Jesus Texting

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For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it. –Job 33:14

Luv4all:  Hey!

You:  Hey!  What’s up Jesus?

Luv4all:  Happy Birthday!

You:  Hehe, not my bday, dude!

Luv4all:  Yes it is.  I would know. 😉

You:  My birthday isn’t for 5 months.  You feeling okay?

Luv4all:  It’s all good.  You don’t get it.

You:  Get what?

Luv4all:  My present.  I send you one every day.

You:  Okay… what?

Luv4all: Life!  You get Life from me everyday.  So everyday is your birthday.

You:  Oh…like REbirth.  I get you.

Luv4all:  No.  Rebirth is important.  You get that too.  But every day is a NEW BIRTH.  A new chance.  A new opportunity.  A new lease on Life.

You: This is deep, JC.

Luv4all:  I KNOW it’s deep.  Remember this: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind”?  I want you to embrace my light, like it’s the candle on your birthday cake, every single day.

You: How come I’m just hearing about this?

Luv4all: *groans* I tried scripture–you’re too busy.  I tried talking to you in your prayers–you have trouble listening.  I tried speaking through other people–you always have somewhere else to be.

You:  Sorry.

Luv4all:  It’s alright.  I’m just pointing out that the only way you seem to be able to communicate these days is through texting.  Not exactly the easiest mode for transmitting Grace and Truth, you feeling me?

You:  I feel you.  Sorry.

Luv4all:  Don’t hassle it.  Short and sweet is better than nothing.

You:  So, it’s my birthday.  New Life.

Luv4all:  That’s right.  Celebrate by living the freedom that comes with it.

You:  Okay.  I will.

Luv4all:  Okay.  Gotta go.  Thumbs getting tired.

You:  LOL.  Thanks, Jesus.

Luv4all:  No prob.  But remember, a little prayer never hurt anyone.  And my data plan?

It’s unlimited.

 

Have a good week,

Mitch

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T O T A L I T Y

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Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.”  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.
–Exodus 10:21-22

On August 21st, 2017, a word I’d heard but never used sort of sprang up into my mouth, where I uttered it many, many times:  TOTALITY.

Everywhere I went people were saying that word!

Totality.  Referring to that narrow band of geography, spreading across the United States, that fell completely into the shadow caused by the solar eclipse.

Like a status symbol I never knew was attainable or even existed, I was suddenly one of the millions who were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and to have the clouds (literally) part and reveal the sun, fully eclipsed by the moon.  Totality.

It was very cool.  I hadn’t even been expecting much of the event, but watching the world around me rapidly descend into nighttime was like something out of a global disaster movie!  It was somehow palpable, pervasive.  It was darkness that clings to you.

I was instantly transported back to ancient Egypt.  To the showdown between God and Pharaoh, to Moses stretching out his hand and bringing sudden darkness on the land. This was not just a heavy cloud cover kind of darkness.  This was, as God puts it, “darkness that can be felt”.

A plague of totality.

I experienced 3 minutes of it, and felt a little relief when the light began to return.  I can’t imagine what 3 days of that would have felt like, knowing God was punishing you.

Some folks feel that way. That God is punishing us.  Can you recall a moment when everybody you knew was walking around in the dark at the same time?  When it seemed like the whole Earth had crawled up inside a shadow?

September 11th comes to mind.  And our world today can feel like the new Dark Ages.  There are so many scary, hateful signs of despair, whole swaths of us that are living in the shadows. Many turn their eyes towards heaven, and blame God for the dark.

Darkness is so often portrayed as something to be feared and dreaded, but on August 21st, 2017, I experienced the thrill of life on planet Earth, in its totality. We praised God, even in the dark!

During this totality, what I heard were screams of joy coming from a neighbor’s front yard.  A jubilant firework being shot off across town.  We whooped and hollered and stared right at the sun for a few moments.  This was a once in a lifetime experience that was shared by those “in the zone” and those hundreds of miles away.

Let us remember that God created darkness along with the light.  God is not out to punish us, or banish us, or deprive us from joy.  God created the sun and the moon and the earth.  God created the universe in its totality, and all the many lives who inhabit it,

not for us to revel in despair…

but to eclipse it with joy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Seeing, and Nazi-ing.

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Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.  –Luke 11:34

I have sympathy for Nazis. But by no means does that make me a Nazi sympathizer!  In fact, there are few groups in the world that disgust me as much as they do.

