13 April 2009

Fire Assurance

Have you ever heard of the term 'fire insurance' being used to describe some one's shallow faith? The idea being, of course, that the person professing faith just wants to stay out of hell while living any way they please here and now. I had one person tell me outright that they wanted to get into heaven with his shirt tails smoking and smelling of sulphur. I can't fault him for his honesty but his ideas on what it means to be a Christian aren't worth the powder it would take to blow them to... well.. you know.

It hasn't been fashionable to talk about hell for a while now. Folks want a kind and benevolent God who wouldn't dream of sending anyone there if it exists. There are a lot of people who profess faith in God and deny hell at the same time. Those who do believe in hell will describe it as being separated from God. I have heard the argument and it sounds plausible, unless you actually read your bible. Hell isn't being separated from God, it is living your eternity unable to escape God's wrath. It's not that He ignores you like a petulant adolescent might because you haven't given Him what he wants, it's that there is nothing to separate you from the judgement and torment that are yours. You don't get cordially invited to the theological place of eternal punishment, you get fast tracked there from the minute you're born. It isn't fire insurance you've got, it's fire assurance. You are 100% guaranteed to spend eternity in hell unless the Lord God sees fit to save you.

The very worst day in your life here cannot compare to the misery experienced in a nano second of hell. How much do you have to hate someone to sit back and let them go there without trying to warn them?

12 April 2009

Mary's Moment

There are moments that change everything. We amble along in our lives and suddenly our course is forever altered. Moments can be much anticipated as when a child is born, or arise spontaneously when a seemingly inconcequential decision made. One little choice propels us in a new direction. It doesn't even have to be our choice. Someone else's choice to lie or cheat may rob us of the future we hoped for or the security we think we need. It happens suddenly and without our permission. Moments that cause unspeakable joy elevate us above our greatest hopes or just as quickly, our expectations become little more than premeditated disappointments.

There are moments of my life I remember with pain, wonder and amazement. That's what life is about; moments that sneak up and hold you captive. Moments that force you to acknowledge the sure bliss, joy, terror and interminable grief that occurs in a blink of an eye, the utterance of a syllable or the touch of a hand. If you have ever lost someone you love then you know what I am talking about. It doesn't matter if they were sick for years or killed in a freak accident, learning of the death of a loved one is a moment that changes you forever.

Today as I sat in church I was overcome with emotion. I sat before the service pensively considering what Mary Madalene must have thought as she made her way to Jesus' tomb. She was His devoted servent and had been delivered of evil spirits. History has branded her as a prostitute and she may have been, but there's no proof of that in Scripture. I asked myself, just how brave did she have to be put her grief aside and go to where her beloved Jesus' body had been laid to rest? Did she place one foot in front of the other fearing what she would find? Did her loyalty to him keep her from dreading the smell of death and decay that she knew would greet her, probably before she ever entered the tomb? Did the anticipation of how beaten and scarred he was make her wonder if she could stand to look at his lifeless and brutalized body? Was her devotion and love for him so strong that it held her natural aversion and disgust in check?

I can only begin to imagine what it was for her to go bid her final farewell by dutifully preparing his putrefying body with oil and spices. It was the last and final time she could spend with him. Did all that was repugnant about doing this fade into nothingness when compared to her honor and privilege to be among the last to leave him forever? What shock and disbelief could she have felt when she arrived to find the tomb empty? Did she wonder who could have done such a despicable thing as to steal his body? Did she fear they were desecrating his remains in one final and foul way to prove their disapproval of Him? Did she think they were humilating him in death too?

I am certain Mary could not have anticipated the real life changing moment that was about to come. She probably thought it had already come when they crucified her Jesus. I can scarcely imagine her grief and despair while going to the tomb but how can I begin to imagine that I know what emotions first flooded her when the one she served's body was not there. How much more grief can flood in to fill a vacuum like that? And then it happened, the real life changing moment occurred. So caught up in her grief she nearly missed it. Jesus, whom she loved and served called her name. She was so focused on the way things appeared, so focused on her pain she thought he was the gardener, but He called her name. She was called by name. What a moment that must have been for Mary. What a moment it is for all who have been called.

