That’s a Deep Subject

S-122-09-6Well, well, well.

I’ve been preaching on the story of Joseph the past few Sundays.

(The one with the fancy coat, not the one with the fancy Son.)

I keep coming back to the moment when Joseph, rejected by his brothers, is thrown into a cistern and left for dead.

Or would have been, had some slave traders not come along.

A cistern is a hand dug well.  This one in particular was dry.

Can you imagine Joseph crying out to his brothers?  Slowly realizing they weren’t joking.

Contemplating his own stuck-ness.

If Joseph is at all like me I’ll bet he tried to attract attention, tried to climb out, maybe threw a temper tantrum or two.

I’ll bet he moved from frustration, to realization, to desperation.

And then, when he finally realized how deep in trouble he was, then, perhaps, he earnestly prayed to God.

One of my favorite Psalms describes such a prayer:

To you, Lord, I called;
    to the Lord I cried for mercy:
 “What is gained if I am silenced,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
    Lord, be my help.”
–Psalm 30: 8-10

It’s a sad, but deep truth:  Few of us truly appreciate our purpose in life–to proclaim God’s faithfulness– until we are at risk of losing it.

Fortunately, this wasn’t the end for Joseph.

Call it a “death bed conversion” (I prefer a “deep well revelation”)  –but Joseph’s whole outlook and purpose seems to come into focus only after this cistern experience.

I’m glad for Joseph.  But what about you?

Are you ready to commit to a life of faithfulness, or are you waiting until you hit bottom?

You may find your way to God regardless,

but to get the most out of the life you’ve been given,

Praise God today!

(Don’t wait until you’re six feet under.)

Have a great week,

Mitch

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HEY BOZO, WATCH OUT!

  The evil are ensnared by the transgression of their lips,
but the righteous escape from trouble.   –Proverbs 12:13

Would you like to hear something silly?

When I’m walking across a parking lot, I’ll find myself annoyed at the drivers.  They don’t watch where they’re going.  They pull out too far into the intersection.  They roll through stop signs and don’t yield the right of way.  In my mind I’m saying HEY BOZO, WATCH OUT!

And then, I get in my car, and switch sides.   Now, I’m a driver, and I find myself annoyed at the pedestrians.  They think they can just walk anywhere they want.   They talk on their cellphones and don’t pay attention.   They’re moving too slowly.  Again, I think, HEY BOZO, WATCH OUT!

I have this terrible fear that someday I won’t be paying any attention, and I’ll run into myself.

Badum bum.

I’m a complainer.   Not a championship complainer, I don’t think, but I’ve been known to mutter, to sigh, and to eye roll.  As I think about my traffic dilemma, above, I realize that I’ve become an equal opportunity complainer.   I apparently don’t care what side I’m on.  I just want to….”Mitch” about it, if you know what I mean.

If you’re like me, it’s just kind of a bad habit.  A go-to state of mind we might not even be fully aware of.   And I understand that.   Life is filled with minor discomforts, sidetracks, and conflicts.   It’s hard not to have a constant track of irritation running through your head.  But God clearly wants more for us than that.

In the book of Proverbs, we are presented with all kinds of wise statements–little selections of words to live by.   The passage above is one of a bunch cautioning us to use our words wisely, and to keep tabs on our anger.

So how do we do that?  Here are a couple suggestions:

Look Both Ways When we blunder through life, we’re more likely to crash into somebody else.  Take time to live deliberately and carefully.

Yield  Instead of pretending we have all the answers, we can yield to God, and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Relay, Not A Race Life is not meant to be a competition or a race.   Think of it as a relay, instead.  Love gets passed from one to another.

The next time I find myself in traffic — on foot or in my car — I’m gonna be paying attention to the words in my head.   HEY BOZO, WATCH OUT! may not seem that harmful, but the truth is I’m the one acting like a clown.   If I try instead to live “righteously”, as the writer of this proverb suggests, I’m more likely to enjoy my journey.

And if that doesn’t work…

I’ll take the bus.

Have a great week,

Mitch

originally posted in 2011

Fuzzy People


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You ever meet someone who seems a little out of focus?

As if they don’t quite click into reality.

Maybe they tell you conflicting stories about their life.

Maybe they seem needy — or unhealthily independent.

Maybe you’ve met someone, or know someone, who looks like a human being, but acts like someone who is just acting like one.

I’m talking about people who have been broken into so many pieces that they may never be successfully put back together again.

I call them Fuzzy People.

Some Fuzzy People get that way from abuse.

Or years in the foster system.

Some Fuzzy People have untreated mental illness.

Or dangerous substance abuse.

Some Fuzzy People have all of the above.

It’s hard to know how to help Fuzzy People.  They may require more than you can ever give.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. That doesn’t mean there is no hope.

There is counseling and medication and treatment and time and care — it can take the love of many people and agencies to help these most broken of people.

And your compassion plays a part.

So love as you are able,

and say your prayers for Fuzzy People.

That their damaged lives may come to see God’s love

more clearly.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Your Cheating Heart?

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Lance Armstrong, Tonya Harding, and Bill Clinton all die on the same day.

There they stand, in line at the Pearly Gates.

As they approach the entrance, Saint Peter recognizes them and pulls them out of line, asking for their autographs.

Bill Clinton looks at the other two, and asks Saint Peter, “Aren’t you going to punish us because we cheated?”

“What?”, Saint Peter laughs, looking back at the rest of the people in line.  “Everybody in this line cheated.  You three are famous for getting caught.”

* * *

Ever fudge on your taxes?

Ever ask the kid at the next desk the answer to #5?

Ever pass “go” when you should have gone to “jail”?

I could continue on with a list of examples, but the items become progressively more sinister:  Adultery, Embezzlement, Fraud.

To cheat, according to Meriam-Webster, is

: to break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something
: to take something from (someone) by lying or breaking a rule
: to prevent (someone) from having something that he or she deserves or was expecting to get

Who among us hasn’t cheated?  Some in big things, some in little things.

Holding it in can be painful.  

As Hank Williams wrote, “Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep. You’ll cry and cry and try to sleep but sleep won’t come the whole night through.”

He was talking about adultery, I’m guessing, but those same guilty feelings can rip apart all kinds of cheatin’ hearts.

Getting caught can be devastating.

Ask anyone who’s ever been caught cheating, and they can tell you about the harsh light of truth.

The consequences of getting caught can be severe and life altering.  In the least, embarrassing.

Redemption is possible, but it’s a long painful road.

Is there any hope for this cheatin’ heart?

Well, you can ask Lance, Tonya, and Bill, and I’d expect you’d get three very different answers.

But if you ask Paul, here’s what he’d say:  

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. -Romans 3:23-24

Remember, Paul was worse than a cheater — he used to track down Christians and send them to their deaths!

If redemption was possible for him, it’s possible for you and me.

It’s such Good News that Grace can weave itself into every cheatin’ heart.

But between you and me,

there’s one certain thing you could do right now

to better open yourself to that Grace:

STOP CHEATING.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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