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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Why The Shadow?

Is it Batman?
No, it's Carbon.  Lurking.  It's what Carbon does best.

When we are children, our shadows are our friends.  We may walk, run, or try to trick our shadow. It is a source of wonder and joy. But as we get older, we fear shadows.  We suspect evil and ill intent, sometimes even of our own.

A shadow is the dark area that comes between a body and rays of light and a surface.

C.S. Lewis had much to say about shadows.  Here is a quote from "The Great Divorce."

"Will you come with me to the mountains?  It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened.  Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows.  But will you come?"

While I'm no Lewis scholar, what I know from reading the book, and my own inclination toward safe living is this is a call to step into the light, even though it is not safe and it often is unknown and unfamiliar.  Even if you've followed God your entire life, sometimes He'll surprise you in ways that aren't entirely pleasant.  Sometimes we retreat to the shadows.

Keep your head down.  Maybe He won't see you.  Then you won't get hurt.

That is not living, that is just surviving to limp through the next day.

We choose safety, or a vice, or something that doesn't look like a vice, but serves as one, to hide from living a life with Christ.  I mean, how exactly do we do that anyway?  It's not following the Golden Rule or doing church-y thing.

We want to DO more than we want to BE.  We want to quantify life, show results on a chart.  But wild God isn't one for the bottom line.  God's economy is different from ours.  And it's really annoying not to know it, only occasionally getting a glimpse of what it might be.

"Abide with me," Jesus tells us.  Other than the Dude abiding, I don't know of too many people who abide a whole lot, do you?

The Message version of the Bible in John 15:5 goes on in later verses to say, "...If you make yourselves home with me and my words are at home with you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon."

What?  Abiding gets us an audience with the King.  The Creator of the Universe. 

There is no glory in the shadows and certainly none from living there.

Come into the Light.  The mystery is good, the company perfect.




Thursday, September 8, 2016

When Things Go Sour

Emmit has been dealing with a sour stomach since Saturday.  I'll spare you the details.  You're welcome.
He resisted eating anything, which is impressive considering this guy's an omnivore (hint: how he got to this point to begin with).  Of course it was a three day weekend but he managed to stay hydrated and was in the vet Tuesday.  When further attempts at eating and getting him to take his medication down his gullet failed, back to the vet's office yesterday, which resulted in failure as well.

Finally, after continued resistance this morning, he rallied just before noon and gulped down some chicken.  And I snuck some medicine in some cheese that he previously refused.  With the help of the muzzle, at least some of the liquid medicine got in (most was spit out, but some had to go in, didn't it?).

As the tech said, "If we could only tell them that the medicine would make them feel better."

And isn't that true for us too?  Maybe not you.  You probably have it all together.  But me, it's true for me.  I often turn up my nose at what's good for me.  I suspect there's a magic capsule in that tasty cheese cube and refuse it.  Trying to jam some truth serum down my throat?  I'll spit it right back at you.

Often people (again, not you, but me, and maybe some others) wonder why God lets horrible tragedies happen.  That's more than I can address in one blog post (or ten), but some of those tragedies are what we've brought down on our own heads.  Many times we've been warned ahead of time that we are heading for a brick wall.  We are sick and we refuse our meds.  We just keep going on, certain we know better.

Then we hit that wall.  Our disease grows.

What is the answer? 

God's word has centuries of sound advice on how to live.  We can choose to flaunt it.  We can do our own thing.  Free will means the freedom to make bad choices.

But a good choice is to turn back to the Lord when we are sick and broken (you can go when you're well too).  It's not rules that make us better but God's mercy and love that heals.  Forgiveness is a special kind of freedom.  We can bypass the legalism/license tight rope by remembering whose we are, why we are here, and living freely in that love.

Life can be sour.  It can also be bittersweet.  A land of milk and honey awaits.  Live eternally now.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Terrible Inconvenience of Reality

When he was only three months old, Foster stood on the edge of the back deck, surveying his domain.  He looked right, looked left, then jumped off the edge.  Straight down.  About six feet.  Fortunately, he was unharmed, though a bit surprised to learn that he was not invincible.


I looked at him, shook my head, and said, “I know.  I get it.  Me too.”

Foster swaggered when he walked with a confidence he could back up with strength and attitude.  Only when he overplayed his dominance with another dog who was tired of his nonsense did he experience his comeuppance.  That dog kicked his little dingo butt.  Though he got a scrape or two, his pride was undone.  He simply couldn’t believe he was beatable.

I know.  I get it.  Me too.

Most dogs play on an equal plane, many assessing those around them before engaging.  The less confident may crawl, expose their bellies, and submit first, showing their willingness to get along at all costs.

Then, there’s Foster.

Then, there’s me.

It’s possible to have an overblown sense of ego as much as there is undervaluing ourselves.  Too much self-esteem?  Yes!  Too little?  Same. 

Sometimes our sense of who we are, what we can do, how others see us, and our skills leap off the edge of the deck and land in harsh truth.  In a culture that treats truth like a commodity to be amended, revamped, and resold, we tend to think that how we feel is truth. 

But only Truth is Truth.

Jesus calls us.  He tells us our condition.  We are created in the very image of God.  We are valued more than anything else on the planet.  We are worth dying for, despite that other component of terrible reality – we kind of suck.  We constantly make choices that land us in peril, even when it may take us years to realize it.  Whether it is outright theft or coveting another person’s anything or hating someone with the heat of a thousand suns, we mess up.  Even if we value ourselves as God sees us, we often value others much less. 

“Consider others more highly than yourselves.”  Jesus said that.  My response tends to be, “But Jesus, have you MET the others?  They are really annoying.  Why would I consider them BETTER than me?  Look at me – I’ve got it together and I am kind and practically sin-free, really.”

Ahem.

The Terrible Inconvenience of Reality is that….it’s an equal playing field.  The whole “the ground at the foot of the cross is level” thing is for real. 

Walking in our identity in Christ means a proper assessment of ourselves – we mustn’t undervalue the awesome creation of whose we are and we mustn’t base our confidence on anything other than His Love for us. 

It’s not so easy as repeating over and over, “Yes, Jesus loves me.”  I mean, that’s good and I’m all for it and if it works for you, please do it.  But for most of us, we can’t simply read a truth and instantly change our behavior or thought processes.  Sometimes it takes a bending of the knee, a humble, helpless prayer, and more than a few tears.

The good news is God works really well with helplessness.  Yes, that state we all resist with dug in fingernails is exactly where God makes some of his amazing changes in us that we can’t do ourselves.

Remember not to cower through life.  There is plenty of scary stuff in our world, but it’s not what controls the world.  Remember not to boast through life.  Sure, you’re great and I’m great (probably even greater haha) but there are the fragile among us on whom we ought not trample, and it's entirely possible that we aren't as fantastic as we think we are (?!).

Sauntering with the confidence of love is allowed. Remember whose you are.  That Reality may be inconvenient when compared with our own attitudes, but walking in truth is the way to true freedom.  And that is worth having.