Christ the Lord is risen today.

02 April 2009

Silly Thoughts

Is it really just a coincidence when on a random day like today the majority of people calling your place of work are grumpy or downright hateful? I conferred with two coworkers today about the types of calls and callers we received and we all agree that something was just plain wrong with most of the folks we talked to. The question remains, how do you account for that phenomenon? If it was only my impression I would think my opinion was being skewed by my own grumpiness. A random sampling says it's not me though. Besides, I am in a perfectly lovely mood.

If I were Frank Peretti I would blame it on demons. If I were a math nerd I would calculate the statistical probabilities. If I were paranoid I would think that every person with a bad attitude was given my extension by some malevolent person or being. Truly, I do not have a clue how to rationalize days where people seem to be crazy. Besides, it seems sorta silly to rationalize craziness. There are a lot of things that seem silly to me.

Imagine God not being sovereign. He would be in charge of everything, listening to the complaints and requests of all the people in the world and only able to act if they cooperated with Him. All the responsibility and only occasional power surges as allowed by the will of His created beings. Ha! And I think I have it rough on a day like today with the few nutcases I talked to, imagine having all that at once.

Ah well.... enough random thoughts from the edge.

01 April 2009

Wistful Thinking

Today I am feeling both pensive and melancholy. I didn't set out to combine these two states of being. I just went out into the garden to begin stripping out the ravages of neglect and winter and suddenly found myself thinking about the way things used to be and how I long for some of those things to return.

When the girls were young we all lived in a 100 year old farm house and had 10 acres for things like horses, sheep and gardens. I miss living there. I didn't know I would miss the sound of the pheasants calling or the raspy bark of the foxes who were hoping to eat them. How could I know then that I would miss the smell of tar weed growing in the pasture, especially when it can be a real problem for you when your horses eat it.

I miss seeing my horse parked under the ancient pear trees and the old Gravenstein apple tree, in my mind she looks as fat as a tick and she is munching windfall fruit. She used to do that until she looked rabid from all the foam and juice that escaped from the corners of her mouth as she ate to her hearts content. I thought about her as I watched the neighbor's horses eating away at the new bluegrass growing in their pasture. There's no tar weed here in Kentucky and I definitely miss the scent. I didn't know that I would miss the sheep either although they were stupid animals, leaving no doubt in my mind as to why God calls us sheep, but I miss them. Did you know that sheep really do learn to come when they are called and they really do know their shepherd's voice? I remember a neighbor, Olga, who used to call her sheep by baaing Beethoven's Fifth. Baa, baa, baa, baaaaaa. Baa, baa, baa, baaaaaaa! Her sheep wouldn't come to the barn for anyone else but then, who else would baa Beethoven's Fifth?

There are a multitude of things I didn't know would be on my mind today. I didn't know the last time I rode a bike it would be the last time I rode a bike. Same goes for riding my horse. I tried hard to remember these moments. The last time moments that you didn't know were going to be your last time. Would I have treasured them more if I had known? I didn't know the last time I was kissed it would be the last time. Of course if I had known then what I know now that last kiss wouldn't have been my last kiss.... but that's a discussion for another day and probably not on my blog.

In the sunshine promises of spring, I found myself missing my friends in California. I long to be there for my friend, Vicki, who lost her mom last month. I loved her mom. Her mom was sweet and funny and kind. Empathy for Vicki had me thinking of my mom. I miss her. I can still smell her. Who would ever have thought that the faint fragrances of Rolaids, Pall Mall cigarettes and Aqua Net hairspray mixed with everything else that was mom could be so good?

I miss my youth but only because I looked and felt better. I don't want to return to that mixed up mess of a person that I was. I enjoy being nearly 52, I only wish I could enjoy it more before my arthritis kicks in. There's only so much weed pulling I can do before the muscles and joints protest. I protested a lot about pulling weeds when I was young but that was about being lazy. Now, I miss the gardens of my youth, mostly because I miss what they brought in the way of family togetherness.

I miss my kids. I miss my family. I am happy and content here but I want to have some moments to cherish before the last, last time comes and I miss it.