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Archive for April, 2011

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me (I Corinthians 13:11).”

Life has been chaotic these days.  Thus, when I had the chance to hit a local university production of The Fantasticks, I jumped at it.

I thought that perhaps for a couple hours I could go off into the land of “make believe” and relax. It was not to be.

Everything began peacefully. The opening song seemed familiar and helped me to settle into the world of imagination.

With the stage empty of paraphernalia, and the music’s waltzy quality, I WAS called to imagine, and to try to remember in the midst of my fog:

“Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.”

Speaking of ‘follow’, I wasn’t able to quite do so with the lyrics as sung by the actor on stage, but I picked out the important words: “remember…September…mellow”.

I got the idea. I was called to think of the time of my youth when life wasn’t so complicated. It was a beckoning to nostalgia.

I was ready to go there, despite my understanding that my youth, while not horrible, wasn’t exactly trouble free. I was ready to get sappy and outside of my normally cynical self. In fact,  I needed to for a time.

The lead actor, a state beauty queen hopeful, played Luisa, a carefree girl. To me, she possessed the naivete I have seen in many young women.  Scott Miller portrays her this way:

“Luisa’s tragic flaw is that of many teenage girls – she simply feels too much. Her emotions are so extreme, so extraordinary that they can neither be contained or adequately expressed. Instead they just build and build, and come pouring forth whether she likes it or not. It’s not that she’s foolish or simple or young (or at least not just that); it’s that she feels too much, and has not yet figured out what to do about that.”

It wasn’t long after this opening song that I personally was involved in the arena of inordinate emotions. A seemingly unnecessary crisis led me from the world of fairy tale back to real life.

In fact, I ended up annoying one of the ushers with the interruptions, and had to leave the theatre. By intermission I was gone and back to my life of confusion.

I was truly disappointed. I fought like a madman to stay in that theatre, but I just couldn’t make it happen and remain a responsible adult.

I had been ready to immerse myself in a time which the opening song describes:

“Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.”

In the play, I was set up to remember, and then I was thrown again into my personal tumultous sea. The only  thing I could remember from this play, ironically, was the song “Try to Remember”.

I suppose this was not an accident. I believe God removed me from that playhouse to teach me a lesson.

I didn’t need to see the rest of the play because the last stanza of the opening song was being played out before me in my personal life:

“Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
Although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
Without a hurt the heart is hollow.”

At this stage of my life, it seems God is not in the business of allowing me the luxury of romance, nostalgia and fiction. He seems to be wanting to use hurt to fill my empty heart with true love.

I left the play when the young lovers had hardly met each other and were caught up in their immaturity. However, as Miller puts it, the real story of the Fantasticks is growth in love:

“The final verse about December tells us up front that this story will veer into darkness, that it will not be all about happiness and romance and moonlight. And it delivers its central theme right out loud, telling us exactly what this story is about: ‘Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.’ In other words, real love is mature, complex, honest love, love that has been earned.”

I could weep at the necessity of this. To be grown ups, we have to experience pain to know real love.

We aren’t allowed the relative ease and comfort of our childhood years. After September, childhood is over, folks.

Yet, we don’t want it to end. Personally, I keep wanting to hang on to the ideal of it, and as a result my childishness inflicts great pain on the adults around me.

Staying a child is not what God wants of me, or any man or woman for that matter.  He takes us through a lifetime of hardship to lead us  the world of grown ups.

For example, God did it with the whole nation of Israel. He tested them for 40 years so that they would learn to obey Him, and allow Him to do them good in the end (Deuteronomy 8:1-9).

The greatest obedience I need to learn in my hardship is to dole out the kind of love Luisa of the Fantasticks did not possess in her youth (John 13:34).  To be able to do this, I do not need to try to remember the simplicity of my youth.

What I have to try to remember first and foremost is God’s own love for me in the midst of my havoc. I have to try to remember the rest of His script for me, which involves creating a beautiful form out of my chaos.

I haven’t seen enough of the Fantasticks to get the gist of it. Sometimes, though, we need to read a book or see a production more than once to “get” it.

My own thoughts echo those of a critic quoted by Miller:

I am sadly out of practice at writing raves. As any critic knows, it is far easier to pick out a production’s faults than its virtues, and I am hard pressed to explain The Fantasticks. With this in mind, I did something for the first time last week. Having seen the show for free on Tuesday, its opening night, I bought tickets and went back on Thursday. . .

