The Banker…

bank

In one small town lived an unusual banker.  He was known for taking a chance on people.  His bank didn’t run on committees or send decisions to Charlotte; he’d make a loan at the lunch counter of the drug store.  It didn’t matter if you needed $500 or $5,000, he’d listen, give advice, and more often than not, give you the loan.

One day, before the bank opened, two men were waiting outside.  The banker recognized them both.  He’d loaned Al $5,000 to buy some chicken feed; he’d loaned Joe $50,000 to start a restaurant.  Both men had furrowed brows; their heads down.

The banker greeted the men, unlocked the door of the bank, and invited them in.  Al said, “I need to speak to you, sir, in private if I can.”  The banker told Joe to wait a minute, invited Al into his office, and closed the door.

Al took a seat in front of the desk, looked at the floor, and started to speak: “I don’t know to tell you this, but you know that $5,000 I borrowed for chicken feed?  Well, I bought the feed, gave it to my chickens, but it must have poisoned, because I went out the next day and all 800 of my chickens were dead.  Nobody wants to buy dead poisoned chickens.  You know I was counting on those chickens to grow out.  I was going to sell them, and then pay you back.  But now, I’m busted.  I can’t pay.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

The banker looked at this defeated man, and said, “Al, it’s okay.  I’m going to forgive this loan.  You don’t have to pay me a dime.”

Al looked shocked.  “You can’t do that.  I’ll pay you back someday, I promise.”  Both Al and the banker knew that was a lie, but it made Al feel better to say it.

“Al,” said the banker, “don’t you worry about it.  Take this load off your shoulders.  Go home and start over.”

Al got up, choked up, and hugged the banker.  Al said, “I’ll never forget this.  Never.  Thank you.”

Al walked out of the office and the banker motioned for Joe to walk in.  He wore the troubled look Al had worn just a few minutes ago.

Joe took the same seat as Al, looked at the floor, and started to speak: “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you know that $50,000 I borrowed to start my restaurant?  Well last night I got careless with my stove and had a grease fire.  It’s my own fault; I was being stupid.  The whole building burned to the ground.  I lost my furnishings, my inventory, my building … everything.”

The banker said, “Well, now don’t worry.  Insurance will cover it.  You’ll rebuild.”

Joe dropped his head again.  “Well, I don’t know how to tell you this, but see a couple of months ago, things got tight and I let my insurance coverage lapse.  I don’t have any coverage.  I made a bad mistake and now, I’m busted.  I got no way to pay you.”

The banker got up from his chair and went around his desk.  He took a seat beside Joe and said, “Joe, letting your insurance lapse was a mistake.  Not paying attention to your stove was a mistake.  Here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to forgive your loan.  You don’t have to pay it back.  Instead, I’m going to be your partner.  We’ll go in business together and start over.  I think together we can build you a better business and a better life.”

Joe stammered, “You’d take a chance on me?  Even after I screwed up?”

The banker smiled and said, “That’s what I do; I invest in people so they can have a better life.”

Joe broke into tears.  Never in his dreams did he believe he would be given another chance.

After Joe left, the banker went back to his desk with a smile.  Another day of grace had begun.

************************

Jesus told several variations of this story.  The point was always the same, though we miss it.  The point is not the debt was forgiven.  The point is not the gratitude of the two debtors.  The point of the story is how rich the banker is, that he can forgive debt, no matter what size.

Jesus is so rich in grace and mercy, he forgives every sin.  You cannot overdraw his grace balance.

Before you invest your life, know who is the banker of your soul.

Refusing to Stand for the Pledge…

pledge

I approached fourth grade with dread.  Everyone knew the meanest teacher in the school was Mrs. Hendon, and I was assigned to her class.  That first day began as all school days did: the bell would ring, the principal would come on the PA system, and intone: “Please stand for the pledge of allegiance to the Flag.”  We all stood in Mrs. Hendon’s class, all except a one little girl named Audrey.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”  Why isn’t Audrey standing?  Doesn’t she realize that Mrs. Hendon is her teacher and Mrs. Hendon eats disobedient children for breakfast?

