The day you came, you brought joy and laughter, and love. Your arrival marked one of the best days of my life. You made me feel so proud and so blessed to have you in my life, and so it has been for 35 years. Now a new life has come to you, and all those feelings come rushing back, some for the new arrival, but mostly, for you. Watching you become a mom has made me the proudest father, all over again.
Pilate addressed them once again because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept on shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I have found him guilty of no crime deserving death. I will therefore flog him and release him.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud shouts that he be crucified. And their shouts prevailed.
– Luke 23:20-23 NET
Some things never change. Those who yell long enough and loud enough usually get what they want… or at least what they think they want.
Maybe it is more important that I be totally committed to what I believe than always confident in what I believe. Doubts, when they come, make it hard to be totally confident in beliefs. Commitment means the doubts don’t matter.
The trash man is now a robot. Well, more precisely, a robot arm. The big truck pulls up next to my trash can and a long robotic arm reaches out to pick up my can, dump the contents in the truck, and set the can back on the ground. It’s wonderfully efficient for the trash company. The robot arm doesn’t have to be trained. It does exactly what it’s programed to do with no variation. There’s one less worker to pay. The robot arm doesn’t require benifits and it doesn’t have sick days or union membership. Perfect for the trash company, but lousy for me.
I miss the real person. The person who sees if some of the garbage falls on the ground and takes a moment to pick it up and throw it in the truck. The person who makes sure the can is placed back at the end of my driveway, and not in the road. Robots work fine when everything behaves as expected. When all the variables are accounted for and nothing out of the ordinary happens. But that is not real life. Real life has regular occurances of the irregular. Wise humans have learned to expect the unexpected and adjust in the spur of the moment as needed, because we are irregular ourselves.
Real humans are unpredictable, adaptable, and refreshingly unique. They make life interesting, exciting, and full of infinite possibilities. Some do crazy things, some do wonderful things, but they all do suprising things as they constantly make their own choices about life. And the wonders of those inifinite choices are why God gave humans free will. He didn’t want programmed predictiability. He didn’t want robots. He wanted people.
Easter was less than two weeks ago and already the trauma is fading. This past Easter was no ordinary one for me. Church was online and pre-recorded because of Covid-19 and the need for social distancing. It was a beautiful Spring day, so after the “service,” I went outside to deal with some metal spikes that were sticking out of the ground around some old rotted landscaping timbers. I was afraid the dogs would get hurt on them, so I was trying to remove them. That’s how I got hurt. Isn’t that ironic.
I won’t go into the details, but it involved my finger, a couple of metal spikes, a sledgehammer, and bad aim. Thirty minutes later I was sitting in the urgent care facility waiting for a tetanus shot and some stitches. When the doctor came in to stitch me up, I apologized that he had to do this while having to also deal with all the Covid-19 virus everywhere. He said he was glad to get to do it. It gave him a break from dealing with all the fevers, coughs, germs and such. I do think he almost enjoyed stitching up my finger.
In less than a week, Tammy pulled the stitches out for me. Today, less than two weeks after the bad-aim incedent, my finger feels almost normal again. There’s a little scab left, and it’s still a little sore, but in a few more days, even that will be gone and there will be nothing left but memories and a scar.
My body is healing itself. God made it that way. It happens countless times every day, in every place, all over the world. Cells regenerate, cuts and punctures seal up, broken bones knit together and a numberless army of tiny warriors in the bloodstream incapacitate invading germs. It is the miricle of life, an amazing design by an amazing Designer, that deals with the vast majority of evil things on this planet. But there are those rare occasions when the system is overwhelmed. And in time, the body wears out. On those occasions, for those happy souls who are prepared for it, our Creator has a new and improved model waiting. Can you even imagine what it must be like?
Don’t let it make you afraid.
Don’t let it make you greedy, selfish, or stingy.
Don’t let it make you self-centered.
Don’t let it make you obsessed.
Don’t let it make you cynical.
Don’t let it make you point the finger of blame.
Don’t let it make you isolated.
Don’t let it destroy your joy, your faith, your hope, or your love.
Yes, Covid-19 could kill you, but crazy as it may seem, that’s not the worst thing it can do. Thankfully, with God’s help, that’s all it can do.
Keep the faith,
I remember when I was young and my kids were younger, we would play together, performing some fun thing, swinging them around in circles, tickling, somersaulting… After every flip, the kids would say, “Do it again.” I would always get tired of it before the kids. Sooner or later I would say, “No more. This is the last one.” I enjoy blessing, giving of myself and making my kids happy, but doing the same thing over and over gets old and tiring. There is a limit to how much and how long I can do it.
This past Sunday, as the start time for the second worship service at our church was approaching, I thought about this. I was playing bass and managing the tracks this Sunday. I had prayed for God’s help and blessing for the first service. We needed God’s power to help us lead the worship in such a way that goes beyond just our natural, fallible talents. and of course He answered the prayer. Now it was almost time for the second service and I found myself humbly asking Him if He would “Do it again.” I felt a little guilty for always asking for help for the same things. I wondered, “Don’t you get tired of me asking for help over and over? How many times can I ask you God before you tell me ‘Enough.'” Almost as soon as I asked, the answer came back . . . “Infinite. Unlimited.” And He did it again.