The most elaborate and sophisticated art is employed to catch the audience in its simplicity. There is a breathtaking balance between worldly wit and commitment to naiveté. . .

The Fantasticks is not the dregs of an uptown backers’ audition, nor an under-produced Broadway musical. What are usually limitations off Broadway become advantages. I just might go see it again.

– Michael Smith, The Village Voice

Me too: One day I will see it again, older and wiser. It could be I will gain an understanding of the opening song’s last lyric:

“Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
The fire of September that made us mellow.
Deep in December, our hearts should remember
And follow.”

The days of youth weren’t  all immaturity. We learned some valuable lessons there.

One thing we learned is that God is a God of peace. I think even back then He was trying to control the burning in my soul and redirect the flame so it would mature into a pure love, which would emanate peace to me and to those around me. Unfortunately, and perhaps by necessity, it is taking a life time to do it.

In this life I must be an actor in the theatre of the absurd. One day, though, probably in heaven, I can take a seat and cheer on the other actors.

 But not now. Right now I have to participate in my own real life comedy/drama, and be a grown up.

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“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people (I Timothy 2:5,6a).”

What’s wrong with this picture? A headline from today’s newspaper reads: “Happiest Places Sometimes Have Highest Suicide Rates”.

Utah, for example, is ranked number 1 for people who have a high sense of well being, yet it is ranked high in suicides, coming in at number 9.  On the othr hand, New York is ranked number 45 in the area of well being, but even lower when it comes to people taking their own lives.

The people who did the research theorize that the results could be due to unhappy people offing themselves because they become even more miserable living around content folks.  Others say it may be more complicated, suggesting that things like isolation in rural states may contribute to the suicides.

I’ve seen this phenomenon before. I lived in a country which in many surveys is rated the best place to live in earth. Yet, it also ranked at the top in suicides. Go figure.

While such studies are interesting I suppose, they really don’t mean much in day to day life. There’s more to life than being happy, for example.

For the Christian, what is more important is loving and being loved. The apostle Paul pointed this out, rebuking the Ephesians for engaging in trivial pursuits instead of moving God’s plan ahead (I Timothy 1:3-7).

Paul noted that there were some requisite inner characteristics for a person to engage in loving others. He outlined these attributes as a “pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5)”.

One of the problems with the Ephesian lovers of minutiae was that they posited themselves as teachers, but didn’t know what they were talking about (I Timothy 1:7).  As a result, they looked somewhat foolish when people in the know, like Paul and Timothy, came around.

Sometimes, raising a ruckus is the wrong strategy. I have learned this the hard way.

Once you get a reputation as a rabblerouser, especially over non-essentials, it is hard to gain a hearing when things really matter. People interpret your communication through their grid, one  based on their previous encounters with you.

I recently had occasion to send out what I thought was a normal report to some people. However, I was shocked when I was told I was being disrespectful.

In reflecting on this, I determined that I had paved the way for this result by some previous unwise written comments. I figure I now have a reputation for dissing people in my communication.

When the people you are dissing happen to be folks with authority, you put yourself in a dangerous position. Paul, the apostle sent from God,  jettisoned a couple of men who he determined were abusive with their words. 

What God desires instead of reviling communication is an environment of peace.  Paul wrote that we should be praying for our authorities, not slamming them (I Timothy 2:1-4, 8).

I saw a comic in the paper this morning which said,”Sometimes it is more important to be nice than to he right.” When it comes to setting an environment whereby the good news of Jesus Christ gets communicated, this should be a mantra.

If I have a comment, concern or issue with people, sometimes it is best to let it lie.  I don’t have to go to the mat on everything.

If I want to battle, let it be over the important things in life, like faith, hope and love. The rest I should leave in the hands of my loving Savior Jesus Christ.

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“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’ (Luke 15:3-6).”

“You don´t only want to avoid the issue. You want to avoid avoiding the issue”. Dr. Wilson is telling his best friend Gregory House what he thinks of  the latter’s self-destructive bender in a hotel room, and his refusal to discuss his problems.

House, the title character in the hit TV medical drama, has just been dumped by his love, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. She has decided she needs someone who is not the addicted, self absorbed jerk House can be.

After seeing House in his stupor, Wilson chastizes Cudddy for breaking it off with him. He reminds her that she knew what kind of man he was when she began the relationship.

Wilson wants Cuddy to talk to House. “He needs you,” he says.

Cuddy tells Wilson,”I can’t fix his problem. I AM his problem.”

