Living on the edge. Pressing the boundaries. Bending rules. Breaking rules. Making up new rules. Survival driven. Sex driven. Danger driven. Self-indulgent. Companion seeking. Sleep needing. Death defying. It is the wild life. I see it played out every day. I’m called on to clean up after it, befriend it, or bury it.
Some of our neighbors just got completely fed up with all of the drama. They have instituted a wildlife relocation program. Two doors up the street our neighbor trapped two raccoons and a opossum. (Why do we spell it that way?) Another neighbor has trapped a couple of dozen large turtles. One man hired a company to catch two coyotes. They were relocated but we still have a small pack not far away, now with howling pups. The ducks that used to spy my car and follow me home in the evening disappeared one by one.
My biggest foe, however, has been a baby bunny. He’s about two months old now. He lives under our back bushes—when he is not under my tomatoes. I’ve finally been getting tomatoes only to discover some half eaten, with rabbit teeth marks on them! The little bunny is quick to tell all of the other rabbits the good stuff is in my yard. It is wild out there. It is a good thing we live in a big city and not in the countryside.
There is a lot of wildlife all around us all of the time, and not just of the animal kind. People caught up in cycles of danger-driven dissipation. Hurting others and hurting themselves all in the name of having a good time. They know they are living on the edge, pressing the boundaries. Soon they will be trapped—not just by cages. Slaves of sin. Pained within and without. What are we supposed to do about them? Befriend them rather than condemn them. Teach them rather than lecture them. Love them rather than shun them. That way, through Jesus, you can help set them free.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Live the Gospel. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Lucy and Charlie Brown are going through their psychiatrist-patient routine in the old Peanuts comic strip. She only charges 5¢, you know. Charlie asks about his dreams and why they occur. Lucy matter-of-factly replies, “The dreams of the night prepare you for the day that follows. At night when you are sleeping your brain is really working—trying to sort out everything for you, trying to make you see yourself as you really are.” Charlie Brown gets up and as he turns to leave says discouragingly, “Even my brain is against me.”
Who wants to see themselves as they really are? I would rather like to see myself as the hero of my life, faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound.* Charlie Brown found himself living each day somewhere between hope and despair. His hopes were always high, but his reality always seemed to bring him to despair. Is that why we like Charlie Brown so much? Is there a bit of Charlie Brown in each of us?
When it comes to “trying to make you see yourself as you really are,” my first inclination is, “I’d rather not.” Yet that seems to be the pull, not only of our brains, but also of the Word of God. It is like a mirror held up to our souls. The spiritual truth is that when we hear or read the Scriptures, we see ourselves the way God sees us—sinful and not very strong at all. That might even lead some people to say, “Even the Bible is against me, so I’d rather not read it/hear it/follow it.” We need our sleep so our brains can process our lives. We need God’s Word so our lives can mirror God’s grace.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Reflect His Word. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
*The original comic-book Superman apparently bounced and jumped great distances before he learned to fly.
It is the most challenging assignment I face nearly every week. It is much harder than it might appear. Fellow ministers are no longer doing it, if at all possible. Some even say it is pointless to try. Yet I press on with it. It is almost harder than sound preaching and deep praying. I have to do it in public in front of people with short attention spans and little children as well. But it can become the sweetest moment in my week—when a genuine connection is made, a truth becomes real, a life memory is formed.
I count three people as the ones who taught me the basics: Don Herbert taught me curiosity; Fred Rogers taught me patience; and Bob Willets taught me spiritual application. Don Herbert was TV’s Mr. Wizard, turning ordinary objects into mysteries of science. He taught me the importance of the “Wow!” Mr. Rogers, of course, taught us all how to get along in the neighborhood. He taught me that not everything needs a “Wow.” Dr. Bob Willets, my predecessor, taught me that absolutely everything in the world contains a spiritual truth. These three gave me the confidence to attempt the Children’s Sermon. They did not mention I would be dealing with actual children.
It was in dealing with preschoolers and grade-schoolers that I came to understand the difference between literal speaking (a boat is a toy that floats) and speaking in metaphors and similes (a boat can be like a safe place on the waters of life). But then some little voice in front of me may proclaim, “A boat floats unless it’s got a hole in it. Then everyone drowns.” The crowd laughs, the preacher sweats, God teaches, and a different spiritual application connects to a young heart. These sweetest moments always go best when God brings the “Wow.”
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Connect to the Spirit. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
I was visiting my grandmother one day when there came a quiet knock, and then the back door opened. This was in the late 1950s. My grandmother’s house was large and roomy. My great-grandmother and my mother’s younger sister lived there also. My grandmother’s house was a boarding house from time to time. On the back of the house were two large bedrooms, an adjoining bathroom and an extra kitchen. It also had a long screened in hallway which provided a separate entrance for the boarders. But this black lady, wearing a white apron, came right into my grandmother’s main kitchen.
Sally was her name, and she was there to do the washing and the ironing. The kitchen contained a small washing machine with a clothes ringer attached. The dryer was a clothes line out back. A few years ago, I asked my aunt about Sally. She said she did not remember much about her, only that she came to the back door one day and asked if she could work for my grandmother. She worked one day a week and never said a word. She worked a few months and then she was gone.
This has all come to mind again as I listened to the audio version of Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help. This important and very humorous novel is set in Jackson, Mississippi. It tells the story of a rich, young white girl who wants to be a writer but finds herself writing the household hints column for the local paper. The problem is she knows nothing of kitchens, cleaning, stain removal or cooking. So she enlists the aid of black maids in the days of segregation and the storms of civil rights to share their secrets. Soon she conspires with her new friends to help them tell their stories of what working in the homes of white people is really like. This is a novel that will be taught in classrooms. It addresses racism, class distinctions and the aspirations of all people to help change the world. Sally never said a word, but I wonder now what she was thinking about the life she wanted to live.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be sensitive to those around you. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
Changing the church sign is a little tricky around here. Not only do we have to change it letter by letter, but the actual sign is located 15 feet off the ground. Following Vacation Bible School, I asked our sign changer, Cody Justus, to change the sign to read:
Are You Living
By Faith or
Later, Cody sent me a text saying, “We don’t have enough Ys.” He could only find one Y, so on to Plan B—scramble to find something else to say about faith that could fit on the church sign. After looking for material and talking it through, Cody suggested that we offer a definition of faith based on Hebrews 11:1:
Sometimes called the “Hall of Faith,” Hebrews chapter 11 gives us a roll call of the faithful through the ages. Is it too hot for you to play outside today? Then take a few minutes and meditate on this chapter. Are you living by faith, or are you being manipulated by your fears? I found this description of faith in my files recently:
Faith sees the invisible
Faith hears the inaudible
Faith believes the incredible
Faith thinks the unthinkable
Faith accomplishes the impossible
Faith inherits the indestructible
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Live by faith. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.
PS Thanks for all of your good work Cody.