“… of the United States of America.  And to the republic…”  We glanced at each other.  What was about to happen?  Why wasn’t Mrs. Hendon exploding?  Maybe she had a time delay fuse!

“… for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible…” Surely any moment now, Mrs. Hendon would jerk Audrey up out of her seat by ear and cause her to grow two inches.

“…with liberty and justice for all.”

Then we all sat down.  No Mrs. Hendon explosion.  No explanation.

At recess, the boys got together and decided Audrey didn’t stand for the pledge because she was a communist.  We also decided that Mrs. Hendon was a communist, too, but she was faking it better than Audrey.

I don’t really remember how many days passed, but I know every day when we stood for the pledge, Audrey would stay seated.  We all thought in our hearts, “Communist!”

I think it was Charles Brown who said it out loud one day.  We had finished, taken our seats, and were ready to hear the announcements when he said, “Audrey’s a communist!”  Audrey put her head down on her desk and began to cry.

Then we saw the full wrath of Mrs. Hendon.  She turned toward us with clenched teeth, and scowl that made our crew cuts stand up straight.  If the wrath of God is anything like the wrath of Mrs. Hendon, I don’t want to ever experience the wrath of God.

“Be quiet!” she hissed.  Then she turned to Audrey and with great gentleness told her to go to the Sick Room.  This made no sense at all.  Though we knew communists were sick, we thought they belonged in jail.

Then Mrs. Hendon, slightly calmed, turned back to us.  Audrey, she explained, was a Jehovah’s Witness.  I raised my hand to ask what in the world was a Jehovah’s Witness.  I knew only of Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Catholics.  Mrs. Hendon said Jehovah’s Witnesses were taught it was wrong to say the pledge of allegiance.  They loved their country, she said, but they believe you should only make a pledge to God.

We were all thoroughly confused.  Mrs. Hendon saw our puzzlement, and went on to explain that liberty for all, which we had just pledged, meant that people like Audrey had the liberty not to say the pledge. Being an American, she said, meant you were free to worship God the way you saw fit; and if your religion said not to say the pledge, that was okay.

She must have realized she was not getting through to us.  Being free to disagree was not big among fourth graders in 1969.  Mrs. Hendon decided to put it in terms we could understand: “If I hear one of you making fun of Audrey again, I will spank you with my board of education.”  That we understood.

The rest of the year passed.  While we stood for the pledge every morning, Audrey stayed seated.  We did not call her a communist; in fact, we learned she was a lot of fun at recess and could clean your clock playing dodgeball.

The refusal of NFL players to stand for the National Anthem made me think about this.  I’m proud to be an American.  I stand for the pledge and say it loudly.  But I’m also proud that liberty for all means Audrey got to stay seated.  I’m also embarrassed, that I called her a communist, just because she wasn’t like me.

Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  Whenever I judge someone, it says a lot more about me than it does about them.

To Think It is to Do It – Sometimes…

41-BYF-BLACK-WIDOW-GERMAN-LUGER-RIG_100753465_42464_C563E329246D7FD2

I was taught to think something is to do it.  No doubt Mama taught me this so I could learn to control my thoughts.  It didn’t quite work that way.  Too often I would think something, and then decide since I already thought it, I might as well do it.  This explains the failure of many diets.

I went to Florida to celebrate my brother Steve’s 65th birthday.  To celebrate, we went to a gun show, one of his favorite leisure activities.  I collect books; Steve collects guns (I have more books than he has guns, but he is closing the gap).

We went our separate ways, for we have different speeds.  My approach is to do a quick circle, then go back to what I find interesting (I found a booth that had books on guns!).  Steve, much like our father, makes a new friend at every booth.  I mean, every booth.

