God Buffet

Woe is me! For I have become like one who,
after the summer fruit has been gathered…
finds no cluster to eat –Micah 7.1

You know the way I want to die?

At an all-you-can-eat watermelon buffet.   Seedless, of course.

Sit me close to the line so I can go back, time and again, for juicy chunks of this marvelous red delicacy.   Chopped up in cubes, or rolled into balls. Giant slabs ready for my quivering fork to dig into.   That crunchy first bite, followed by sweet liquid—what’s this?  A food you can both eat and drink? I’m in paradise!  Load me up with another few pounds of the magical fleshy fruit, till I’m bursting with joy!

Poor choice of words.  But you get the idea.   I like watermelon.  It’s probably my favorite part of the summer.  In fact, as I pull closer to September I begin to feel wistful.  Did I make the most of my summer?

Hmm.  I didn’t swim in the lake.   I haven’t eaten one ear of corn.   No running through the sprinklers.  No long family vacations in the car.   I never even made it to a baseball game.

And watermelon?  Twice.    I brought home watermelon only twice all summer.  It was delicious, of course, but what happened to “the buffet”? Here’s my favorite food in the world, that only comes in season during one brief span all year, and I barely ate any.   It was hardly a priority.

With all the other things going on in my life, would you believe I just plain forgot?  I forgot to make time to enjoy more watermelon.   The whole watermelon experience, as precious as it is to me, took back seat to other things, like securing mortgage loans, and moving furniture and getting work done at the office.

And now?   Well, I still have time.  But not a ton.   Watermelon season doesn’t stay around for ever.

Hey–isn’t it good to know that God season never ends?  Well, yes, it’s true.  We can eat from the “God Buffet”, free of charge, any time we want.

But we don’t!  

The same thing happens–we forget.  We get distracted.  We don’t go to God because we’re busy with other things.   Connecting with God is powerful, life changing, affirming, directing, confirming, protecting, on and on I could go.  It’s truly paradise! Having a strong faith connection with God really DOES make an amazing difference…but we can let whole seasons pass without reaching out for God.

Silly, isn’t it?

I am guilty of taking both my favorite fruit and my God for granted.  And I’m going to remedy that right now.

Okay.  I’ve got watermelon on my shopping list, and I’ve got God-time on my schedule.  And you know what?

That’s the way I want to live.

Have a great week,

Mitch

(See you in 2 weeks!)  

Facticious

Litany of Facts:  By Mitch Todd

Global Warming Is A Myth.  (Here, let me show you the facts.)

Global Warming Is Here! (Here, let me show you the facts.)

Republicans know what to do with our money. (Here, let me show you the facts.)

Democrats know what to do with our money. (Here, let me show you the facts.)

Eat bacon and lose weight!  (Here, let me show you the facts.)

DON’T eat bacon if you want to lose weight!  (Here, let me show you the facts.)

I could go on, but honestly, I’m kind of tired of the litany of “facts”.  After a while, it all starts to sound…facticious.

I long for the day when facts were, you know, facts.   As a kid, I believed in facts.  If a scientist or a researcher or a politician told me something was fact, I believed them.   There was something comforting about the solidity of facts.  Something that gave the world some structure.  A platform you could attempt to build a life on.

And then…I don’t know if it was just me growing up, or maybe the world drifting into post-modernism, but facts started to become slippery. Invariably, for every rock solid belief I held, there was someone else in the world holding an opposite belief just as tightly–clutching onto a different set of facts.

The same is true in Christianity.   Just look at the fracturing of the Protestant Church.  Now we have hundreds, even thousands of denominations, all claiming to know the facts about belief.   (As if such a thing were even possible!)  Even within my denomination, the United Methodist Church, individual churches and members may believe very different sets of “facts” when it comes to issues of women in ministry, homosexuality, capital punishment, salvation, etc.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe part of our job as faithful disciples, and citizens of this planet, is to sift through all the facts and come to as faithful a decision as we can on all sorts of issues.   And I don’t even think we all have to agree on everything.  But I’ve come to realize that you can stack up all the facts in the world and it doesn’t mean you’ll reach the Truth.  (Tower of Babel, anyone?)

Truth is mysterious, never fully knowable, and somehow able to transcend all the various facts we attach to it.   Truth, for me, is the reality of God’s Kingdom that I can never fully comprehend, but can pledge my every breath to.  Truth is potent and powerful.