With their marching, and swastika waving, and saluting, not to mention their racist, fascist words and actions, I might be persuaded to punch one in the face, and I’m a man of peace!

Remember that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Nazis open up the Ark of the Covenant, and the Spirit comes out and basically smites all the Nazis?  Well, I don’t really think that’s something the Holy Spirit would do, but I can’t help but cheer. 

I try not to hate, and it makes especially little sense when that hate is directed towards a “hate group”, but groups like the Nazis, and the KKK, and ISIS make me want to scream in rage.

Oh, you too?  Alright, let’s leave a little space here for some primal screaming.  Ready?  Go!

(scream)

Okay.  I feel a little better.  I, for one, angry as these hate groups may make me, have to be sure not to just stuff down my emotions and ignore them. I think it’s okay to let it out, but as a controlled burn, not a wildfire.  I think we have a right to be angry, but not give in to hate.

So how is it that I can feel sorry for these jerks?  These walking, talking time bombs of intolerance?  Isn’t that like having sympathy for the devil?  (Rolling Stones reference, by the way).

No, it’s having sympathy for people who don’t see the light.  Who don’t see light at all.  As Jesus mentions in the passage above, people whose eyes are unhealthy, and all they can see is darkness.

What damaged their eyes?  What caused these folks to see such hate?

Maybe it was their parents.  Racism is often a passed-down trait.  They were raised to hate and fear types of people, and so they do.

Maybe it was their situation.  Maybe they need somebody to blame for their social status, or their poverty, or their unemployment.  Or course, that makes it sound like Nazis and other racists come from the lower class alone.  Racism, so to say, does not discriminate.  It can be found in all levels of society.

Maybe they never heard of God.  Or never learned to see the good in others.  Maybe they willfully stared at the wrong things, dark things.  Or saw hatred as a way to get ahead.

I don’t know why Nazi’s choose Nazi-ing (“Not Seeing”) the light of God in all God’s people, but I can attest, that light is there.  Even a Nazi is not immune from the power and love of God’s light.  There is hope.

So, although I find myself tensing up in frustration at the sight of a swastika, I just keep praying for a little of God’s light to break through.

Maybe, instead of a full-on smite, the Spirit can give those Nazis

a painful, yet eye-opening sunburn.

Have a good week,

Mitch

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Light, Beer

There’s a convenience store in my town. Here’s what the sign out front says this week:

“WE SELL
BEER ON
SUNDAY
NOON TO 8PM
1 JOHN 1:5″

One sentence, no breaks.  Just a beer advertisement and a scripture reference.

The family that owns that convenience store is clearly Christian.  There’s even a cross on their logo.  And this is not the first time they’ve posted a scripture verse on their sign.

This is just the funniest.

Do you notice that they wait until noon to start selling beer?  I wonder if that’s to catch everyone on their way home from church? I suppose that’s better than folks picking up a six pack on their way to church that morning!

Seriously, though…

These folks have a sign with five lines, and they reserve one of those lines for sharing scripture.  That’s double tithing of their space!

And the single-verse scriptures they’ve picked are good.  I like this one especially.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  –1 John 1:5

I wonder what it would mean to someone who got curious about that “1 John 1:5” line, and typed it into Google?

“God is light; in him there is no darkness”.  That’s a statement of God’s immense power and goodness.  It would definitely leave me wondering: Who is this God?

And, think about this:  While there are many out there who can drink beer responsibly, there are others for whom alcohol has become a source of great darkness.

What a strange twist, then, to have this verse of hope at the end of a advertisement for Sunday beer sales?

It seems to me that this family is undermining their own ad–with something, Someone, who brings more joy into the world than anything else.  Even beer.

Well, the store’s sign has gotten a few chuckles in my town.  Who knows, maybe it brings in the Sunday afternoon crowd as intended.

For me, I’ll keep watching for signs to come,

and raise a glass to people who put Good News into the world…

Even when it isn’t a Convenience.

Have a great week,

Mitch

Maybe Cold People

 

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Why are some people so cold?

You know?  That person you wave to every morning on your way to your desk…

who never waves back.

The teenager who will never say more than “I’m fine” when you ask about their day.

The person in your Sunday School class who never shares about their own life, and hardly seems to care about yours.

What’s up with them?  Why do they act like the Walking Dead?

Is there life inside those distant eyes?

Here are some thoughts I’ve had on the subject:

Maybe Cold People…

are insulating themselves from being burned again.