We crossed paths after a couple of hours and he told me he found a gun he wanted: a 41 German Luger pistol.  I walked back to the booth with him (it was his birthday after all).  The seller, Steve’s new best friend), had just sold the pistol.  Steve missed out on his gun.

Being the compassionate brother I am, I reminded him of what Mama taught us: “You know Steve, Mama also said to think it is to do it.  So I thought about buying you that gun for your birthday.  In fact, I my mind I bought it and I have given it to you.  Now the least you could do would be to say ‘Thank you.’”

Without missing a beat, Steve replied, “I’ve already thought about writing you a thank you note.  It’s in the mail.”

We had a good laugh and teased each other about the gift and the thank you note the rest of the weekend.

But maybe this is one time when Mama’s teaching was incomplete.  Whatever action we take first forms in our mind, so we need to monitor our thoughts.  As I monitor my thoughts, I can reject destructive and unhealthy thoughts.  Every time I reject destructive and negative thoughts, every time I do not allow them to control my actions, I win.  I can think about eating a candy bar, but if I reject that thought, thinking is not the same as doing.

I wish I was the kind of person who never had destructive, unhealthy, negative thoughts enter my mind.  That’s why Paul called us to “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind… (Romans 12:1).”  My mind has been under construction for a long time.  At least the process has started.

What remains important, however, is that I recognize the harm that comes to myself and others when I allow the unhealthy, destructive thoughts to become actions.  Stopping those thoughts gives me a better life.

Pay attention to your thoughts.  Turn away from the destructive ones.  Don’t allow the harmful thoughts to become actions.  To think it is not the same as doing it.

Although, I still wish Steve would send me a thank you note for gun I thought about buying him.

Hef’s Answers

Hugh_Hefner_Glamourcon_2010.jpg

Dallas Willard, philosopher and Jesus follower, said all people are trying to find the answers to four questions:

  1. What is reality?
  2. Who is well off?
  3. Who is a good person?
  4. How do you become a good person?

Hugh Hefner died last week.  Founder of Playboy, he sought to redefine “what is a good life?”  How did Hef answer Dallas’s questions?

What is reality?  Hefner said reality is what is here and now.  Yet, there is a contradiction between his words and his life.  The Playboy brand above all stands for fantasy.  Beautiful women stared at you from a glossy page promising pleasure without commitment or complication.   That’s not reality.  Every human being needs love, acceptance, and security.  Playboy could never quite offer these in its pages.

Who is well off? According to Hefner, you were well off if you had the resources to live as you wanted.  Hef wanted to live where he made the rules.  Granted, his lifestyle was the envy of many.  Money poured in.  There were always potential partners for intimacy.  Hef repeatedly said of himself, “I am a lucky guy.”  “Lucky” is our culture’s word for “blessed.”  Yet his lifestyle did not age well.  Hedonism seems to suit the young and fit.  At some point, Hef’s life seemed creepy.  A man in his eighties having seven girlfriends in their twenties makes you wonder who was being exploited.  Maybe it was mutual exploitation: “Hey old man, pay our bills and we will give you a thrill.”  This falls short of “being well off.”  Where is the center of the soul in a bargain like this?

Who is a good person?  Hef saw himself as a moral person.  He said to live a moral life you need to make sure you do not harm someone else.  Before you rush to condemn him, realize we all have our own definitions of what makes a good person.  I fail at my definition every day.  Did Hef do better than me?  He certainly baited the hook for pornography addiction.  By making the sexual experience the pinnacle of human existence, other parts of the soul were ignored.

My brother Bob dated a girl in high school, Debbie, who became a Playmate of the month.  She died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 53.  Her body was not discovered for two weeks after her death.  Was there a connection?  Only God knows.  It does seem to me, however, that Debbie neglected parts of her soul.  She never made the connection that she was so much more than a body.

When any person is objectified, they are harmed.  Hef failed to a moral person by his own definition.