It’s true. Problems don’t go about fixing themselves. Usually there has to be a decided intervention and a desire for change.

House doesn’t appear to want to change. He also doesn’t appear capable of it.

Gregory Boyle, in his book “Tattoos on the Heart”, the story  of his work with Latino gang members in Los Angeles, describes how slow  change with flawed people can be. There are implications to this slowness.

Boyle writes,”Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround.  Wait for it.”

Boyle, a priest, tells the story of Joey, a boy who he has been trying to “shake out of his stupor” of  sleeping late, selling just enough crack to grab something to eat at McDonalds. and hanging out with his gang. The 21-year old is still an adolescent, stuck in what Boyle calls the  morass of desperation which gang members get trapped in.

“Few can conjure an image of something better,” he writes.

One day, though, Joey comes to Boyle with some good news. He has found a job.

Sure, his work involves being  the mascot at the children’s restaurant Chuck. E. Cheese, and he is a rat. However, it doesn’t matter to Joe. He is proud of himself, and so is Boyle.

The priest asks Joey what made him  finally look for work. Joey tells him, “In two months my son’s gonna be born. I want him to come into the world and meet his father -a workin’ man.” Boyle writes of this,”That’ll do it.”

Joey’s story tells a larger one. There has to be a reason bigger than ourselves to change. Until we find that reason, we have to endure pain.

The pain we experience is a signal that something needs to be healed. It is a wake-up call telling us to change.  Boyle quotes Robert Frost: “How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you.”

The process of change is  the “slow work of God” to get a person to the point to do something about their problems. Boyle briefly quotes another priest, Teilhard de Chardin, in this regard.

(I’ve chosen  to reproduce the entire piece which Boyle quoted from);

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
     to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
     to something unknown,
         something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
     by passing through some stages of instability
         and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
     as though you could be today what time
         — that is to say, grace —
     and circumstances
        acting on your own good will
     will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
     gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
     that his hand is leading you,
     and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
         in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
     our loving vine-dresser.”

This message of slowness and waiting doesn’t set well with me. I don’t think it would with my fellows in America either.

We are all products of our American culture. We want what we want and we want it now.

Any delay in resolution causes me great anxiety. I do a “House”. I finally give up and find ways to avoid the pain. I run. 

Today, as I was sitting outside on  a sunny, beautiful day (a weather description I could not have written much the last month or so), I had my head in my hands. I was on the run.

Part of my physical posture was that I was trying to shade my eyes. I have an eye infection and they are very sensitive right now.

The other reason for having my face buried in my mitts was my fatigue. I hadn’t slept much the last few nights.

As I sat there at my little table, a well-dressed African-American woman approached me and asked,”Is everything all right?” I told her that I was fine, and summarized the above information for her.

Yet, what I told this stranger was incomplete. She noticed a man in pain, which is what I was. She just didn’t know the full story.

What I didn’t tell this total stranger was that I was tired of the battle. I was sick of the hurt in my relationships and my sins. The “head in my hands” pose did in fact signal that not all was right in my world, and she picked up on it.

As I write this, I still do not have answers to the problems affecting me that day. While I appreciated the lady’s kindness, I KNEW she didn’t have answers.

It turned out she was a member of a cult. Her solutions would just make me even more messed up. Still, I am grateful that she cared enough to try, and I told her so.

 What I am trying to get at  is a reason for “keeping on keeping on” while God solves my issues.  The gang members Boyle worked with didn’t have anything to keep them going at times.

He writes about one homie who blew his brains out. This was quite rare in the ‘hood, as homies usually just take their own lives simply  by crossing into an enemy neighborhood. This man killing himself  was an act of  “suicide by gangbanger”.

Boyle had to break the news to the brother, a homie named Pedro. This young man was trying to change at this time.

He told Boyle of a dream he had. In the dream, both Pedro and Boyle are in a dark room.

Boyle comes up with a flashlight and points it at a light switch. Pedro knew that in order for him to get total illumination, he would need to flip that switch. The priest could only point the way.

I have a few buddies who will point the way to what they think is a working light switch for me. They can’t live my life, but they can provide enough light to help me find my own way.

House has his Wilson. The homies have their priest, Gregory Boyle.

The trouble with House and with some homies is that they run from the light switch because  they don’t really want to find the light. Who knows why. Perhaps they believe their lives are beyond repair.

 Sometimes I think mine is beyond fixing, at least in this life.  This is why I run, just like House.