Maybe Cold People…

are playing dead and hoping no one notices them.

Maybe Cold People…

are frozen stuck from terror, disuse, or some other form of paralysis.

Maybe Cold People…

have a head cold and thoughts aren’t connecting with their heart or mouth.

Maybe Cold People…

aren’t warmed up because they haven’t had enough practice socializing.

Maybe Cold People…

Aren’t really cold.  Maybe they’re just very introverted, or not very emotional, and that’s okay.

And yes, maybe sometimes Cold People…

are icy because they have an (ice) chip on their shoulder.

– – – – –

When I find myself in the presence of a cold person, my first instinct is to think that I’m the reason they’re acting that way.

That’s probably not the case.

And my second, kneejerk reaction is to become defensive over their perceived defensiveness.

That’s probably not helpful.

The truth is, God made people of all shapes, sizes, and temperatures.

So, if folks aren’t as outgoing as you, it’s certainly not a crime.

And honestly, you can’t change someone’s temperature anyway.

Maybe Cold People will change, and maybe they won’t.

They have to make that change themselves.

All you can do is lift high the Light of Christ

and invite others…

to be warmed by it.

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

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Fra-gee-lay.

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Once again this year, TBS is running back to back showings of “A Christmas Story” all the way from 8pm on Christmas Eve until 8pm on Christmas Night.

I love that movie.

I think my favorite part is when the father gets his “major award” in the great big box.  He reads the word “fragile”, stamped across the front, as if it were something exotic, written in Italian.

“Frageelay”, he exclaims in awe, forever changing the way I pronounce that word.

Indeed, as gifts go it was pretty exotic and pretty fragile. It was, of course, the infamous leg lamp.

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It looked glorious, shining there in the living room.

When I think of fragile things, I’m reminded of another Christmas story.  The first one.

The first Christmas gift was fragile, too.

Two fragile little legs (not just one).

Two arms, two hands.  Eyes and nose.  Hands and feet.

Tiny, vulnerable.  Frageelay.

Strange, isn’t it?  God sends a savior who is so tiny and weak.  Barely able to lift his head up.

The Son of God, come to save us, yet so easily broken.

Why? Why send such a fragile gift?

Well, there is a certain kind of excitement and gentleness that comes with fragile things.

A reminder to handle with care.

In the movie “A Christmas Story”, the lamp was eventually broken, shining no more.

As for the real Christmas story?

It turns out that Jesus was, indeed, fragile.

He was broken for us

But MERRY CHRISTMAS friends,

because the light of Christ shines FOREVER!

Merry Christmas,

Mitch

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You and Eunice.

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I’m looking at both of you.

YOU, and Eunice.

YOU is the person God created you to be.

Eunice (You-ness) is who you actually are.

YOU is the ideal.  Your Skills, potential, discipleship, idiosyncrasies, you name it, all in perfect working order.

But most people that meet you meet Eunice.   That’s the day-to-day version of yourself, far from ideal.  Your you-ness.

Eunice is the not-quite-up-to-your-potential part.   The doing-the-best-you-can part.

Most days Eunice is a solid 83% of what YOU were created to be.

On a rare day, when thriving and fulfilled, Eunice may come across as  a whopping 93% of YOU!

And occasionally, Eunice bottoms out at a terrible 41% that you wish you could forget about.

Make sense?

YOU is the goal.   Eunice, your You-ness, is the reality.

Now…

Remember in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus talks about Salt and Light?  (Matthew 5:13-16)

Jesus is encouraging you to strive for the YOU you were created to be.

Not settle for some lesser version of Eunice.

Salt is made to be salty!  Light is made to shine brightly!  Anything less than that isn’t living up to what these things were created to be.

YOU were made to be salty and bright, so to speak.

YOU have the ability to add flavor to Life — to help others taste the goodness of the Kingdom.

And  YOU were created as a bright and shining reflection of the God who made YOU.

So when people see YOU, they catch a glimpse of Almighty God.

But, when you settle for a life of run-of-the-mill Eunice, chances are you’ll have a run-of-the-mill-faith lacking flavor and sparkle.

You will never completely leave your Eunice behind, as you strive for YOU, but Jesus wants us to be salty and bright and that requires the deliberate work of discipleship.

To bridge the gap between how you were created and how you tend to live will require hard work and faithfulness.

But I guarantee,

If you can make something of Eunice,

You’ll be Gladys.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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image from www.christianfocus.com