How do you become a good person?  Honestly, Hef was a little fuzzy on that.  He offered a life model that said, “Live as you wish, do not harm, and be admired.”  Though Hef would claim his life was dedicated to sexual freedom, the complete picture seems to be a life dedicate to yourself.  A life dedicated to yourself is a cul-de-sac.  You chase a pleasure dream around a circle.  If you catch it, you soon see something you like better, and start a new pursuit.  How many times around the circle before the thrill is gone?  A former playmate shared her experience of being one of Hef’s many partners.  She described the experience as surreal, because ultimately Hef would need to watch pornography to satisfy himself, while in a room of women.    This doesn’t seem to be the way to be a good person.

You may sense I am building up to a condemnation of Hefner.  I’m not.  What shames me is how much my life has been influenced by his answers.  Thought I am follower of Jesus, too much of my life is controlled by Hef’s values.  It is easier to entertain fantasy than work reality.  I find myself admiring the man who “has it all.”  I want to believe living a good life is about not doing things, instead of doing things.  How many times have I chased a dream, only to catch it and find out it didn’t reward what it promised?

Hugh Hefner’s life and death remind me to check my own soul.  Maybe the good life requires more than just looking out for yourself.  Didn’t Jesus say, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Which road was Hefner on?  Which road am I on?  Which road are you on?

What Happens in Vegas

(NY Times photo)

I could have been there.

I like country music.  If I had been in Vegas Sunday night, I might have bought a ticket and gone to the show in the shadow of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.  I could have listened to the music, swayed a little, and lived in a moment of joy.

I also could have been a target.  Stephen Paddock fired from his perch on the 32nd floor, killing 59 people and wounding over 500 more.  Authorities are still trying to figure out his motives, if insanity can have rational motive.

Shootings like this happen with alarming frequency.  Listening to news coverage, the question I heard most often was, “How do we stop this kind of thing from happening?”  Sherriff Joseph Lombardo replied with an answer we don’t want to hear: “Nothing.”

We live in world where evil seizes the soul and then seeks to destroy.  The destruction is sometimes towards self.  Sometimes it is toward others.  You see evil reaching out of a soul to destroy a career, a family, a marriage, a life.  Evil’s tools are addiction, fear, jealousy, neglect, denial, anger, and craving.

The evil that controlled Stephen Paddock can control you; it can control me.  Yet, we want to deny the reality of evil.

We’d like to make the world safe.  We’d like to have enough laws to stop this sort of thing.  Technology has given us the illusion we can build a world where nothing can threaten us.  We’re happy in that delusion until the next shooter opens fire.

Even if we acknowledge the world is dangerous, we try to convince ourselves we can respond.  I have no way of knowing this, but since it was a country music concert, I figure someone had a concealed weapon – legal or not.  There were police and security forces right there.  But a .38 pistol is no match for scoped rifle firing on automatic 400 yards away.  No matter how big your gun is, someone, somewhere, has a bigger gun.

Jesus told us things like this would happen.  This text is seldom taught or preached on, but it rings true: “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish (Luke 13:1-5).”

We don’t like Jesus telling us the harsh truth.  Pilate was evil and didn’t care if he had to kill some people to stay in power.  Some unknown government official never took responsibility for tower maintenance in Siloam and eighteen people died (neglect is a form of evil, too).

Jesus’s message?  “Repent, or you will perish.”  I think Jesus was saying to us that it’s a dangerous world.  The only way for evil not to overtake you is for you to turn around and do life God’s way.  When you do life God’s way, evil does not control you inside or out.  You are not the person controlled by evil; when evil is done to you, even if you die , you know God has the last word on your life.  You can die in hope.

What happened in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.  It can happen wherever people are.  It’s an evil world.  When you are with God, however, evil does not win over you.  Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Seven Lies We Tell Ourselves

lies

I lie to myself; so do you.  We try to create our own fake news to keep real reality at arm’s length.