When I live with Truth first, and facts second, I’m able to see that the person across the spectrum from me may still be in touch with some Truth that I can’t fully see.   When I live with Truth, I’m able to see The Issue behind the issues, namely the spread of God’s Love into this world.   When I live with Truth, I’m more comfortable saying three magic words:  “I don’t know”.

When I try to live with Truth, life is less about building platforms, and more about building relationships.  Facts are building blocks, and building blocks can be helpful.   But not when they’re used to build walls between people.

Still, I can’t imagine a world without facts.  I don’t think I’d want one.  Facts certainly have their place.

But a world without Truth?

The would be worse than a world without bacon.

Have a good week,

Mitch

images by davesblog and caricatura

D R O U G H T

…but joy comes with the morning. –Psalm 30:5b

I’m friends with a couple who are farmers out in western Kansas.  I saw them last week and they looked…well, they looked kind of dazed.  Beaten down.  And why not? There’s been no water for them this summer. Their crops have been burned to a crisp by the severe heat of the past month.

I said, “So, do you have to go out and do special irrigation for the crops?”

They looked at me blankly.

“No,” they said.  “There’s no water.  No water out of the ground, no water in tanks.  There’s nothing to irrigate with.”   Wow.  The significance of drought began to hit me.  And apparently there was nothing to do about it, either.   Nothing to do but just wait, and pray.

I’ve been there.  Spiritually.

I’ve been through seasons of life when it’s as if my lifeline to God had just shriveled up.   I had no reserves of faith to draw on.  I was choking on the dust of a meaningless existence, my roots pulling inward, my brittle leaves shattered and blown away on the hot wind.

I’ve experienced drought.  Have you?

It’s not something you easily bounce back from.   Sometimes a forced smile isn’t enough to wet your parched lips.   Sometimes you can only wait.

And pray.

* * *

Yesterday I awoke singing a line from a song I’d last heard some thirty years ago.   Here are the words (by Medical Mission Sisters):

I saw rain drops on my window, Joy is like the rain.
Laughter runs across my pane, Slips away and comes again.
Joy is like the rain.

I saw clouds upon a mountain, Joy is like a cloud.
Sometimes silver, sometimes gray, Always sun not far away.
Joy is like a cloud.
I saw Christ in wind and thunder, Joy is tried by storm.
Christ asleep within my boat, Whipped by wind, yet still afloat,
Joy is tried by storm.

I saw rain drops on a river, Joy is like the rain,
Bit by bit the river grows, ’til all at once it overflows.

Joy is like the rain.

* * * * *

My prayer today is a simple one.   For those in a drought…

I wish JOY.

Have a great week,

Mitch

SPEAK!

Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’  –Numbers 22.28

I used to have a car named Johnson.   I miss him.  Great, dependable guy.

We used to have a tree in our front yard named Mabel.  Mabel the Maple.  She would turn a brilliant red each fall, and wait till the snow came to lose her leaves, so we never had to rake.  Great tree.

Then there’s my GPS.  Her name is named “GyPSy”, and she has a lovely voice.  Of course, I don’t always listen to her closely enough, so she’s constantly asking me to make the nearest U-Turn.   She gets cranky like that.

You know who else has a nice voice?  Charlie.   My wife Jan and I agree that Charlie’s got kind of a low bass, playful voice.  Of course we’ve never heard it.  He’s a dog.

I could go on with examples, but you probably get the point.   I’m an anthropomorphizer.

A what?   Let me put it this way:  Have you ever had an imaginary conversation with a pet?  A boat?  The computer you’re sitting at right now? Then you know what I’m talking about.  To anthropomorphize something is to project human qualities onto it.

I think it’s quite natural for us to do this. We’re relational people, and we think relationally.  So, even if your beloved car doesn’t have a voice, you sort of develop a relationship with it over time.  You learn to communicate with it.

Anthropomorphizing makes even more sense with animals.    Many of us have a dog or a cat living in our lives, and we actually can communicate with them, to a point.   Your cat lets you know when it’s hungry.  Your dog lets you know when you need to go out.  And with pets there is a genuine sharing of affection and closeness.   So why not give Mr. Snigglesnorts a nice british accent as you pretend he’s demanding you change his catbox?

