A New Hope…

So it’s finally here. The Star Wars sequel. *cue nerd snorts of excitement* In case you’ve christmas r2been hiding under a rock, I’m referring to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie. It’s set to open on December 18 and the anticipation is palatable. I don’t know about you, but my nerd senses are on full alert.

For months, advertisers have been hawking Star Wars paraphernalia like never before. If you ever found yourself in need of an R2D2 pacifier or a Darth Vader egg beater, you’re in luck. Virtually nothing has escaped the long arm of Disney’s retailing machine. Even my beloved Irish Sweet Cream (precious nectar of Heaven) has been graced with a picture of a storm trooper…or something like it anyway. So now even my coffee has the power of the force.

And why all the fuss? Why, from just about every age group, do we sense such giddy expectation for a movie? Truth be told, there’s probably no single reason. Geeks love it for the sci-fi fix. Romantics enmesh themselves in the love story. Kids adore the never ending plethora of droids and bizarre creatures. (Except Jar-Jar. We can all agree he was a hideous mistake). There’s even the almost comical comfort of knowing your family isn’t the most dysfunctional one in the galaxy. If Star Wars were real, the amount of family counseling needed to navigate Luke and Anakin’s relationship would go on for years.

Gen Xers like myself have a special fondness for the Star Wars saga. As kids we watched starry-eyed as Luke and Han battled Darth Vader. Most of the boys I knew could make a light saber out of a broomstick and a flashlight. And what girl didn’t sit at the breakfast table and wonder if a couple of well-placed cinnamon buns could give her Leia’s signature “do”? The prequels of the 90’s provided a long awaited end to our burning curiosity. As young adults and parents, we lined the theaters in droves, dizzy at the prospect of seeing how Vader became, well… so Darthy. And now, our trip down memory lane will be complete as the big screen brings back our heroes for a third installment. I personally have no shame in admitting that when Han and Chui showed up in the Force Awakens trailers, I got a little teary-eyed. It was like seeing long lost friends return from an extended trip.

I don’t think I’m the only one who feels as though this movie has added quite bit of hype to Christmas this year. Now as a follower of Christ, I’m sure there is no deep, spiritual connection to the opening date for this newest movie. After all It makes sense to open a big budget, much anticipated film during the Christmas season – a time when Americans are traditionally in a good mood and spending money anyway. Students young and old are on break and ready to be entertained. The Christmas season is in itself a heightened time of festivity so if you’re a movie maker, it’s time to bring out the cash cow, right? Much of our anticipation during the Christmas season revolves around time spent with family and friends. Star Wars fans now get the added bonus of looking forward to what will surely be the best popcorn muncher of the year.

And it was these very musings that led me to the correlation I am about to make. It may seem weird – even a little irreverent to some. But, stay with me here because this may prove to be somewhat interesting. One evening not so far, far ago found me cocooned in my living room, deep in theological thought and pondering the wonder of Christmas. Ok, I was watching Elf and shoving Christmas cookies into my face, but you get the idea. The inevitable Force Awakens trailer came on during a commercial break and my thoughts danced back to 1998 when the last Star Wars trilogy was being advertised. I specifically remembered walking through a shopping mall with my husband and seeing, for the first time, a movie poster for the soon-to-be-released Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The poster featured the absolutely adorable boy who would portray the young Anakin Skywalker. The poster was created so that the cherubic little Anakin cast a long shadow in the shape of Darth Vader. From an advertising perspective, it was brilliant. The innocent boy would one day become the hated Lord Vader. How? Why? What happened!?

But instead of geeking over the clever foreshadowing (no pun intended), I teared up. I got so emotional I had to turn away. Now before you start rolling your eyes, let me just say I’ve already admitted to being an emotional mess when it comes to film. (I cried for 2 weeks after seeing Titanic and I never make it through Toy Story 3 without sobbing.) If just the site of an aging Han and his cuddle-bear sidekick was enough to get my waterworks going, my reaction should come as no surprise. It makes sense that I would lose it over a loveable child’s metaphoric transformation into an evil, cape-wearing asthmatic.