Lies we tell ourselves:

  1. “I’m not that bad.” Compared to whom?  Maybe I’m not that bad compared to the drunk driver who kills someone; compare me to perfection – Jesus – and I don’t even make the chart.  Believing the lie that “I’m not that bad” means I’m constantly measuring to see how my morality stacks up with everyone else.
  2. “I don’t succumb to peer pressure.” We declare we are individualists, then get in a car a celebrity told us to buy, listen to a song that our friends think is cool, and then stop to pick up some beer we saw featured in an ad with flat-stomached guys and pretty girls who were having a good time around a campfire in the mountains.
  3. “I can stop anytime I want to.” This is the lie addicts tell themselves.  Addicts falsely equate change with willpower.  John Ortberg said, “Habit eats willpower for lunch.”  Perversely, it’s not until we admit we can’t stop that we have any hope of change.
  4. “I make my own rules.” Call the bank and tell them you made your own rules and its okay for you to skip a few payments.  Tell the doctor that you make your own rules, so the cancer won’t kill you, like it does everyone else.  Tell the trooper you make your rules about the speed limit (Tried it.  Doesn’t work).
  5. “I know how to fix this.” I hurt my wife.  I buy her flowers (or jewelry or a car or a house), because I know how to fix it. Then I’m surprised that she’s still mad.  I get mad back because my fix isn’t working.  I never stop to hear her pain, to understand her.  I’m not really trying to fix the problem; I’m trying to get her to forget the problem so I don’t feel guilty.
  6. “I can make it up to you.” Closely kin to lie number five, we tell ourselves if we say “I’m sorry” enough times, or if we go into super-servant mode, or if we just declare enough that we’ve changed, the past goes away and we get a clean start. You may be forgiven, but you can’t erase consequences of past choices.
  7. “God wouldn’t be mad at me.” A third century theologian, Lactantius, said, “He who does not get angry, does not care.”  Any parent who truly loves his or her child will be angry when that child does something that harms himself or herself.  If God is love, doesn’t it make sense that He would be angry that we harm ourselves?

What happens if you believe your own lies?  You center on yourself.  You expend tremendous energy and resources trying to keep your false version of reality intact.  If you live in the land of fake reality too long, you become a narcissist.  Your fake version of reality shuts out others.  Relationships wither and die.

There is a reason Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.”  Here’s the truth – you don’t get to define reality.  You need help coping with real reality.

That’s what Jesus offers.  He offers you help.  He offers you love.  He offers you grace.  He offers to set you free from your own lies.

What truth is Jesus speaking to you right now? Are you listening to Him?  Or your own lies?

Who is God?

camping under the stars

A Cub Scout troop was sleeping out under the stars; at least, that’s what their Scoutmaster thought.  He was snoring away while the boys were telling stories, pondering life, and looking at the Milky Way.  One boy said, “What do you suppose God is really like?”

The boy whose dad ran a manufacturing plant said, “God is like a plant manager.  He goes around telling the angels what stars to make.  After they make one, he inspects it to make sure it’s quality, and then he ships it out so another crew of angels can install it in the sky.”

The boy whose dad was a policeman said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like a policeman looking for people who break his laws.  When they do, God catches them and makes them pay for what they’ve done.”

The boy whose dad was a lawyer said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like a judge.  The angels go out and catch everyone when they die.  Then God judges them based on what they did.  Then he sends them upstairs if they’re good or downstairs if they’re bad.”

The boy whose dad was rich said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like Santa Claus.  All you have to do is ask him for something and he brings it to you when he gets home from his trips.  And if you don’t get what you want, you hold your breath until you turn blue and then God will give you what you want.”

The boy whose dad left when he was born said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God makes you and then leaves you alone to figure everything out for yourself.”

The boy who was being raised by his grandfather said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is old and he has arthritis.  You have to be real quiet around him.  But you can get away with a lot of stuff because he doesn’t see too well, or hear too well either.”

The boy whose dad was an accountant said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God makes sure everything is in its place.  God doesn’t tolerate mistakes.  You’ll be okay with God as long as you stay within the lines.”