In the Book of Numbers, God gives Balaam’s donkey the ability to actually speak!  Balaam is on a journey along what appears to be an empty road, when his donkey quickly jerks Balaam into the ditch.   Unseen by Balaam, there was an angel standing, blocking the way.  The donkey swerved to avoid a collision, but Balaam strikes his donkey three times.   Apparently the angel didn’t like the way Balaam was treating his animal, so he allowed the donkey to berate his rider. Pretty wild, huh?

If your pet could speak, what would it say to you?  Would its voice match the imaginary one you’ve given it?  See, that’s the one thing about anthropomorphizing–you get to make up both sides of the conversation.  That’s fun when you’re playing around, but it can’t replace really listening.

I think it really is important to try to communicate with our pets, and even the objects and gadgets around us.  But our imaginary words should never take the place of the real messages coming to us.  When God gave us dominion over this world, that meant we have a responsibility to care for it.   That probably has less to do with treating our pets and objects as if they were human, and more with treating them with respect and attentiveness.

So, when GyPSy tells me to turn right, I’d probably better turn right.   And when Johnson tells me he’s low on oil, I need to get it changed.

And when Charlie needs to go for a walk?  He doesn’t have to say a word.  He just barks, and grabs Alicia by the neck.

(That’s the name of our leash)

Have a great week,

Mitch

Blocking God

…for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  -James 1:8

“Thank you for waiting”,  James smiles thinly.

“I have a little survey for you to fill out.  Please use a #2 pencil.

“Question #1.   Do you have any doubts, as far as your faith is concerned?  Ever wonder about the miracles Jesus performed, or if there’s a Heaven, or if God hears you when your pray?   Hmm.  Okay, that’s interesting…

“Question #2.  Are you single-minded in purpose?  Do you always know exactly what you want, where you’re going, and what you believe?  In other words, are you 100% focused?   Aha.  Let me just write down a few notes here…

“Question #3.  Are you dependable, rock-solid in your faith, and totally devoid of neuroses?   Okay.  As I suspected.

“I’m terribly sorry, but you do not appear to qualify for any assistance from God.  You’re just too much of a doubter, too double-minded, and thoroughly unstable.   Maybe you can try back in six months.”

—-

Yep.  That’s how I picture an encounter with James happening.  I mean, wow, those are some pretty tough criteria in the scripture above.  Could you meet those criteria?  Could anyone?  I picture James sitting behind a window with a big ole’ rubber stamp that says ‘denied’.   He has a little fake sad smile for you as he looks at the person behind you in line.  “Next!”

Wow.  Is James really that tough on who gets some assistance from God?   Well, it says it right there in the Bible, folks who don’t meet the requirements  “must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

Oh wait…I just realized something.  James is talking about what you and I will receive from God.  Not what God is transmitting to us.   See the difference?   James is saying there’s nothing wrong with God — God wants to give us Love, Hope, Faith, Patience, etc.   The problem is on our end, with our receivers.  

It turns out this isn’t some restrictive list James made up to keep people from getting God’s Good Stuff.  It’s a list of the conditions we humans find ourselves in that make it hard for us to receive it.

Sometimes, try as we might, we let our doubt get the best of us.  Instead of letting faith light our way, we gum up the works with too many questions, too much uncertainty.   When we give in to doubt, we’re blocking God.

And other times, we get distracted.  We become double, or triple, or quadruple-minded.   We’re thinking about the bills, troubles at work, and the argument we had with a friend.  When we become unfocused like that, we’re blocking God.

And at other times, well, we’re an unstable mess.   We can’t think clearly.   Can’t make good decisions.  We feel like we’ve let the walls of our lives come crumbling in around us.  When we’re unstable, we’re blocking God.

James is merely saying, “Push through that!”

Easier said than done, right?  Actually, James knows that.  He’s here to help.  Here’s what he has to say in verses 2-4

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

James isn’t some disinterested nay-sayer.  Quite the contrary.  He’s reminding us that tough times met head-on with faith produces endurance and wisdom.  You may go through hard times when your life threatens to block God from reaching you, but hold on to your faith.   Consider it joy that your faith will sustain you and help you grow!

That is Good News, indeed.   Something I know I’ll try to remember.

Thanks, James.   If you were here I know you’d say,

“You’re entirely welcome.”   And then you’d say…

“Next?”

Have a Great Week,

Mitch