That image stayed with me. Long after the popcorn had settled and the theatre turned dark, that image stayed with me. The next two movies came and went…and that image stayed with me. My very first stint in ministry was with children because of that image. In that one picture I saw captured an inescapable realty:

Every person is born a child with a multitude of possible futures before them…
and not all of them are happy endings.

Children are our future. In their little faces we see the next generation of doctors, teachers and inventors. They are our future leaders and parents, our coaches, our athletes. Our soldiers, our farmers…our future everythings. Which means, unfortunately, some of them are also tomorrow’s thieves. Tomorrow’s drug dealers, prostitutes and rapists. The prisons of tomorrow might one day be filled with yesterday’s children. This is what brought me to tears in the mall that day in 1998.

The thought that, like the fictional little Anakin, the world is filled with children who have choices to make and futures to fulfill. The importance of providing children with loving guidance and discipline became very real to me that day. You cannot look at a child without seeing his future ahead of him. And now, brace yourselves, because here is where I bring Jesus in. This is where Christmas simultaneously breaks my heart and fills me with joy.

If, when looking at a child you must also look at his future, then when it comes to Christmas, you cannot look at the manger without seeing the cross. The sweet baby we sing about in carols and hymns, the little boy who completes the nativity scene – he is the Christ. He was born to die. He came into the world not with a multitude of possible futures, but with only one. He had only one future ahead of him – to offer Himself as payment for a debt we owe but can never pay. He was Heaven’s one answer to humanity’s eternal problem.

Isaiah 9:6 speaks of him centuries (about 700 or so) before He was born. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” It all sounds lovely and Hallmark-y until you read further. Isaiah 53:5 goes on to tell us the fate of the sweet baby in the manger:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Pierced. Crushed. Wounded.

For us. For me and for you. For my selfishness, my greed, my self-centeredness. My lies.

For my sins.

Paid for on the cross of Christ. You cannot look at the manger without seeing the cross; the cross which was born for every man, woman and child in the world. The cross born for you and for me. To quote from another famous movie, “And that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”

Christmas is many things. It is festive and beautiful and fun and yes, even sad at times depending on your current season of life. It is busy and noisy and quiet and reflective. But Christmas is obviously, and more importantly, other things too: Christmas is Jesus.

It is Jesus, the helpless infant; the tender, sweet newborn who brought hope and inspired worship.
It is Jesus, the man who suffered on a cross and died.
But beyond those truths, Christmas is still more.

If Christmas were simply the story of a baby who was born into humble circumstances, who grew to be a man of meager means and then died a humiliating death, we would have no hope. Fortunately for us, that isn’t the end of the story.

The very first time I watched Star Wars, I was enchanted. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Obi Wan – the whole thing wowed me. I didn’t really get the whole plot line, but I remember reading the now famous scrolling title and wondering what it meant. Remember it?

Episode IV – A New Hope

A new hope. If I were to slap a tag line on the Gospels, that’s what I would write. Because that’s the real story of Christmas.

Jesus was born.

Jesus died.

And Jesus arose. That’s the new hope. That’s the end of the story.

This week, old characters and new will fill movie screens once again. The familiar music will play and those trusty yellow words will scroll up the screen against a backdrop of vast, dark space. Eager fans by the thousands will watch to see how the continuing saga of Star Wars plays out. Many of us are dying to know whether or not Han and Leia stayed together and what did the director chose to do with our beloved Luke? (I shudder to think of him as the villain.) And yet even that story will come to an end. The lights will come up, the theaters will close and social media will likely blow up with geek critique.

But the real action, the real questions this Christmas, will still be played out in your life and in mine. Star Wars is just a movie. A fairytale if you will. We still have to deal with realty and the very real question remains… what will you do with this Jesus?

Do you look at his manger and see his cross? Do you realize what was sacrificed for you? Do you know the new life, the new hope, offered to you because of his resurrection? I hope you do.

And with that, I wish you the very merriest of Christmases. Oh yeah … and may the Force be with you.

Oh Ye of Little Use…

I once spent a fun-filled afternoon in the ER of a local hospital.  No, I don’t usually make a habit of loitering in emergency rooms for entertainment, but this particular day found me keeping some friends company while they waited to find out if their son needed to have his appendix removed.