In some ways I am at a crossroads.  I can either choose to deal with the whacking I get in life by running from God and my loved ones like House, or  I can choose to wait on Him, all the while trusting Him  to do His slow work.

This may involve accepting the ambiguity and irresolution of my predicaments. To do so, I am going to have to take whatever small beam of light I get from others, and go turn on my own floodlight. The question that remains is: will I?

One thing  Ido know: God has His emissaries still pointing the flashlight. In my case, the most recent one is my pastor.

He regularly brings God’s love to me. Here’s an example.

While I was driving to do some work in a cafe yesterday, I looked in my rear view mirror. I saw a small convertible sports car. It looked very much like my pastor’s Spyder.

I was heading to the next town over, and the little car behind me stayed in my mirror. It followed me all the way into the parking lot of the bookstore I was going to.

As I got out of the car, I heard behind me the warm voice of my pastor. greeting me. He asked if if I had time for coffee.

We sat down and chatted and he asked how life was. We had just done this a few days ago, but I told him that at the moment it was like a soap opera.

While I was talking to him, my cell rang twice. It was mayhem both times. I told him,”This is an example of  my life.” 

My pastor sat there with me and helped me sort out some things. He was the living image of the person Paul exhorted Timothy to be when he wrote him and said,:”Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction (II Timothy 4:2).”

I told him that he was like the poetic Hound of Heaven. What I meant was that he is relentless in his pursuit of me. The man just won’t let me run and hide in my pain.

(Sometimes I wish he would. I want to avoid even avoiding my issues.)

House has his Wilson, the homies have their Gregory Boyle, and I have my pastor. I am truly a blessed man.

I have learned that I need to be more like these real and fictional men trackers. I have to do some chasing of my own, like a hound on the hunt.

When I am out there running, God has his hounds after me. In turn, he asks me at times to be out there trailing others, “dogging” then in pursuit.

T’aint one of us above being pursued or being a pursuer. No one has arrived in this life.

In fact, as Teilhard de Chardin points out, we are on a journey in which the God of heaven is trying to sculpture us into the masterpiece He intends us to be. In order to come out as He envisions, we have to stay on the lathe.

When we run, in love He tracks us down through His surrogates. We get returned to the Lord’s studio so He can continue to add touches to His work.

When we run, we tend to run right to that which will dull our pain. We end up like House, pursuing the wrong things.

Running is not wrong, by the way. We just run from the wrong things. In fact, what God tells us we should be fleeing from is  the adolescent behavior House likes to engage in, and pursue good things.

Once God catches us and puts us back on his whacking table, we are deputized into the  work of tracking others ourselves. Once we catch our prey, we are to become guides, i.e. lead dogs.

Elizabeth C. Clephane has brilliantly written a word picture of what Jesus does for us, and wants us to do for others:

“There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

‘Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?’
But the Shepherd made answer: ‘This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.’

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die;
Sick and helpless and ready to die.

‘Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way
That mark out the mountain’s track?’
‘They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.’
‘Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?’
‘They are pierced tonight by many a thorn;
They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.’

And all through the mountains, thunder riven
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of Heaven,
‘Rejoice! I have found My sheep!’
And the angels echoed around the throne,
‘Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!’

Thank God for sending His son to bleed and get cut in order to chase me down. Thank God for the deputies and surrogates He continues to bring into my life. I don’t know where I would be without Jesus and the other hounds. 

Lord, help me to be just a good a bird dog as they are.

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“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25).”

This morning I overslept and walked late into the final early morning men’s seminar I have been attending at my church. As I sat down, men continued to give testimony to what they had learned.

One cerebral-looking fellow stood up and begin to speak. He talked about how he has been striving at work to be more efficient. The man, who appeared to be a technical person, mentioned that he wasted a lot of time because of inefficiency.

He went on about how he had come up with some ideas to be more efficient, and the writing had gone into several hundred pages. As he held up the course workbook, he explained that he wanted to be more effective at work so he could spend more time working on the types of things he had learned on Tuesday mornings.

“I figure it will take about a year for me to learn to apply the things I learned from this (again holding up the workbook),” he said. My fellow early riser said he believed progress  would be like the slow turn of an aircraft carrier.

I sat there groggily amazed. My book from the course was sitting in the rear seat of my car at the time.

I didn’t even care to bring it in this morning. I had left it in my car many times before, also.

I expect my book will make its way eventually to a place beneath some stack of papers on my dresser, never to be seen again. I know I have to pick it up one more time because I am supposed to come up with a “manhood plan”.