It’s easy to read the Bible and lose sight of the practical application if you are not careful. Psalm 23:5 says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.” I think of David and his enemies, Philistines and giants and such, and find it hard to relate sometimes. I’m not going to war with people trying to kill me, especially not any giants. And for me, the image of a cup spilling over, or an oily head is not a good thing. But when I think about what that really means, it blesses me.
Think about it. The Lord prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies. The Lord will bless me so my enemies will see. Not just where they can see, but right in the middle of them. When my enemies are around me, with me, looking at me, considering my demise, smirking and plotting my destruction . . . That’s when and where God chooses to prepare a banquet for me. That’s where He annoints me and fills my cup with blessings overflowing. That’s where He honors me by showing my enemies just how much He loves and cares for me.
So the next big question is, who is going to be watching God bless me? Who are my enemies? Probably not big Philistine giants. Maybe someone at work? Or someone at school? Someone in your neighborhood . . .
Living in a small house with two big dogs can be challenging. At 123 and 152 pounds, Joy and Buster Brown (aka “Buzzard”) are not easily ignored. You can’t lock them in a little dog carrier. You can’t really hold them in your lap, even if they want you to. It’s difficult to put anything out of their reach. And I’m still doubting the wisdom in teaching Joy to open the refrigerator. Life with two big dogs is just crazy sometimes. But the other day, I thought of something even crazier. Why don’t people keep 150 pound cats in their house?
Imagine what it would be like to live with two Mountain Lions in your house. They are in the same weight class as our dogs. They have teeth that could chew you to bits, and claws that could rip you to shreds. They have more than enough strength and weight to pounce on you, knock you to the floor, and literally bite your neck off. But strangely, none of this is the reason people don’t live with 150 pound cats.
Buster Brown has teeth that could chew me to bits. He has claws that could rip my flesh. He can and has knocked me down on occasion when we run and play. My arm fits inside his powerful jaw. I know because I’ve had it there. Just this morning, he had my wrist in his mouth. One crunch and I would be without a hand. Either Buster Brown or Joy could probably kill me if they wanted to. Both together certainly could. So why do people live with big dogs but not big cats? It’s not the size, teeth, and claws that count. It’s something else. It really comes down to one thing. Trust.
I don’t trust Buster with my dinner on the table. I don’t trust Joy with the refrigerator open. I don’t trust either of them with fried chicken scraps in the garbage. But when we are playing and tussling around the house, when Joy grabs my arm in her big jaw to try to pull me outside to play, when I go to sleep at night and leave the bedroom door open for them to come in at any time, I’m trusting them with my life.
I know my dogs aren’t perfect. But I also know they respect me as master. They know I am lord of the house. They trust me to lead the small pack that is our family. In their own way, and in at least some sense of the word, they love me. And I love them. And because I can trust them to love and respect me, they enjoy the blessings of my love, and my house.
My grandfather was always up to something. He always had a plan, a hobby, a project to work on. Even when he got old, he didn’t sit still for too long. When health finally forced him to stop, that’s when he went on to be with the Lord. I remember my grandfather as a guy who never stopped moving forward, looking for the next thing to build, the next place to go, the next person to help . . . He didn’t just talk, he did. With this as his attitude in life, the advice he gave me one day appeared to be a little out of character.
Emotionally, I was going through a rough patch in life. From the outside perspective, it looked like things were going well for me. Life was working out just fine. I had a house, a family, a job . . . but I was not content. I couldn’t figure out what I should be doing next. Should I be working harder? Should I be doing more? Or should I just be happy with things the way they were? That’s when my grandfather told me “Sometimes, you just coast.”
“Sometimes, you just coast.” It sounded like good advice at the time and I’ve never forgotten it, but recently, I have wondered if it is really true. After all, the Bible says we should run life as a race. Run to win. That doesn’t sound like coasting to me. On the other hand, there are also stories in the Bible where God told his people to relax. To stop striving. He would fight the battle for them.
I think my issue was that I was confusing coasting with drifting. Now, maybe my grandfather wasn’t purposefully so choosy with his word, but even so, I’m glad he said “… sometimes you just coast …” and not “… sometimes you just drift …” Drifting is aimless. You just go wherever the currents of life take you. Coasting is still purposeful. When you coast, you still aim toward the goal. You still move in the right direction, but you stop striving so hard to get there. You stop pumping the peddles of the bicycle like crazy, relax a bit, lift up your head, and enjoy the breeze as you coast toward your goal.
In life, there are always hills to climb, times when you have to peddle hard just to make progress. Times when you feel like giving up, like you will never make it to the finish line. That’s when you build strength and character by keeping your head down and pushing the peddle with perseverance. But if that were all there was to the journey of life, most of us would give up before reaching the destination.
I’m glad there are times when we can coast. Times of resting and refreshing and being content. The important thing is to know when to coast, to recognize and enjoy it when you can, and to always keep steering in the right direction. I guess that’s what my grandfather was trying to tell me years ago. Sometimes in life, “you just coast.”