After a long day of all things hospital (make shift bedpans, stale coffee and bad TV reception), the family’s suspicions were confirmed: their son’s appendix was not playing nice and would have to take a permanent time out from his body.  Relieved that only an appendix had to be removed and all other associated limbs and organs could remain, I left confident of God’s provision for the health of my young friend.  Of course the diagnosis inevitably got me to thinking: why are we always reliedocved when we’re informed it’s only the appendix doctors want to remove?

You hear a doctor say anything else has to come out and you naturally start to get a little nervous.  (Tonsils tend to be an exception since their removal is associated with ice cream.) But an appendix?  Well who cares about that, right?  For most of us, the removal of an appendix is a no brainer – we don’t even demand ice cream!  But here’s where my thoughts started to wander; should we really be so quick to brush off a part of our body?

When Paul called believers in Christ a “body” in Romans 12:4-5, he drew a clever analogy between the anatomical parts of a human body working in conjunction with one another to go about the business of living and the various members of Christ’s church working together to go about the business of expanding God’s Kingdom.  Paul was giving us a very clear visual of the importance every Christian plays in the work God created for us to do.

Now it’s easy to look at certain people and recognize the contributions they have made within the context of what we could refer to as “Kingdom Work”.  It certainly would not be a stretch to call Billy Graham a mouth for the body of Christ – he has long been considered a voice of Christianity for decades.  And how about those hands?  Most people would agree Mother Theresa’s years of devoted service to the poor would qualify her as a hand or two.  Mouths and hands seem grandiose and essential, but it’s important to note Paul didn’t waste scripture correlating important body parts to the Kingdom of Christ.  (For brevity’s sake we’ll all agree to understand Christ is the “head” of the church.) He stressed that the many parts of both the physical body and the church body were created to work together to accomplish a common purpose.

If what Paul said is true, then why are so many people in the church living like the equivalent of an appendix in the body of Christ?  Why do so many people believe they can cruise along as “non-functioning” body parts while the mouths, hands and feet stay busy?  Well, I’ve got news for you Mr. or Miss Appendix; you have work to do!

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) states “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Did you read what I read? We are crafted by God to perform work that he prepared for us.  Did you see any room for a non-functioning organ in there?  Neither did I. In light of this knowledge, let’s take another look at our friend the appendix. Whereas this poor little organ was once resigned to go down in history as a useless lump of flesh, the appendix is now actually believed to perform protective duties within the digestive tract*.  Go figure!

I found an interesting article concerning this supposed “vestigial organ”.  While our bodies can and do seem to function perfectly fine post-appendix, recent studies are showing that what was at one time thought to be a useless and unnecessary carry over from so-called “evolution” is actually much more useful than previously believed.**  So,allow me to draw a logical conclusion here: God didn’t make any useless lumps in the human body or in the church body.  Everyone has a place, a purpose and a function!

Now I know all analogies breakdown at some point, but I think I make the case here for the fact that God does not make useless people. If you are a professing believer in Christ, then you have a vital function in his church body. So for those of you that thought you’d adopt the role of appendix and just kind of hang around, I’ve got good news for you!  You do have a function!  The God of the universe has created you for a purpose. You are uniquely designed and full of potential.  Don’t let the body down by refusing to play your part. I mean really, when you start to fail the whole body ends up in the hospital with bed pans and stale coffee for company! 

* Associated Press. “Scientists may have found appendix’s purpose.” msnbc.com. 5 October 2007. NBC News. 17 March 2009 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21153898/

**See www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v3/i1/appendix.asp for a thought provoking discussion on this subject.

To Fish or Not to Fish

goldfishI am a bad driver. It’s ok – I’m told the first step to healing is to own the problem, and so, I own this. Don’t get me wrong though. It’s not as though my bad driving was something I strove to accomplish; it just sort of happened. I don’t recall ever attending a Career Day in grade school and thinking dreamily to myself,

One day when I grow up, I’m going to be a Bad Driver.”

Nope, this just sort of happened. I’m pretty sure it’s a culmination of several aspects of my personality, a perfect STORM if you will.

For one, I’m willing to admit I’m a tad bit on the impatient side. I don’t like to wait for anything. This has a tendency to get me in trouble at restaurants, stores, work, home, church, family reunions, bar mitzvahs, dog grooming appointments… you get the idea. 

I also suffer from a condition…ok maybe the word condition is a bit of a stretch…that prevents me from concentrating on anything having to do with words while I’m operating something mechanical. I think the analytical parts of my brain and the gross motor parts of my brain that are supposed to communicate during the driving process need couple’s therapy. Simply stated, this means I am physically unable to carry on any sort of meaningful conversation, follow directions or read street signs while driving a motor vehicle. I’ve thought about filing for disability and hiring a chauffeur but I just don’t think social services is going to be moved by my plight.

To top it all off, I get easily distracted. Easily. I blame the games available on my iphone for decreasing the amount of time I am able to concentrate on anything meaningful. Why sit in a waiting room and ponder deep, philosophical thoughts when I can crash birds into snarky little pigs and earn points?

(See, you stopped paying attention to what you were reading just now didn’t you?)

It’s ok, I understand. But let me get back to the point at hand. All these little idiosyncrasies pile together to create me – Sharon Little – aka, A Bad Driver. And, because I recognize this in myself I made the decision long ago not to put the little Christian fishy thing on the back of my car.

I just can’t run the risk of accidently cutting someone off and having a bevy of offended drivers see the 21st century’s version of “Honk If You Love Jesus” on the back of my car. I mean really, if some crazy redhead in a minivan went flying past you and ran a red light, you’d be mad. But if the same thing happened and the last thing you saw as she flew haphazardly though the intersection was the Christian fishy thing on the back of the car….well now we have an even bigger problem.

Remember when God was speaking to Moses and told him to instruct the people, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name”? (That’s Exodus 20:7 for those of you looking to count this as a devotional today.) Well, I take this one pretty seriously.

It’s not just a matter of refraining from using God’s name as a curse word or an exclamation. To call yourself a Christian is to take on the name of Christ.  You are identifying yourself as a follower of Jesus, the one, true living God. And that folks, is a pretty serious commitment.

So that being said, no fishies right now for me. At least not until I learn to control my vehicle a little bit better. However, if I were ever able to get that chauffeur….

 

 

The Big Clean Up

cleaning crewI’ve only ever been able to dream about what Heaven will be like. One can gather a few mental images from reading the Bible – like what I use for jewelry is apparently asphalt and the gates will make fabulous accessories. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, you need to hit up the New Testament. I’m not telling where – you can have fun finding it yourself. I’m just hoping those ridiculous cream cheese commercials are way off. Who wants to spend eternity sitting on a cloud eating a bagel?

At any rate, I’m sure Heaven will be clean. It has to be – I simply do not accept that God will allow Heaven to get junked up. If you just happen to be both a follower of Christ and a slob, this news will hit you especially hard. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is; I’m banking on it.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed my recent vacation so much. Our family spent a week on a Disney cruise ship and the sheer amount of cleaning that occurred on that boat boggled even me – a self-diagnosed neat freak. You see, after a couple of days, I discovered the primary goal of a cleaning crew on board a Disney ship is to make it appear as if no one is actually using the ship. There is never a napkin out of place and any trash can that dares to show itself is for appearances only – there’s only a suggestion of trash. Trash is never actually seen.

The whole ship sparkled non-stop – it was unbelievable – and I thought of this as we stood in line at the airport to check in for our return flight home. Before you jump to conclusions, know that my reminiscing was not because the airport was awe inspiringly clean, but because the gentleman several spaces ahead of us was creating an awe inspiring mess.  It wasn’t his clothes that were messy, nor was his appearance. His hair wasn’t messy and it wasn’t his odor that offended – it was his mouth.

Stop right there. Just pause – because it wasn’t what you think.

He wasn’t swearing.

He wasn’t cussing.

Worse. He was preaching.

There in the middle of the airport check-in line he preached, loud and long, to a helpless victim unfortunate enough to have gotten in line behind him. About Jesus. It was all I could do to keep from tackling the man. I gave my husband a desperate look, but he was as helpless to stop the carnage as I was. I paused to pray a desperate prayer:

“Lord, please. Some damage control. Please!”

You see there was no sharing of the Gospel going on here. No Christ-like love. No redemption or grace. Just plain, simple, angry, self-righteous preaching. I cringed as I heard him beat his captive about the head and neck with scripture. It got so bad I found myself looking for band-aids and Neosporin. “This guy is going to have Bible marks all over him by the time The Preacher is done,” I thought. I once witnessed a dog fight and though it would never end. That’s about how I felt standing in line.

When it was finally over, I thought about the enormous mess The Preacher had just made. How much damage had just been done? How many people were just completely turned off the Gospel by what they had witnessed? And worse yet, I wondered “Am I ever guilty of the same thing?”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want God to have to send a cleaning crew after me. I don’t want to share the Gospel and leave an ugly pile of chaos and distrust trailing behind me. I don’t know of anyone who has ever been battered and bullied into the Kingdom of God.

We are called to share Christ with a lost and hurting world, not beat people senseless. To be sure we need to stand firm in the face of sin, but there is a time and a place for that and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve screaming at people and embarrassing them in public. Jesus never grabbed people off the street and berated them. In fact, if we actively follow the example of Jesus, then we would seek to spread the hope of the Gospel by:

  • Spending time with people (Matthew 9:9-13)
  • Engaging in conversation (John 4:1-42)
  • Loving people regardless of their spiritual maturity (John 3:1-21, Luke 19:1-10)
  • Serving (John 13:1-17)

If these were the methods Jesus chose to minister to the world, shouldn’t they be ours as well?

Caution: Water is Slippery When Wet

warningJanuary – the month we all decide to exercise. After a December full of Christmas cookies and fudge, you gain what I like to call “festive fat”, which just means even your eating pants are now too snug.  Some people hit the gym; others drag out a P9000XX DVD or whatever it’s called. A few die-hards even turn to running to shed the weight. I hate to run but I’ll admit it’s effective; several years ago I even embraced the habit of running.  I know many people run on a daily basis for noble causes such as health and stress relief, but I must confess my reason really boiled down to making sure my sugar habit couldn’t be tracked by an expanding backside.

My brief affair with running proved to be, like so many other ill conceived relationships, completely superficial. But, even after quitting, one particular run still stands out in my mind. An absolutely gorgeous spring day found me with an opportunity to take a run alongside the Atlantic coastline. This morning had it all; sandy beach, ocean waves, seagulls dive bombing my head. Sounds like a postcard, right? It could have been if not for the incessant slobbering sound coming from my face. My lips were pretty much numb from their effort to suck in oxygen and had long lost the ability to contain any of the fluids my mouth was producing. Coupled with the wheezing sounds my body made as air struggled to make its way into my chest, the effect of my presence on the peaceful beach was reminiscent of a bullhorn solo during the Nutcracker ballet.  

Before beginning my run, I had determined to reach what had at first appeared to be a nearby pier under construction. My iPod was at the ready with a great word from God, my shoes were tightly laced and my hair was safely plastered under a hat.  I was ready to go.  Unfortunately as I began to run, I quickly realized I had vastly underestimated the distance it would take me to reach the pier. But alas, I was determined. I turned up my music and engaged in the intense prayer of the hopelessly unathletic.   

I quickly realized that if I was to sustain any hope of reaching that dumb pier, I would have to avoid the soft, squishy sand found on most of the beach and instead aim for the firmer, wet sand found closest to the water’s edge.  As I plodded along the coastline, I found myself dodging waves as they swept up and over my desperately needed firm sand.  Being somewhat of a fussy girly-girl, I didn’t want the surf to hit me because then I would have wet, sandy running pants to deal with.  Ridiculous, I know, but true. 

Despite my best efforts to avoid the waves, I was hit several times.  Each time I would grit my teeth as the cold water soaked my socks and shoes, but I refused to move away from the danger.  After awhile, I realized that as long as I continued to flirt with the coastline, the surf was eventually going to hit me.  Temptation is very much like that surf.  We can do our best to avoid temptation, but if we insist on flirting with it, eventually we will get wet.   