The boy whose dad was a solider said, “No that’s not who God is.  God fights the devil.  He and the angels are fighting the devil and the demons.  The angels fly around and shoot arrows of gold, while the demons catapult balls of fire back.”

One boy, who didn’t have a dad, stayed quiet.  The other boys prodded him: “Hey Billy!  Who do you think God is?”

A moment passed.  Then Billy spoke up and said, “God is my Father in heaven.”

In heaven, God sighed and cried at the same time.

Walking Away…

walk away

A re-telling of an old story:

There was this young, hot-shot politician who was on the fast track. A sharp young man, he was shrewd enough that he wanted to cover all his religious bases. He had heard about a new preacher in town and wanted to be sure and get him on his side.

The young politician couldn’t help but be impressed with the crowd that surrounded the preacher at his regular preaching time. He was more amazed that unlike other preachers, this one did Q and A with the crowd. From personal experience, the young politician knew this took courage.

The young politician worked his way to the front of the crowd, nodding, grinning, and shaking hands as he went. His mind was flying about the best way to get the preacher on his side while impressing the crowd at the same time. Being a clever man, he hit upon just the right question. When the preacher paused for a breath, the young politician spoke up, loud enough so everyone could hear him: “Preacher, you are so wise! So what do I need to do to have the best life possible?”

The preacher looked at him with a dry smile and said, “Why are you calling me wise? Only God is wise. I’ll bet you already know the answer. Keep your life between the ditches. Don’t kill, sleep with someone else’s wife, take what doesn’t belong to you, tell a lie, or cheat anyone; and do right by your Momma and Daddy.”

With the perfect touch of humility and pride, the young politician said, “Preacher, I’ve done all that ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper.”

The crowd murmured approval, because this young politician had the reputation of being an upright guy. They looked at the preacher, certain he was about to heap praise on the young man.

But the preacher looked at him with a look that conveyed affection and truth. He said, “You’re missing one thing. Go back to your office and put everything up for sale. Liquidate it all. Empty your bank accounts. Take it all the money down to the wrong side of the tracks and give away. When you empty your bank account, your account balance in heaven will go way up! Once you’ve done that, find a spiritual adventure to go on.”

You could hear the air sucked in by the crowd. The young politician looked stunned. He’d come thinking he would get a high five from the preacher. Instead, he was blindsided by a reality about his life: He’d rather be rich than be right. He’d been born into money; it meant status and security. He didn’t want a spiritual adventure; he wanted an endorsement of his life as it was. The preacher didn’t cooperate with his agenda. With a heave of his shoulders, he turned from the preacher and headed back to the office.

Years went by. He heard how the preacher was lynched for his teachings down at the capital. Then there was the crazy news that after a few days, people saw him alive again. The crazy nuts that had sold everything and followed him were telling everyone the best life you could ever have would be to follow him. The now old politician still didn’t believe it, though every now and then an ache in his soul seemed to say: “Is counting my money all there is?”

The old politician had dismissed that thought so many times, it rarely came up anymore. But whenever it did, he went back to the day of his encounter with the preacher. He made the right decision, he reminded himself. After all, what would he have gained if gave up all his money and saved his soul?

(see the original version of this story in Mark 10: 17-22).

Is Your Character Growing?

growth

Your mind is amazing.  It thinks so fast you don’t know you are thinking.

Like right now.

Your eyes receive light patterns.  The patterns are sent to the brain.  The brain recognizes the patterns as words.  You don’t read the individual letters.  You don’t sound out the word.  Your brain translates the sentences into meaning without you thinking about thinking.  At the end of this article, without thinking, your brain will send a message to read what’s next.

Every day you take a thousand actions without thinking.  You make a choice and take action changing your future without thinking.   You act on what you believe is good and what is bad without thinking.   You justify to yourself your behavior without thinking.

Character is the way you structure your world.  Your inside world shows up in your external behavior.  It shows up without thinking.