This plan should be done before my small group gets together for lunch next Monday. While I don’t mind the task, my own lack of efficiency and stucture stand to keep me from accomplishing anything with it.

This unstructured task orientation is the nature of my temperament. I confirmed this last Sunday in another class, one on gifts, at church, this one on Sunday mornings and much later than the men’s meeting I have been going to for 8 months.

Plans like the one asked for by the men leading my course usually end up well-written, but also well-hidden. They never see the light of day after they are finished.

I have recently thought how little my life actually reflects the high minded truths and insights I have written here in this blog over the last year and a half. I have mused that if these writings survive me, some people would think that perhaps I really had it together.  If they only knew.

It has occurred to me today that my disregard for the application of God’s Word is pretty contemptuous of Him. I surmise that He thinks my passive behavior is pretty contemptible.

 The brainy expert I heard this morning, on the other hand, intends to spend the next year learning to apply the things  from the biblical course he just took. In my early morning numbness, I was impressed. 

I was also challenged. “Oh  yeah, application”, I thought. I should know better, given the amount of exhortation I heard on this subject in the early days from the leaders in the Christian circles I hung in.

Not following through would make the last eight months of Tuesdays a mockery. Indeed, I think deep in my heart I see the exercise of application as futile, at least for me.

What I am saying when I toss material from Christian leaders is that I believe that  x ≠ y (with x being the insights from the course I just took and y being doing something to change my life from what I learned). In my heart, I believe the wisdom  is valuable, but application is not.

This is the inference of my do-nothingness. In other words, I don’t see the goosebumps I sometimes felt at 6:00 am listening to the speaker are connected in any way with subsequent action.

This thinking aligns me with those outside the faith, to be honest. The apostle Paul desribed people of his day who were not holding to the truth to his disciple Timothy:

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (II Timothy 4:3,4).”

Paul doesn’t say this exactly, but his advice to Timothy also infers that the people he was discussing had no inclination to act. They just wanted the goosebumps. Why else would he tell Timothy:”…but you keep your head in all situations,  endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry (II Timothy 4:5).”

To Paul, a true Christian not only pursued sound teaching, but he also  lived it out with action. Paul could look back on his own legacy and note that he had “fought the good fight…finished the race…kept the fight (II Timothy 4:6,7)”.

Going to church functions for months and not doing what one is told puts one in dangerous territory, since lack of application mocks God, as noted above.  God doesn’t suffer mockers lightly.

This was brought home to me by one of these viral Emails I occasionally get in my box. This one came from a relative.

The text of the Email reviewed the cases of some famous and not so famous personages who themselves suffered God lightly, i.e., mocked Him, and paid for it. The following story really got my attention:

“In Campinas , Brazil a group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a
friend. The mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of her friends and she said to the daughter, holding her hand, who was already seated in the car, ‘My daughter, go with God, and may He protect you.’  The daughter responded,’Only if He (God) travels in the trunk, ’cause inside here it’s already full.’

Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident.
Everyone had died. The car could not be recognized -what type of car it had been- but surprisingly, the trunk was intact.

The police said there was no way the trunk could have remained intact. To
their surprise, inside the trunk was a crate of eggs, none was broken.”

Oh, I suppose my failure to obey God’s Word isn’t the same as blowing smoke in His face. However, the passivity makes it appear that in my heart I find Him and His Bible laughable -of no real consequence in my life. Nice feel-good stuff, but where’s the beef?

Melanie wrote a song which portrays me and God in this dance over His teachings.
“I rode my bicycle past your window last night
I rollerskated to your door at daylight
It almost seems like you’re avoiding me
I’m OK alone but you’ve got something I need, well

I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates
You’ve got a brand new key
I think that we should get together and
Try them on to see
I been lookin’ around awhile
You got something for me
Oh, I got a brand new pair of rollerskates

