Thursday, January 26, 2012

Occupy US!

Yahoo/AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
While our nation grapples with all sorts of unanswered questions, including how to handle the current difficult economy, one Ohio Hardware Store, a mom-and-pop shop for 155 years, recently experienced an ‘Occupy Ohio Cash-mob.’ A friend of the Shutts Family, owners of Chagrin’s Hardware, knew that they had been through hard times, not the least of the pressures coming from the big chain stores, but also local road construction on Chagrin Falls Main Street, which hampered business. But when a friend, Jim Black, noticed their struggle, he had an idea that he and his friends could help. He emailed his friends, and asked them all to go to Chagrin’s Hardware Store on Saturday, January 21, and spend at least $20. They did. And so did a whole lot of others! They lined up before the store opened, they formed lines that would last all day, they came not necessarily needing anything, except knowing that their heart was moved to action. The store had an overwhelmingly profitable day! (see pictures)

Apostle Paul reminded us to do the same thing (1 Corinthians 8:1-13) in a very different context, but still on this same idea: act from a tender heart. It’s not enough just to be right in our thoughts and actions. We can also be thinking and acting according to a heart occupied with thoughtfulness toward the effect we have on others.
Yahoo/AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
What difference would it make to not only think rightly, but think and act out of a heart occupied with tenderness? Ask anyone from Chagrin Falls, Ohio; or, better yet, take a look at the Photo of friends Cheryl Black, Sherry Williams, and owner Jack Shutts. This Occupy Movement just might work!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Miraculas Save!

Google Image/ABC News
A miraculous save!  A mother and her two young children dangled precariously from the freeway bridge near Buellton, California, after a gravel truck hit them and the truck plunged into the creek bed below. Tragically the driver of the truck died, but what happened next is incredible! Santa Barbara firefighters attending the accident knew that what they really needed was a forklift to lift the vehicle from its position teetering on the edge of the bridge- when guess what just happened by? A forklift, with Navy Seabees trained to use it! Today the mother and two children are alive to witness to the miraculous save.

After seeing an incident like this, we find ourselves thinking: someone must really be looking out for their safety! It reminds me of the kind of heavenly father who tells his servant (see Old Testament book of Jonah) how concerned he is about some of his children, and asks Jonah to go tell them of how dangerous a road they are traveling, and they are putting their lives in danger unless they decide to change course. And the people God wants to save are not Jonah’s favorite. In fact, they are enemies!   

This little book may be the fodder for many a simple childhood story about a man swallowed by a whale (actually, a big fish, but you know how we like to embellish!) who is a reluctant messenger for God. But for us adults, we come away from the story with more questions than answers!  How could God ask us to save the enemy? How do we know they are not going turn on us and attack us? The countries had a history of attacks against each other. But still God wants Jonah to help set the people on a path other than the one to destruction.

With all the questions the story gives us, perhaps this is exactly where we need to be in our minds. Asking the right kind of questions- questions like: if God has compassion on even this group of people, why does it surprise us that he wants us to have compassion as well? Questions like this just might make us question all kinds of our assumptions about how we relate to all kinds of people, groups, and nations. It just might make us search our hearts and see if we have the same heart as God, looking for one merciful save after another.

Maybe this is exactly what Jesus had in mind when he said: ‘Ask and it shall be given unto you.’ What we could get in return is a heart like the Father, and a world on a less precarious path. That’s a miraculous save.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mr. Know It All

“Mr. Know It All” is Kelly Clarkson’s  #1 song on Billboard’s Chart of top Adult Pop Songs for the week of January 21, 2012.  It’s a clear expression of disgust at an arrogant person, along with the expression of the need to get away from the Mr. Know it all. We can relate to the feeling! Arrogance doesn’t make for close relationships!

What a contrast is the picture of our endearment to the one who really knows it all, God. God knows us completely, (see Psalm 139). Yet it is with the most  tender and loving care that God lets us give full vent to every frustration of life. We can lay our heart and mind and life before him, and let him tell us like it is, and know that the one who knows us best also treats us best.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Order: Life's Holy Punctuation

‘It matters where we begin.’ The Israeli shop-keeper told me. I thought I had asked a simple question, how to interpret the Hebrew inscription on my wedding ring. My wife and I had just been married in Tiberius, Israel, and my custom-made-to-size ring was in Hebrew, supposedly with the quote from Song of Solomon which they tell me is said in a Hebrew wedding ceremony: ‘I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me.’ That’s what the jeweler in the States told me it said, but I wanted to know from someone who actually spoke the language and had no stake in making a sale! For all I knew, I was wearing the Hebrew equivalent to ‘I’m a monkey’s uncle!’ The first person I asked looked at the ring, immediately took it to another, who took it to yet another, the shop-keeper in our Hotel, and they all looked at it with a puzzled look, until one of them pointed to a word on the ring, then they all turned to me and gave me the quote I was expecting. They also told me why it took so long to figure it out. The ring is a circle, and with no punctuation, you had to first determine where it begins. Then it’s easy.

Life is like that. It matters where we begin. The first words in our Christian (Hebrew origin) scripture remind us: we begin with God. (see Genesis 1:1-5) To begin anywhere else begins and ends in confusion. Life makes sense when we begin with God. And God begins making order and sense by beginning to literally put things into place. Light separate from dark. Day and night. Order, season, rhythm. 

Every day we begin with God. We are given the power each day to choose light over darkness. We choose to set boundaries in wise ways, which give shape to a joyful way of life. God gave us such a tremendous gift when he gave us the power to make life-giving choices.

Scripture shows us how to make life-giving choices because we have a God who is a life-giver!  Life at the beginning, life in the end, and life all along the way!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

All My Children

 How fitting it is that God would come to us on our own level. To a world that loves to see people on different levels, with some superior to others, he came simply, on our level. The idea is that we are all God’s children, and heirs to salvation, heirs to a life of freedom to live joyfully responding to his loving actions toward us. It is truly freeing to realize that we do not have to earn a relationship with God, or earn a place in God’s family!  We do not have to live as spiritual orphans, but as children with full rights to be happy in our Lord!

Galatians 4:4-7 is the inspiration for this blog, where Apostle Paul admonishes Christians not to allow their spiritual heritage in Christ to be hijacked by ‘old-school, earn-your-way-to-God’ spiritual bullies.