My Revenge

1eSOfG.AuSt.91It was no surprise.

In a very short period of time, shorter than my lifetime, the “gay rights” movement sold Americans the message that “gay rights” are “civil rights” and should be protected and respected on the same level as the color of one’s skin or the faith an individual chooses to practice.

This particular sin, which the Bible calls “Sodomy,” is now not only tolerated, but celebrated and—by some misguiding folks—considered the equivalent to the union God established to demonstrate His special relationship of love and faithfulness to the church. To be the foundation of the family. To be the fabric of society.

But, as I remind myself, the whole reason why Christians should care about this is the same reason why we do not have to fear or fret. Because there is a much higher authority than the US Supreme Court. And God is fully capable of defending His own rules. Justice Kennedy will not be writing the majority opinion for God’s court. And to God, it was just that by the way: an opinion.

But here on earth…what should our response be? As I pondered the crowds of jubilant protesters reveling in their momentary victory, I found myself grasping for a meaningful response.

I felt so helpless. And, in so many ways, disqualified from leading a charge for faith and family. Who would even listen? Who would care?

The only thing that will help us is revival.

But haven’t we made a lot of attempts at revival? Haven’t some of the best Christian leaders of our century tried unsuccessfully to stem the tide of society running amuck? Who could truly bring us to our knees in the stillness and quietness of hearts obedient to Christ?

I may not be able to light a fire of revival in our nation. But I am determined that there will be plunder. I’m determined that I can come through this more of a danger to complacency and disgusting lukewarm Christianity than ever before.

So here is my revenge:

I will love harder and give more; but most of all, I will worship more sincerely.

No more worshiping by rote. No yawning through church services half-heartedly singing words. No alternately thinking about what people are wearing, what is for lunch, and what the song-writer was prompting us to sing to our Savior. No more bowing my head to pray and drifting off into “to do” land—making lists in my head of what needs to happen that afternoon.

I will take more time to worship alone. With my phone off. The radio off. The TV off. I will take note of songs that are particularly meaningful to me. I will worship with Scripture. I will worship when no one is watching.

I’ll take everyone down the road with me that will go. And if that is zero, I’ll go alone.

I will look back and say, “Obergefell v. Hodges, that’s the day that changed me.” Five people handed down an opinion and it prompted me to turn up the heat on my Christian walk. It made me want plunder. It made me repent of sins I wouldn’t repent of before. Let go of selfishness I wouldn’t have let go of otherwise. Forgive people I didn’t want to forgive. But most of all, it made me clear the stage so I can worship.

I’m still imperfect and my zeal will fade with time, but every time someone tries to redefine “life” or “marriage” or change any truth Scripture, they will heap coals on the flames of my passion for Christ.  Let there be plunder!

At first, I was disgusted with the picture of the White House lighted up in rainbow colors. But now, I think it’s beautiful. Because the LGBT community can’t define the rainbow. God made it and He got to define it. He said, I have set MY bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between ME and the earth… Genesis 9:13 (ESV).  Every time I see the rainbow, I will be reminded of God’s love and of His justice. And I will worship.

Because I have nothing to fear. God still loves. He is still just. And the rainbow is still a reminder that God is on His throne and a refraction of light cannot hit a water droplet without the heavens declaring His glory…And this humble soul doing its best to join them.

Let there be plunder.

———————

And…I have a few more ideas for revenge…and I would love to hear yours…

Faithful to the End

cropped-cropped-img_2164.jpgWe were all shocked and saddened by the tragedy in Charleston this week. Lives taken needlessly; heartlessly. What a cruel demonstration of misplaced and unchecked emotion. What complete disregard for the sanctity of human life.

But today, that is not my point.

And we probably shouldn’t be shocked. Here is a young man who grew up in a world crowded full of movies where people pull out guns to get their way. To make their point. Or just to create excitement. He’s probably played thousands of hours of videos games where shooting is just a function of the thumb to get to the end goal.   All the fiction figures that die are laughable collateral damage that don’t matter. We live in a culture of extremely violent entertainment that gives little regard for the aftermath.

But that is also not my point.

After the initial arrest, this young man seemed to be almost enjoying his new found notoriety. He did something “important” by his own estimation. What sickness. What callousness. It makes me want to vomit. It also makes me want to figure out a way to keep him from the limelight since he seems to be a believer of the adage that no publicity is bad publicity.

But that is also not my point.

Perhaps we have farther to go with race relations in America than we realized.

But that is also not my point.

Here is my point:

I envy those nine faithful Christians.

They lost their lives in a mid-week church service. They had taken time out of their Wednesday to pray and study the Bible with other believers. Sure, they didn’t know they were risking their lives at the time, but they did have other things to do. They had lunches to pack. Classes to miss. Homework to finish. Kids to spend time with.

Even absent other responsibilities and demands on their time, I’m sure some of them were tired from a day of work. Some of them were tempted to catch the next episode of a TV show. One lady was 87; no one expects an 87-year old to get out and go to church on a Wednesday night.

That night, as they carried out their simple act of worship, they had a visitor. They welcomed him. They accepted him. Even though he was not “one of them,” they received him into their church and treated him as part of their group.

For these nine people, their last act on earth was simple; but it was an act of faithfulness. Faithful devotion to their Savior that brought them there that night; and a faithful witness that kept them there and caused them to reach out to a visitor.

While I cannot see their hearts, I strongly suspect that there are nine people in heaven that Jesus welcomed this week with open arms. Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful in the little things.

And that’s the part that I envy. I wish was me. I hope is me.

I hope that when my Savior calls me, He finds me faithful. Maybe doing simple things. Maybe worshiping in a little group. Maybe serving in a quiet way. Maybe eating a potluck dinner. But faithful.

Our church also had a prayer service that night. But I was out of town, so I wasn’t there.

Needless to say, I felt convicted by the lives of these nine. They motivated me to make and keep church a priority. Because if a gunman ever comes for me, I hope he finds me in church, not at home watching TV or scrolling Facebook.

We can all take some comfort in knowing that this young man failed utterly with his mission. He did not start a war; he brought a city to its knees. He did not cause us to hate; he spurred us to show love. He did not make us fear; he made us want to be faithful.

Therein lies what I hope that there is another unexpected consequence of his actions: that it drives us to church. Even if we’re never called to greatness or notoriety, we’ve been called to faithfulness. Let’s show it by showing up in God’s house. Let’s gather for prayer and worship. Let’s eat a lot of casseroles together. Let’s greet a lot of visitors.

If an 87-year old can get out on a Wednesday night, so can we. Coach…Librarian…whatever your story, let your life be made up of prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other Christians, and reaching out to strangers.

And when we die—because we all will—may Jesus say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” because we were faithful unto the end.

Go to church.  That is my point.

Sometimes Life Stinks.

Pastor Joel shared with us Sunday the story of Annie Johnson Flint.  I was intrigued by the snippet he gave, so I did a little further research…

Annie was born in New Jersey on Christmas Eve in 1866.  Unfortunately, her mother died during the birth of her younger sister when she was three.  Their father apparently didn’t believe he could properly care for the girls, so he left them with another widow.  But money was tight and the girls were never welcomed wholeheartedly by their foster mother who seem far more concerned about the wellbeing of her biological children.

Thankfully, a kind neighbor was able to find a new family for the girls.  Mr. and Mrs. Flint were devout Christians who truly loved the girls.  Shortly after they moved to the Flint’s home (when Annie was around six), their father died.

When Annie was eight years old, the family left the farm and moved into Vineland, New Jersey, When they reached their new home in town, revival meetings were in progress, and she attended. It was during one of those meetings that the Spirit of God operated upon that young heart and brought her to saving faith in Christ.

About the time she came to saving faith, she also began to take an interest in poetry.  She loved to read, and her new parents also taught her character and the importance of being hard working, self-reliant, and living within her means.  They gave her a healthy horror of debt and a powerful distaste for waste.

After high school and one year of higher education, she was offered a teaching position.  Her adopted mother was in failing health and she and her income were needed at home.  So Annie signed a three-year contract to teach at the primary school where she had attended as a girl.

By the time she was the second year into teaching, however, arthritis began to riddle her body.  She went from doctor to doctor, but it steadily grew worse until it became difficult for her to even walk. She had a hard time finishing her third year.

Both of her adopted parents then died within a few months of each other, and Annie and her sister were once again all alone in the world with very little money to spare.

Annie rented out the home and moved to a treatment center in New York hoping to find help and healing there. Unfortunately, when she finally received the verdict of the doctors, it was that she would be a helpless invalid. With her parents gone and her one sister also with frail health, Annie needed to hire someone to take care of her and she had no money to do it.

Sometimes life just stinks.

With a pen pushed through bent fingers and held by swollen joints, Annie began to write.  At first, she wrote without any thought that it might be an avenue of ministry or support.  Writing poetry provided a solace for her in the long hours of suffering.

Then she began making hand-lettered cards and gift books, and decorated some of her own verses.  Her “Christmas Carols” became popular. Two card publishers printed these greetings and this helped to get her foot in the door for publishing. It gave her the larger vision of possibly securing openings through some of the magazines, by which her poems could be a wider blessing, and at the same time bring some little return that would minister to her own pressing need.

Readers began to write of ways they had been blessed by her poetry, so in 1919, the first small booklet of her poems, “By the Way, Travelogues of Cheer” was published.  That became the first of seven, each being circulated more widely than the last.

Bingham (one of her publishers) said of her: One wonders how she could ever get a pen through those poor twisted fingers; but she was a beautiful writer, and a wonderful correspondent. Her letters were unique, bright and breezy, though written from her bed of affliction. They were as rich as her poems, and whatever the stage of her affliction, or however great the pain through which she might be passing, she always had a touch of humor that was refreshing. One of her great regrets in the after years was that the progress of her affliction made it necessary to dictate the messages to her friends and of course this added to her expense.

Even with her writing, life continued to be an exercise of faith, especially in the area of provision for needs.  She wanted to be independent and self-sufficient; she cut expenses everywhere she could and took in boarders for extra income.  But God chose to keep her dependent on Him for supply.  At times, she had to hire skilled nursing or make extra doctor’s visits which would quickly drain away her attempts as self-sufficiency into times of trial and testing.

Annie’s writing began to draw attention and from time to time, visitors.  While most of them were gracious and well-meaning, some adamantly claimed that anyone walking obediently with Christ would be delivered from physical infirmities and bodily sickness.

Annie listened, but after painstaking study and prayer, concluded that while God can and does heal in some cases, in others, He sees fit to leave the most triumphant saints with physical affliction.  God at times brings himself glory through weak earthly vessels saying only, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

I have long loved this hymn, penned by Annie, perhaps at such a time as this.  When she was sick, broke, and criticized.  Annie knew grace.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Annie’s biography concluded: No one but God knew what suffering she endured as the disease became worse with the passing of the years, and new complications developed. But through it all her faith in the goodness and mercy of God never wavered. There were many times, no doubt, when her soul would be burdened with the mystery of it all and the why and wherefore of the thing that she was called to endure. In that respect she was most human like the rest of us, but the marvelous thing is that her faith never faltered, and that she was at all times able to say “Thy will be done.” For more than forty years there was scarcely a day when she did not suffer pain. For thirty-seven years she became increasingly helpless. Her joints had become rigid, although she was able to turn her head, and in great pain write a few lines on paper.

On September 8, 1932, at the age of 65, Annie left her curled and crumpled body on earth for a new and perfect one in heaven.  The faith that had gently sustained her was made sight and she was welcomed in the precious arms of the Savior she knew so well.

But she left something else behind as well.  A simple legacy of hymns.  A testimony of grace.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Sometimes life just stinks. That’s when He gives more grace. 

AnnieJohnsonFlint

Lucy, II

FullSizeRenderI already blogged about Lucy, here. And I didn’t plan to do it again.

When I heard the Bostics were going out of town for a week, I volunteered to watch her only because I knew I was, next to them, the person most familiar with her care. And besides, I’m uniquely suited to keeping her with me all day because all the people at my job are used to working in a zoo.

Lucy gets a bottle at 6:00, 10:00, 2:00, 6:00 and 10:00. So I picked her up last Saturday and I made sure she was fed at all the right times. The day passed uneventfully and Lucy went to bed in her bag— hanging on a doorknob in my kitchen. I went to bed that night relieved. We had evidently found our groove. No drama. No blog.

I was very pleased.

Sunday morning I work up to what sounded like a noise right outside my bedroom door. I soon dismissed it as my imagination, but seeing as it was 6:00 am and time to feed Lucy, I got up.

As I left the bedroom and headed to the stairs, I noticed something dark on a stair. What had I left on the stairs? Books perhaps?

It was Lucy. She had apparently gotten out of her bag, over the baby gate, out of the kitchen, through my living room, up the stairs, and back down. I knew because she had left a trail of small dark circles in her wake. Given the source, I call them Luberries.

I was not at all pleased.

Lucy, I informed her, you are done in my house. You are now strictly an outside pet.

Lucy2I have a sorry excuse for a backyard—just 14’x14’, but thanks to Charlie, it is barricaded by a 6 foot wood fence. Thanks to Christopher, it is reinforced with a roll of chicken wire. So, it’s basically impenetrable for a wallaby. I was very pleased.

Monday we seemed to find our groove again, and Lucy was quite sweet. She would come hopping up to me and lay her hand on my knee while I gave her a bottle. She enjoyed being scratched and petted and before long, all was forgiven.

That brought us to Tuesday. When I got to the office, I put her outside in a kennel so she could eat grass and enjoy the spring air. I checked on her every so often, but she was fairly safe inside the confines of the box, so I wasn’t too worried.

Until I went to check on her and she was gone.

Seriously. She was gone.

I ran outside—sure I was hallucinating. She was ten feet outside the back door. Had she been stolen?

I discovered that although the front door was still shut and latched, the kennel had a back door. And although the back door had been pushed up against the side of the deck, it was now several inches away and the door was open—just enough for a Houdini of a wallaby to squeeze out into the great unknown.

Fortunately, I found her in the parking lot. But finding her and catching her are two different things. I called for reinforcements and the next thing I knew, Tyson, Katie, and I were trying to extract a runaway kangaroo from the hedge. Same hedge. This feels like Déjà vu. I was not at all pleased.

That was Tuesday.

Somewhere in the night Tuesday night I was awakened by a clap of thunder. I could hear rain beating down on the roof like two fists on the bathroom door. I sprang out of bed. Lucy, my outdoor pet, was going to get soaked.

I ran out to the back yard in my bare feet and there was a bright flash of lighting as if God was taking a picture of me and the little gray animal streaking across the yard. She was making a squealing noise I hadn’t heard before. She was not at all pleased.

The flash was immediately followed by a ferocious clap of thunder. You probably think I’m exaggerating. But there is no exaggerating this. It was raining hard, thundering hard, and lightening hard and I was in my pajamas on my hands and knees under the grill cover trying to coax a scared little animal out of her refuge of grease and gas smells.

It was 3:00 am when I brought her back into my kitchen. I’ve been told that kangaroos like hot water, so I placed her in the kitchen sink thinking I’d get her warmed up, cleaned up, and calmed down all at the same time. I gently reassured her as I spooned warm water onto her back. Meanwhile, she was profusely laying luberries. In my kitchen sink.

I was not at all pleased.

Lucy was warm and dry and—in my opinion—ready to go back to bed, but her bag was still thumping around in the dryer. I was ready to go back to bed myself, but there was sort of nothing to do but hold her until her bag finished drying, so I settled my exhausted self into the rocking chair.

Julie Anne, who had been supervising this entire scene, sat near my feet. In the dimness, I could see her white head cocked as if giving me a strange look. Stop it, Julie Anne. I said in my firmest 3:30 am voice. I felt foolish enough sitting there crooning to a kangaroo in my wet pajamas.

Lucy started squirming so I headed back to the kitchen. In case she was getting ready to lay more luberries, I’d rather have them on the tile than in my arms. But Lucy instead headed straight for Julie Anne’s bowl and started eating dog food like a Marine fresh out of boot camp.

It’s 3:30 am! I admonished her. You aren’t supposed to be hungry. Her bag was basically dry and I was ready to put her away.

But Lucy was not interested in her bag. She was interested in dog food. Lucy, you may be from the land down under, but it is 3:30 am here. I do not want my night to end like this.

I was not at all pleased.

Should I give her a bottle? Should I let her eat dog food? I didn’t know. I was out of her formula and I had just paid a premium for supplemental kangaroo pellets; both were on a UPS truck somewhere between Minnesota and Charleston and they were not going to do me any good just then.

Fine. Eat the dog food. We’ll deal with it in the morning.

Well, deal with it we did.

In fact, if you’ve followed this blog long at all, you know that I am extremely unlucky with pets and their excrement. Wednesday was not an exception. In fact, my misfortune rose to new heights.

I’m not sure if it was the substitute formula I tried, the dog food, or just generally eating too much, but Lucy made quite a storm of her own. After I re-washed and dried her bag, of course.

I was not at all pleased.

If it sounds like I’m sparing you the details. It’s because I am SO sparing you the details. The details included rubber gloves, rolls of paper towels, and bottles of cleaner. Thank God for all of the above.

Never did one pray so hard for the UPS man.

I’ve finally officially finished the “hand off” of Lucy to her next caregiver. And I’m not saying I miss her exactly. But I am saying that over the course of the week, I did find myself observing her and thinking, isn’t God creative?

I mean, we start to take for granted the beauty of the scenery around us. We take for granted the fun in our dogs, cats, and kids. We look past the simple creativity in aquarium fish, wildflowers, and waves hitting the beach. But God’s handiwork is such a marvelous living proof of His goodness and His power. Sometimes, at least for me, it takes something we don’t see every day—like a small kangaroo hopping around our house to get a fresh perspective of the overwhelming majesty of our God.

I can just picture that first kangaroo hoping out of the first pouch and laying that first luberry. And God saw everything that He had made. And He was very pleased.