Nocabulary

vocabpractice_content2

 

I guess you could say I make my living on words.

I write a sermon every week, and teach a class or two.

I write this devotion.

And it’s all based on words.  My ability to take an idea and translate it and convey it.

I’ve wondered what it would be like if I were sent to Korea.  Or China.

Some place where my vocabulary was suddenly a no-cabulary.

Would I be able to convey the awesomeness of God to someone who spoke another language?

Or what if I sat down with someone who was deaf?

Could I explain a life in the Spirit with crude hand gestures?

Hmm.  Have you ever thought about this?

You may or may not think of words as your bread and butter, but what if you were at a loss for them?

Could you testify to your faith?  Could you express what Christ means to you?

Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 9:15,  “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”, so apparently even Paul reached the limits of his words occasionally.

He’s describing an encounter with the ineffable.

“Ineffable:  too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.”

Yes, more than a language barrier or an inadequate thesaurus, there are times when what God has given us is simply more than we can say.

The depth of that kind of connection with God cannot be explained, only experienced.

That  means no sermon or devotion or caring conversation will ever sufficiently capture the ineffable, unnameable, indescribable God of my life, or yours.

That doesn’t mean we can’t try.

Poets, philosophers, theologians and musicians have dedicated their lives to weaving words together that at least point towards God.

So, for me, I still think it’s a worthwhile calling.  Language can at least point in the right direction.

But if the inability of words to fully describe God’s Love has you feeling a little disillusioned…

Would you like a hug?  🙂

Have a great week,

Mitch

P E T T Y

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“You are so PETTY”, the anonymous note read.

She crumpled it up in a ball and threw it inside her desk, looking around to see if anyone was watching. She made an effort to return to her seat with a forced smile on her face.  She’d have time to cry after school.

And she did cry.  Even though she was popular, and had lots of friends, the words stung her. Was she really petty?  She thought she knew what the word meant, but she decided to look it up just in case:

mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things: a petty person.” 

She wondered who had written the note, and what she had done to deserve the harsh words.

Had she been mean?  Well, maybe sometimes. There were kids in her class that she teased.  Some of them didn’t dress very nicely.  She didn’t mean anything by it, really.  She was just laughing along with her friends.

Had she been “ungenerous”?  Well, she did talk behind some kid’s backs. That probably wasn’t very generous.  And she hadn’t invited Gabriella over for a big sleep over, even though they’d been best friends last year.  Gabriella’s parents lived in the “wrong” part of town, according to some of her other friends.

Now she was crying again.  Not just for embarrassment, but for shame.  She hadn’t really stopped and thought about how she might be hurting other people.

She looked at the cross hanging on her bedroom wall, and cried some more. She reached for her Bible, and it flopped open to where she had bookmarked one of her favorite verses:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Finally, she said a prayer and asked for forgiveness for how she’d behaved.  She even prayed for the person who had written her the note.

The next day she felt very different as she walked into class.  She found herself looking at each person through new eyes.  She wanted to see people the way Jesus saw them.

She sat down at her desk, and after thinking about it, reached inside to grab the crumpled up note. She thought she might keep it as a reminder.

She flattened the note out and her jaw dropped.

There it said in plain English, “You’re so PRETTY“.

Not “Petty”, “Pretty”.

Blushing slightly, she smiled and put the note back in her desk.

For a moment the thought passed through her mind, “This changes everything”.

“No it doesn’t,” she said aloud, softly, smiling.

“God’s Love changes everything.”

Have a great week,

Mitch

Pettiness prayer

THORN

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. –2 Corinthians  12:7b

The debate has raged for centuries.   What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?

In the passage above, Paul talks about an ailment of some sort, presented by Satan himself, that kept Paul from ever being too elated.

Was it a physical ailment?  Some have said Paul had a stutter, or poor eyesight, or epilepsy.  I even read someone who suggesting he had terrible B.O.!  Or was it more of a mental issue?   Could he have been homosexual? (which is also a physical “condition”)  Or depressed?  Or jumpy?  Or perhaps his thorn was a spiritual one:  An evil spirit sent by Satan to torment him?

2000 years later, and there is still no consensus.   No one has figured out what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was.

Until now.