Have you ever thought you were completely in control of a situation, only to have it smack you right in the face?  Those harmless little flirtations with a co-worker? That one little drink? That magazine? That website?  We are told in 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  Sin is not something you can simply poke with a stick and then nimbly jump out of the way just before you’re bitten.  You have an enemy and he seeks to abolish you.  He will do it with any tactic he can find, any weakness you may offer.  He’s a lion that should never be poked; you can be devoured before you even realize you’ve gone too far. Don’t help him by tiptoeing around in the traps he sets for you! 

I love the story of Joseph found in Genesis 39.  Confronted with the overly friendly wife of his master, Joseph does what smart people do when sin makes itself available; he runs.  Literally, the Bible tells us Joseph took off like a streak and ran from the room. He didn’t allow the thought of her pretty little face to dance through his head.  He didn’t pause to consider whether they’d get caught or appreciate the effect he was having on her.   

He ran. 

Joseph knew if he spent anytime along the shoreline of that situation he would eventually get soaked, so he chose to get as far away as possible.  I cannot emphasize enough the danger of believing your own strength will sustain you in the face of temptation.

It won’t.

You need God.

To withstand the temptations of sin, God makes available to you the same strength Joseph used when he chose to run from ol’ Luscious Lips herself. Paul cites this strength in Romans 8:5 (NIV):  Don’t live under the control of your sinful nature. If you do, you will think about what your sinful nature wants. Live under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you do, you will think about what the Spirit wants.”  Allow the Holy Spirit to show you how to get away when sin presents itself. God will always provide you with a means of resisting temptation. It’s not his desire that you become water logged in the mire of temptation and sin, but if you persist in constantly jumping in head first, rest assured you will eventually get stuck.  

Just to note, by the time my beach run was over, I had been smacked by the surf so many times my shoes were soaked, further impeding my ability to run efficiently.  Wet sand was rubbing my ankles raw and the bottom parts of my pants were waterlogged and heavy.  The lesson here? If you don’t want to get wet, don’t run next to the water.  

That and try not to slobber when you exercise.  

You Can Smell Trouble From A Mile Away….

fireI just put leftover Christmas ham in the freezer. “So what,” you say, “so did millions of other Americans.” But the fact that a ham was prepared in my kitchen prompts me to ponder the miracles that surround Christmas. Not only did the Savior come, but I cooked. Surprised? You should be.

As a rule, I tend to view my kitchen as more of an area to decorate than a functioning room in my house. Don’t get me wrong; it has all the right gadgets and playthings necessary to create a meal, but I swear the walls actually seem to shudder whenever I walk in. The whole room trembles when I sniff around for cook books or remove utensils from their nesting grounds.

I can only surmise that the genetic material coding for food preparation was somehow lost during my conception.  After all, I come from a long line of gifted cooks, but I can’t seem to even boil water without leaving some sort of burn smell trailing behind me. None the less, I still find myself making exploratory missions into the bowels of my kitchen from time to time.  We can only eat out so many times in one week and I tire of the pizza guy using us as a personal reference on his resume.

Most of the time I can count on success with your basic frozen chicken nugget and I’ve been known to nuke a mean wienie.  Even boxed macaroni and cheese has found its way to the table a few times without the paramedics being called in.  It’s the grown up cooking that throws me; meals that have the audacity to demand actual ingredients. Words like “baste” and “marjoram” send shivers up my spine.  Spices?  Sauces?  Just the mere mention of these words and I know I’m asking for trouble.

Aside from the genetic betrayal I’m sure is mine, I’m thinking my approach may leave something to be desired. I’ve been told time and again that good cooks don’t measure ingredients.  How many times have I been given recipes peppered with vague flavoring descriptions such as “a pinch here”, “a dash of this”, oh and let’s not forget the much loved, “season to taste”. Season to taste?!  I need specific amounts here!  If I was really meant to dump ingredients haphazardly into a bowl, why would people persist in purchasing measuring spoons for me?  Overpriced kitchen stores seem to abound in goofy ways to measure foods and yet my grandmother always advised me to basically sprinkle and stir.

So for all the gals out there whose children clap at the sight of neon signs and could read drive thru menus before Kindergarten, fear not.   We may not know how to flambé and basting may only be a vague pipe dream, but our kitchens sparkle with a perpetual newness and our pizza guy loves us.  Take that Betty Crocker!

 

Preperation

One of the benefits of social media is its provision of a place to express and share emotion as a community. In the last few years, this vehicle has gifted me with the privilege of sharing in the joys of such things as new babies, engagements, graduations and all sorts of assorted happiness. While I treasure these blissful peeks into the lives of friends, family and long lost classmates, I am made equally aware of the presence of grief.  This was painfully evident while reading the numerous expressions of heartache as the events in Newtown, Connecticut began to unfold. 

Like everyone else, I longed to flee my office and gather my children as I learned about what happened in that elementary school. Like other parents, I tearfully imagined the schools and classrooms of my own children as I saw the pictures on the news.  I would love for the horrid images of terrified children and the feelings of fear and disgust that twisted my stomach to be somehow magically erased. I’d rather never face them again. 

I drove home with one purpose Friday afternoon – to meet my children as they returned from school and hug them. That was it. I just wanted to hug them; to feel their precious bodies pressed close to mine and rest in the assurance they were safe. And yet… 

There is no assurance of that. 

Not here. Not in December of 2012. Not one hundred years ago or even a thousand years ago. Death is indiscriminate and always has been. It doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care where you are or what you may be doing. It claims you regardless of your place in society or lack thereof. And sadly, as we saw Friday, it doesn’t even care how old you are. These sorts of thoughts rolled through my head as I, like millions of other Americans, shared my grief on a myriad of social outlets.  

It only took a matter of hours before opinions as to how and why and who were slung from one side of the internet to the other. Some are sensible while others are outright ridiculous. Blame is readied. Positions are levied. Pundits are already jockeying for position.

moral decay more gun control video games glorified violence

too much freedom  too little discipline  

Don’t get me wrong. I have opinions on each of these. STRONG ones. I grieve for what our culture has sown and now reaps. And newsfeeds are still filling with post after post expressing the horror and shock at the sheer evilness of what transpired. Regardless of the opinion, the horror is evident and that part I understand. The shock? Not so much. 

In truth, I am not shocked at all. 

Horrified.

Yes.

Broken hearted.

Yes.

furiousdisgustedexasperated 

Yes to all. But shocked? No, I wasn’t shocked. I would like to say I was surprised. But I can’t even say that. And why not? 

Because I’ve read and accepted the truth. And the truth is this: the heart of  mankind is desperately evil. 

And where, you may ask, did I get this stunning, irritating, uncomfortable truth? Where did I find it and how do I know it’s true?  I’ll share it with you: it’s not a big secret. I read it in the Bible. Yes – that book. 

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 

Truth, by its very nature is exclusive and offensive. And in America, in 2012, one does not dare to speak Truth. The only greater crime today than offending with truth is to do so in the name of God. Not “god” mind you, but God. But there’s good news: not only is truth exclusive and offensive, it is also unexplainably …desired. It’s needed. And in situations like what we are experiencing now, people want it, or rather they want Him. A calm in the storm. Sanity. 

Jesus. 

And so opportunities arise to share truth. In times of unexplainable evil, people want answers. And God has them. He always has.  

So I say this to my Christian brothers and sisters: 

  • Now is not the time to be right.
  • Now is not the time to win an argument or present a platitude.
  • Now is the time to “…mourn with those who mourn.”  

Yes, I know there is a virtual sea of theological questions I am leaving unanswered and unaddressed in this piece. That’s because it’s not a lesson – it’s just one thought. A beginning.  

Church, we will be defined not only by what we present, but by how we present it. The time will come for answers because the questions are going to be asked. Pray for it. Be ready. Prepare your hearts and let the Lord create in you a spirit of grace and compassion for those who are as blind as you once were. Do not be afraid of Truth – stand firm on it, but live it as Jesus lived it. 

By this everyone will know that you are His disciples, if you love one another.