You got a brand new key.”
God’s got some wisdom and insight from His people He wants to tweak in my life. The teaching won’t do all it can do without my “key”, my application.
God doesn’t really need me. He does ok without me, but He wants me.
With my application of what I hear from godly men and women and his Word, He would have  a conduit in which He and I, working together, would bless the world. We would really fly down the streets of my town.
Unfortunately, I am not available. God keeps coming by my door with the new stuff from His storehouse of biblical goodies, and I keep avoiding Him. My failure to greet Him and His Word with other than touchy-feely emotions is pretty disrespectful toward the living God.
So what to do? There’s that word again-do. 
Well, I think a good place to start is to review the definition of manhood I learned from the course I just finished. The leader of that course says that real men reject passivity.
If that’ true, and from God, then I need to go dust the crumbs off my coursebook in the back seat of my car and complete my manhood plan-and do it with enthusiasm.
Change doesn’t come easy. I know that.
This is probably why I am a passive, unstructured man. I hate pain. I have enough in my life without saying to God,”Hit me.”
But from my techie friend this morning I learned that I am not in a good place, just sitting in a chair at 630 am and listening, waiting for the “tinglies”. 
I gotta get off my duff and head on down the road. Unfortunately, metaphoricaly it’s raining outside. 
It’s been pouring literally these days in my town, too. This led me to look up the old “April Showers” ditty.
I was surprised by what I found. Everyone knows how the showers turn up flowers in May.
But what is never thought of is the opening line to the song:
“Life is not a highway strewn with flowers,
Still it holds a goodly share of bliss….”
 
Amen to that. Life is tough. But applying God’s  will at least provide some semblance of  joy in life.
God says so. In that case, I have to decide if  I am I going to just observe what I just wrote and treat it as a goose bump statement,  or if will I act on it. For my sake, and the sake of my loved ones, I hope so.

 

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“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:31.32).”

Gregory House can’t stand the pain. That’s all there is to it.

A fictional doctor on the medical drama that bears his name, he can’t stand the news that the love his life, Dr. Lisa Cuddy, has cancer. In an episode called “Bombshells”, he disappears around the hospital while she undergoes treatment.

House has never been known as a “sensitive 90s guy” anyway. Yet, he seemed to have made progress in his relationship with Cuddy. Occasionally, he might even do something that she could construe as caring.

Cuddy knew what she was getting into when she got involved with House. She knows he is a curmudgeon, and deeply flawed individual, although brilliant.

Cuddy also knows House is a drug pop away from addiction. He was compelled to take Vicodin for years to deal with the pain of a bum leg. Only institutionalization freed him of the habit.

Cuddy sits in her hospital bed, telling herself that House will show up eventually. Indeed, he finally does.

He comforts her, and helps her get through the ordeal of her illness. They learn that she doesn’t have cancer after all.

Cuddly also learns that House is the sensitive kind after all. Or is he?

Something is troubling Cuddy in her dreams. She can’t figure it out, until a reference that her little daughter makes gives her clarity.

Cuddy’s daughter calls drugs “candy”. In her dreams House always has candy.

Cuddy realizes that House has gotten through the pain of her recent potential death by taking Vicodin. It was the only way he cold overcome and be present as she suffered.

Cuddy can’t take it. She can’t deal with the truth that House has to be drugged to show that he cares for her.

Cuddy confronts House with the this reality. As he stands there, he sees what’s coming, and his normally cynical-looking expression turns into one of  man pleading for his life.

“Don’t”, he says. Cuddy replies,”I’m sorry”, and closes the door. Their relationship is apparently over, House is crushed, and the show ends with House again on the kitchen floor, taking a pill to deal with the pain.

I have mixed emotions over the developments in the relationship between these two. Part of me wants to tell Cuddy,”C’mon. As House said, he was there.”

The other part of me sides with Cuddy. The man is an abuser, albeit one who loves her, and she should say “hasta la vista” to the man.

I am not a woman, and Iam sure I will never understand what they are thinking. But I know enough, at least intellectually, that they want loving pursuit, not pill-induced compassion.

As one with Housian tendencies myself, I can see why Janis Joplin sang the following lyrics.

 “Didn’t I make you feel like you were the only man, yeah,
An’ didn’t I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can ?
Honey, you know I did!
And each time I tell myself that I, well I’ve just had enough,
But I’m gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.

I said come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby,
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah.
Hey! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, yeah.
You know you got it if it makes you feel good,
Oh yes indeed.
All right!

You’re out on the street looking good, honey,
Deep down in your heart I said you know that it ain’t right,
Never never never never never never hear me when I cry at night.
Honey, I cry all the time!
And each time I tell myself that I, well I can’t stand the pain,
But when you hold me in your arms, I’ll sing it once again.

I’ll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah,
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, yeah.
You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good hey!

Now all right!

Now come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.
Break another little bit of my heart, honey, yeah.
Hey! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,
You know you got it if it makes you feel good.
Hey! Hey! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,
Break it, break it, break it, yeah.
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,
You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good.”

The tone of Joplin’s cry is one of mocking. It is as if she is saying,”Go ahead. Hit me again.”

We don’t mean to, but we men break our women’ hearts to pieces. Or should I say “I” instead of “we”. (Maybe I could say,”me and a couple of my friends”).

On the other hand, I don’t think women get men either. I mean, c’mon Cuddy.

Cut House some slack. Sure he had to drug-up to come to your hospital room, but at least the man is trying.

Man or woman, in my view we are all imperfect, flawed humans. Some have less blemishes than others, but we all have them.

Pardon me if I quote someone who doesn’t deserve mention. But in the words of Rodney King during the midst of LA riots he helped start because of his own corruption, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Apparently not, unless we all gain some perspective from God. The Scriptures, in Psalm 103 say, 

“As a father has compassion on his children,
   so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 
for he knows how we are formed,
   he remembers that we are dust (v. 13, 14).”

The last time I checked, dust is pretty gunky stuff. It is made up of microbe poop, skin particles and dirt. This is what we are.

Matthew Henry says of the above passage:

“He (God) considers the frailty of our bodies and the folly of our souls, how little we can do, and expects accordingly from us, how little we can bear, and lays accordingly upon us, in all which appears the tenderness of his compassion.”

If God expects so little from us, why can’t we cut each other a break and do the same.  Sure, we want to aim for godliness, but in this life the best we can do is “almost, but not yet.”

The apostle Paul wrote,

” The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.  As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.  And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man (I Corinthians 15:47-49).”

 We are made in the image of God, but we are so flawed by the fall that we won’t be restored until we get to heaven. So ladies and gentlemen, why not get some clarity, understand this, and give each other a break?

If the living God can do it, surely we can. Perhaps if we married couples developed the attitude toward each other that God has toward us, we might have less conflict in our relationships, and more compassion.

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).”

He comes to visit speech therapist Lionel Logue as  “Mr. Johnson”. He wants help with his stammering. In reality,  he is Albert, the Duke of York, third in line to the throne of the United Kingdom.

This is the storyline that opens “The King’s Speech”, this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture. While I am sure the moviemakers embellished the facts, the story is essentially true.

 The celebrity and power of his patient doesn’t impress Lionel. In his therapy room, he is the boss. “My castle, my rules”, he tells his royal visitor. He even calls the son of the king, “Bertie”, a nickname only his family is allowed to use.

At first, the Duke of York chafes under the seeming impertinence and hubris of his therapist. In fact, he tells him at the end of the first visit that Lionel’s methods aren’t for him.

However, after listening to a recording of himself, which Lionel gave him upon taking his leave, the Duke relents. The therapist’s methods have allowed Bertie to speak fluently for the first time in his life.

After a while, Lionel’s work with Bertie bears even more fruit, both in the latter’s speech, and in his heart. Bertie begins to open up to Lionel. 

“You know, Lionel, you’re the first ordinary Englishman…”, Bertie says.

Lionel interrupts, “Australian”. 

Bertie continues,”…I’ve ever really spoken to.  Sometimes when I ride through the streets and see, you know, the Common Man staring at me, I’m struck by how little I know of his life, and how little he knows of mine.”

Lionel, with his wry wit, says,”What’re friends for.”

Bertie replies,”I wouldn’t know.”

Bertie’s sardonicism would be funny if it weren’t so true of his life. He is a lonely man. He has no friends -until now.

Lionel has become his closest and only friend. It is clear to Bertie that this man, who is doing everything he can to heal him, is more than just a professional.

Bertie perceives that Lionel really cares for and about him. Lionel is not in this for the money, although he is being paid handsomely.

Part of what makes him effective as a therapist is his sympathy for the emotional condition of his patients. One might call this “sympathy” by another name: love.

He is the kind of friend described in the lyrics from a popular alternate country hit composed by Ryan Williams:

“Where do you go when you’re lonely
Where do you go when you’re blue
Where do you go when you’re lonely
I’ll follow you
When the stars go blue…”

“The King’s Speech” reveals that when Bertie is blue, he visits Lionel. He feels comfortable in the presence of his friend. And Lionel is there when Bertie’s stars go blue.

In one scene, Bertie drops by Lionel’s quarters unannounced. This doesn’t perturb Lionel. He receives his friend, and asks him if he wants to do some work on his speech impediment.

In the meantime, Lionel’s wife is shocked to learn when she meets Bertie that her husband is friends with such a royal personage. Lionel has never revealed their relationship to her.

But, Mrs. L regroups and asks if Bertie and his wife will stay for dinner. Bertie’s wife demurs, claiming a previous engagement (can’t imagine what!), but in doing so adds.”What a pity.” Two couples from different addresses in society might as well be neighbors talking about planning a night of cards.

Lionel’s sincere love for Bertie is biblical in nature and magnificent in its effect. The wise man of Proverbs wrote,”One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend(Prov 22:11).”

Lionel’s ability to “speak with grace” was passed on to the King. The King was forever in his debt. 

Todd Rundgren wrote a song in the early 70s that hits on the the lonely void in Bertie’s heart that his friend Lionel filled.

“Hello, it’s me
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine…

Seeing you
Or seeing anything as much as I do you
I take for granted that you’re always there…

It’s important to me
That you know you are free
‘Cause I never want to make you change for me

Think of me
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
Or if I ever need a reason to smile
And spend the night if you think I should.”

Bertie knows the status that separates them. He doesn’t care. He loves his friend. It’s not a sexual love, but it’s love just the same.

Damn Yankees star Jack Blades wrote a song that could apply to Bertie and his relationship with Lionel:

“Can you take me high enough
Can you fly me over (fly me over) yesterday
Can you take me high enough
It’s never over
Yesterday’s just a memory, I’m running
I was running for the door
The next thing I remember
I was running back for more…”

Having a life changing friendship is a scary thing. It involves vulnerability.

After he came back to see Lionel following the first speech therapy visit, Bertie learned how high Lionel could take him if he opened his life to his friend. As portrayed in “The King’s Speech”, Lionel nursed Bertie through the dark days of World War II, when as King George VI he had to do his own comforting.

He had to give public speeches to assuage the fears of an entire people. Through Bertie, Lionel’s love and use of his talents impacted a whole nation.

I am not a person with the gift of elocution, but I do fancy myself as a person gifted by God with abilities with the written word. I want to use this gift for others, as Lionel used his.

Jack Blades writes lyrics for a living, but he says this of his work:

“I had a letter that was sent to me, it was some … lyrics that I wrote,…’ that this young man said, ‘because of your lyrics, I ended up not killing myself. Because your words said life is what you make it, you can do anything with your life.’ And Tommy (his fellow musician) and I always talked about that, it was kind of like, maybe that was the whole reason that I’m a musician. Maybe that’s the whole reason I was on this earth is to save that one person from making probably the worst mistake they could ever make in their life. Maybe that was the whole reason we even exist was to save that one person. It’s pretty cool, I think.  It is pretty stunning when you think about it. It makes you sit back and go, Well, okay, I did something right in my life. You know what I mean? I did something good, that’s a good thing.”

Blades saved one person. So did Lionel. His save-ee just happened to become the King of England.

Blades, in an interview with the website Songfacts discusses the source of his gifting. He tells his interviewer that a colleague couldn’t understand how lyrics just come to writers like him. Blades explained:

“I thought that was interesting, because to me it just happens. It’s not something that’s really cool, or something that’s really a big thing, it’s just something that happens that I do. Like I drive a car – except I come up with rhymes. I don’t look at it as anything special. It’s just how I’ve been all my life, so I don’t see it as something really unique and amazing, because it’s just what I do. Half the time it is like you’re like channeling something. When you sit down and write a song, it’s almost like you’re channeling a higher power, whom I choose, of course, to call God…”

Of course this “higher power” is God. If God speaks to a man, as a man speaks to his friend it is sweet indeed (Song of Solomon 5:16). 

And if that same man passes on what he hears from God, then the sweetness is multiplied (Proverbs 27:29). If he does it when times are tough, he is more than a friend, he is a brother (Proverbs 17:17).

I’ve got a couple friends who are like brothers. They have literally saved my life at times, as Lionel did with Bertie.

These men have used their gifts to bless me in my pain. When I was doing a “stutter and go” in my life, they came to my rescue.

It costs to do that. It takes courage. It takes time. It takes a man.

I don’t earn any money writing, but make my bread teaching. Therefore, I am around young people every day.

Sure, I get paid to serve my students, but I am beginning to see that not everything can be defined in professional terms. These young adults are human beings, some of them with spouses and children.

I don’t get paid to love them, not in money anyway.  I get to do that for free. So did Lionel Logue.

Lord, help me to be grow to be the kind of man Lionel Logue was, and  my own friends and brothers are.

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