We do not slow down life enough to think about our thinking.  We should.  Slow down and think about you.

Your soul is the operating system of your life.  Your character is how you program your soul.  It is the system architecture.  Your character is the patterns that come from your soul.

People structure their soul differently:  People can’t stand the tension of an open ended problem.  They must decide, even if it is the wrong decision.  Their heart is in the driver’s seat.

People feel sad and sadness guides their decisions.  Or people think someone is a bad person and they withdraw from a relationship.  Their mind is in the driver’s seat.

People have an appetite for sugar.  They eat a box of Pop-Tarts.  They repeat the pattern         the next day.  Their body is in the driver’s seat.

People want a “significant other.”  They take “the first available.”  They endure neglect, abuse, and unfaithfulness.  Their relational need is in the driver’s seat.

What if you could restructure your character?  What if you could restructure your system architecture?  What if you could restructure your soul programming?  Where would you start?  What pattern would you choose?

What if you started with the model of the happiest person who ever lived?

Jesus.

Your objection:  I’m not sure Jesus was the happiest person ever.  Wasn’t he killed?

Yes.  So?

Your response:  That doesn’t sound very happy to me.

That’s the problem.  We define happiness by what happens in a moment.  God defines happiness by what happens from birth to infinity.

We don’t know how to define happiness.  Jesus did:  Happiness is being blessed.  Happiness is life fully lived.  Happiness is satisfaction.  Happiness is being the being God made you to be.

That is exactly who Jesus was.  This is exactly who Jesus is.

The more your character is like Jesus’s, the happier you will be.  Maybe it’s time for you to slow down, think about your life, and pray to grow a character like Jesus.

 

Lessons from an Earthworm…

earthworms

Have you noticed the earthworms in the mornings?  In my neighborhood, they crawl up during the night (or after a hard rain), and make their way onto the street pavement.  I guess the asphalt looks like dirt to them.  They try to burrow into the asphalt, but they can’t.

Walking through the neighborhood one morning, I saw hundreds of earthworms curled up, dead.  They had got on the asphalt, tried to burrow, and then were gradually cooked by the sun as it warmed the asphalt.  Scrambled earthworms, anyone?

Then I saw one earthworm still alive.  The day was already warming up and he was wriggling for all he was worth (at least I think it was a he; who can tell?).  For some unknown reason, I felt compassion for the earthworm. Hard to say why.  After all, it is just one earthworm among hundreds.

I decided to rescue this earthworm.  I bent down to pick him up from the asphalt.  This is when the problems began.

My fingers are chubby and stubby.  When I pinched my fingers together to pick up the earthworm, there was a perfect earthworm-sized gap.  I couldn’t grab hold of him.

I don’t feel compassion often for earthworms, so I was going to rescue him if it killed him.  I crooked my finger and thumb to make sure there was no gap and tried to pick up the earthworm again.  I still couldn’t quite grip him, and dropped him.  I think his tiny mouth was screaming at me, “What are you doing?”

I would not give up.  I came in again, got a good grip… and pinched the earthworm in two.  Oops.  I remembered something from middle school biology: if you pinch an earthworm in two, both pieces will live.  So I tried again.  I’ll spare you the details except to say half a worm is better than nothing.

As I walked away from half a worm smooshed on the asphalt and half a worm in the grass, I ask our Heavenly Father what I was supposed to learn from that.

It came to me: Our Heavenly Father loves us so much he does not come to overwhelm us with his presence and power.  If he did, we wouldn’t just be pinched in two; we explode in the presence of his glory.

Our gentle Heavenly Father knew we needed an intercessor, someone who would come and be just the right size to rescue us, make us clean, and bring us home.  That’s why he sent his son Jesus.  Jesus – God with us – comes to each of us and says, “You matter.  You are important to our Father in Heaven.  Let me rescue you, forgive you, and bring you home.”

Stop wriggling in fear.  Jesus will come to you with just the right amount of power to rescue you.