belonging” to Jesus – solidarity coming to the foreground of our collective unity. Let us never belittle those “benefits.”
BUT, at the same time, let’s also not reduce Jesus to a means to one of our ends. He IS the end. When we are in Jesus, are with Jesus, abide in Jesus, there is no further step to take. We are home. We can’t get more home.
"How much do I owe you?" "Nothing", a small nylon suitcase, driving the night shift, her eyes were glistening, her home was in a four-plex, hospice care, the great moments catching us unaware, the taxi driver's story, twenty years ago
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.
Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep.
But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick four-plex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I’d be picking up some partiers, someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.
When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, and then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.
“Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”.
“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice”.
I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit
staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers,” I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware–beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
Looking over our past can bring peals of laughter, tears of great sorrow, spells of melancholy, the recall of mistakes (some very damaging, and some that were simply expressions of childhood foolishness). Perhaps gazing into the past resurrects the pain of misunderstandings (some that have been resolved by now, others that never have been), or expectations that we thought were legitimate (only to find out that they were illusionary). For some of us it may be the pain of having trusted a “friend” (only to finally realize that we were being “used”). We remember insults (both ours and those of others directed our way). The memories of being taken for granted (and also taking someone else for granted). Do you recall not being able to escape the presence of someone with an air of condescending superiority? Perhaps our minds will not let go of the times we caused someone to weep uncontrollably because of our failure. Perhaps they gave up because of our lack of trust. Maybe they became bitter because we created disheartening disillusion.
I have heard it said that with time, we forget the bad times of the past and exaggerate the good (like in “the good old days”). But, I also know that such a verdict on what time does is not universally the case; life is not that simple. So, what do we do when our past is so checkered, and still makes itself felt in our present moments?
What I have been describing is the mental construct I brought to hearing Susan Boyle’s rendition, sung with great feeling, of “Wild Horses”- click here for You Tube OR here for Grooveshark . (The lyrics follow this paragraph) Her song encouraged me to not let the “Wild Horses” (the disillusions, failures, and perhaps betrayals of the past – both mine and others’) to drag me away from the present and future opportunities that the Lord has granted to me. If anyone ever had a reason to be disillusioned with people, certainly Jesus did. But, He did not let the uncontrolled forces of evil, the demons on wild horses, drag Him from His goals. And furthermore, if anyone had reason to be discouraged with past performances, certainly Jesus’ disciples did. But, God gave them His Spirit who could tame their Wild Horses.
Childhood living it’s easy to do
The things that you wanted, well I bought them for you
Graceless lady, you know who I am
You know I can’t let you just slide through my hands
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn’t drag me away
I watched you suffer, a dull aching pain
Now you’ve decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
I don’t know I dreamt you, a sin and a lie
And I have my freedom but I don’t have much time
Fate has been suffered, and tears must be cried
Let’s do some living. . . after we die
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild horses wouldn’t drag me away