Last week, I was searching around on Ebay, and I found it.   An ancient artifact wrapped up and stored in an ornate wooden box, complete with full documentation.  I bought it for $30 from a lady in Pittsburgh.  I have no idea how she ended up with it.

It just came in the mail, and here’s what I discovered:  Paul’s “thorn?”  It was a thorn.

That’s right.   He wasn’t being figurative at all.  He was being literal!  Paul’s big issue was this ugly red thorn that had been stuck in his side for years and years.   Three times he prayed for God to remove it from him, but, like a stubborn sliver, the darn thing wouldn’t budge.

Eventually, he just learned to live with it.

So that’s that.   Sorry if it’s a let down.  But now that that question is settled, can we move on to the real point Paul is trying to make?

Somehow, God was able to take Paul’s thorn, and put it to use.   Incorporate it, even, into the Big Picture.   Paul makes it clear that, painful as this thorn is, he has learned that it helps him to stay on track, focussed on the Kingdom.  Miraculously, Paul has taken his “issue” and used it in service to God.  Amazing!

I don’t know what your “issues” are–maybe some of the same ones people have suspected Paul as having.   Some of those thorns are short term, and others will be with you your whole life long.  You may have years of wresting ahead of you, just like Paul.  That can seem daunting!

Okay, okay, I confess.   I didn’t really pick up Paul’s thorn on Ebay.  I have no clue what his problem was, but did you notice?  Once the mystery of Paul’s ailment was set out of the way, we were able to take a good look at the REAL mystery:   That God can use even us, thorns and all.

Life, it turns out, is thorny.   But the nature of the thorn isn’t what’s important.   What matters is that God can cause new, fragrant life to bloom, even in the most difficult of situations.

God reminds us to take heart, and to have faith, and remember:

Every Thorn Has Its Rose.

Have a great week,

Mitch

images by jpmatth bobosh_t

God Has A Big Nose

They offer to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt-offerings and fragrant incense  — 2 Corinthians 13; 11a

Hearing.  Seeing.  Tasting.  Smelling.  Touching.

If you had to lose one of your senses, which one would it be?   I’ve thought about this before, and for me the answer is always the same.  I’d say goodbye to my nose.

I wouldn’t want to give up my eyesight.   I couldn’t watch movies, or enjoy a sunset.   Likewise, I couldn’t give up my hearing because I wouldn’t be able to listen to music.

Tasting?  Hey-I love watermelon and nachos way too much for that.   Touching?  It’s a more subtle sense, but it would effect everything I did.  Every embrace, every gentle breeze.  I don’t think I could give that up.

It comes down to my sense of smell.    Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of popcorn, or a campfire, or a flower, and I understand that smell effects how things taste, but if I had to give one up, that’s the one I’d have to choose.

Do you agree with my choice?  (You can vote down below)  I get the feeling God might not.

In Old Testament times the Priests thought God had a big nose.   A lot of what they would do to please God had to do with smell.   First, there were the sacrifices.   Twice or more a day they’d offer burnt sacrifices–like meat on a barbecue grill–because they believed the delicious smell would float up to God, and make God happy.  (I can certainly relate!)

And then they’d light incense, there in the temple.  The delicate fragrance would lift up to God, to delight God’s sense of smell. Apparently conventional wisdom had it that the way to God’s heart was through God’s proboscis!

Hmm.  Maybe I’ve short changed the power of smell.   I’ve read that smell is the most powerful trigger of memory.   And it’s true–the smell of the ocean breeze or a hot parking lot or the skin of a baby can evoke the most powerful responses in me.   Now I’m not so sure I’d be willing to cut off my nose to spite my face after all.

Actually, as time went on, God made it clear that the quickest way to God’s heart wasn’t just through the nose, but through faithful living.   You can only bring home a bunch of fragrant flowers to apologize so many times.  Eventually, you have to change the way you live. So, in the New Testament, the focus isn’t on pleasing God’s senses, but pleasing God’s sensibilities.

Hey, it may be true.  God may have a big nose.  But the size of God’s heart is what matters most.   The same is true with us.   These marvelous senses God gave us make life rich and enjoyable, but it’s only the connection between our heart and God’s heart that can ever truly satisfy.   I think Love might just be the 6th sense, and all the others are simply supporting players.

I wouldn’t want to do without any of them, but I do know this.

A life without love…

Positively stinks.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch