Category: Christian Living

Finding joy by running in the wind

My brown, wavy hair once grew to touch my shoulders. At that same time, my legs could move me faster than most young men when running full tilt. It is odd to remember the sensation, but one of the things I loved then was to feel my hair blowing in the wind created by my own endeavor, my own speed.

Four decades later, I still think of letting my now-white hair grow long just so I can experience that sensation again. I surely cannot run as fast, but I think I could run fast enough.

Why did that sensation strike me then and stay with me so long. Maybe it was the feeling of freedom. Maybe it was not psychological at all. It could merely have been the molecules of my hair roots massaging my scalp in a way that is pleasing, as when you touch the skin of a newborn baby. Maybe a bit of both.

When riding my bicycle, the same thing happened — hair blowing in the wind (no helmet) — but I do not have memories of feeling the same satisfaction. It’s as if my subconscious self minimized the feeling when machine-aided; something inside me knew when it was my energy alone creating the thrill.

Have you ever noticed in real life the difference between the speeds of light and sound? It doesn’t happen often. I noticed it clearly once as I watched a car entering a freeway in Dallas and plowing into the backend of a Ram pickup. I saw it, before I heard it — clearly. It was about 50 yards in front of me. That’s the difference between the speeds of light (seeing) and sound (hearing) in very non-technical terms.

I’ve also seen it on highways as the smoke from braking tires is seen before the squeal is heard. (I drive too much.)

Those two speeds are constant (though it gets technical). The difference is always there, but we don’t usually notice it.

The key is noticing.

There may be another factor in my experience. I didn’t have it until I was in my upper teens.

I grew up with a crew cut (very short) then migrated to a longer-but-well-trimmed haircut. During my crew-cut years, I never experienced the sensation of hair blowing in the wind. When my hair got a little longer, hair blowing in the wind meant only that my well-oiled hairdo had been disturbed — not good when your hair has to look just so.

When, at about 17, I let my hair begin to grow longer (against Dad’s wishes), I experienced something new — for me.  Sometimes the wind, on its own, blew my hair this way and that into a mess. But running differed. When I ran, the wind pushed my hair back and away from my eyes, and I finally noticed the joy of it.

I felt free, as if in some small way I was escaping time and space and simply experiencing pleasure in that moment. We really need to at times to just feel the joy of being human — created in the image of God, who clearly loves joy.

Moral of the story: When we move through life using the gifts God has implanted in us we can experience great joys and little joys. When we don’t use those gifts, we never know what we are missing. That’s why it’s so important for us to tell each other about the little and odd joys that just come from living as the gifted persons God has made each of us to be. It may encourage someone else to live a little.

And here is one more thought: Some Christians seem afraid of freedom and joy. They are bound up in fear and anger. This is so sad. The world turned to Jesus because of the love, forgiveness, hope, joy, and celebration that He has brought to living. We need only notice it.

And, don’t tempt me, or I may let my white hair grow long, part it down the middle again, and run like the wind — or more like a breeze. Trese, however, would not like that look on me, so I may need to just dream it.

 

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‘When bad things happen . . .’

On the phone to my oldest son last night a thought popped into my mind. And when thoughts pop into my mind, they often pop out of my mouth. I said:

“When bad things happen, some people blame God. I’m not like that. When bad things happen, I blame Satan.”

I don’t use “Satan” language much. But I believe evil is at work in this world, and sometimes it helps to personify it in order to fight it.

I do say this a fair amount: “Earth is not Heaven. We get glimpses of Heaven here, but we also get glimpses, some very big glimpses of Hell.”

We are nanby-panby about God sometimes because we think of this place as benign, as the Garden of Eden Extended. It’s not. This is a fallen world.

I can get worked up about this; you gathered. The cancer didn’t make me that way. The suffering I’ve seen made me this way.

Two days ago I got some good news, there is no evidence the cancer in my prostate has gotten beyond it, and it’s now gone. Good news! Celebration!

Well, there’s more. There was some not-so-good news: the cancer is more aggressive and advanced than the docs originally thought. No time to panic, but it does mean eight weeks of radiation are in my near future. Celebrate! There are good tools to fight this stuff.

So that was the context for my comment to Landon tonight. I don’t expect this cancer to kill me, but if it does, God is not to blame. God doesn’t do this kind of thing. The Divine is on the side of life, true life. God’s still got us in this Hellish-with-a-touch-of-Heaven place because God is calling all of creation into Divine relationship, and God wants us to help do it.

It gets messy at times because Satan or whatever you want to call it, the Dark Side maybe, is working against the life-giving of our Creator.

So pray for me, please, because I don’t like the Dark Side winning anything. We let God know that we really do care about each other when we pray. We love. We pray. God hears. God rejoices because when we love we are like God, and this is the Divine purpose revealed in Christ.

Sorry, I got kind of wound up. I’m competitive by nature. I want people to know that as “we” fight this cancer we are not just fighting a disease; we are fighting all that is bad in this world. We are going to continue to lose some of those we love to cancers, to other diseases, to disasters, to accidents, to this and to that, but in the end we win. Love wins. God wins.

Good enough for me. I love you, my family and friends.

We have forgotten how Jesus fished

Listening to the hymn, “Fishers of Men,” this morning I thought of Jesus’ words about how he would draw all people to himself.

Real fishing like I did with my dad decades ago involved casting a plastic lure attached to a monofilament line in among the underwater lairs of hungry bass. One fish bites. I set the hook into their mouths by yanking out the line’s slack. The bass fights. One of us wins; one loses.

When Jesus called Simon and Andrew to be fishers of men he did not call them to cast spiritual lures with hard-to-see line and trick unsuspecting people to grab hold and fight.

Simon and Andrew used nets to catch fish. They cast their weave out of their boat and hoped to capture fish below. I do not think Jesus was calling Simon and Andrew to go and cast spiritual nets to capture unsuspecting people. It surely is not what Jesus did.

Jesus merely meant: Come go with me and become a person who spends his day drawing  people, not fish, into your life. All metaphors have limits; they do not work completely. They help us get over a mental hurdle. Simon and Andrew’s lives were centered around fishing; Jesus’ call invited them to center their lives around humanity.

Starting somewhere in the not-too-distant past, my brand of Christian began to think of “fishing for men” as casting lures, snagging spiritually hungry people, and wrestling them into the church boat.

That is not what Jesus wants us to do. He wants us to do it the way he did it — by loving God and by loving our neighbor as ourselves. The lure of love has no hooks; it merely attracts. People who hunger for real living are drawn by that love.

Many people do not “go” to church because they do not see it as a place of love. Most people want to “be” in a community of love. They will reside where they are loved (wanted, respected, cared for) whether it be a bar, a gang, a club, or a church.

“And I, Jesus, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32, NRSV)

He draws. If we do not draw people, it is because we are not like Him, we do not love.

Boys behaving badly — turn to Proverbs for help

Boys behaving badly has become all too common. Sometimes it lands a boy in the news immediately, and sometimes it takes decades for the misdeeds to surface.

There is probably no common saying more ridiculous and unhelpful than “boys will be boys.” It reflects a determinism that leaves no room for the shaping of young male lives. Boys will, of course, be boys if left to their own devices, if they have no positive role models, if they are not given any instruction about how a boy ought to behave. And one result is that many men continue to behave as boys throughout their lives.

Why do we not hear the phrase “girls will be girls” to excuse their bad behavior? There are two possible reasons. Either we think boys are naturally bad and girls are naturally good, or we think girls’ bad behavior should not be defended. I think it’s more of the latter. Adults often do a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to boys’ bad behavior but shake their heads in rebuke at girls’ bad behavior.

Attitudes, fortunately, are changing. Boys and men are being held more accountable for bad behavior.

The “me too” movement has been necessitated by the reality that many boys and men have behaved as sexual animals free to pursue whatever satisfaction they like. They should never have felt such freedom, and it is good they now are being held accountable.

Instruction is a key. It does not guarantee right behavior, but it surely makes it more likely, especially if an example of good behavior lives in the same household. It surely is wise to help boys and man-boys to learn God’s truths about life and living well.

Of course, it’s also wise to help girls and girl-women to learn this.

We need help.

Proverbs! Turn to Proverbs! It is resting there near the middle of our Bibles. Parents, read it to your sons and daughters. Boys, girls, men, and women, read it for yourself. There is so much wisdom to be had there. It gets a little sexy at times, but it’s about much more than sex.

Here is a little sample of Proverbs from the Christian Standard Bible that our boys/men could use:

My son, if sinners entice you, don’t be persuaded (1:10).

Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor, for he trusts you and lives near you. Don’t accuse anyone without cause, when he has done you no harm. Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways (3:29-31).

Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth. A loving deer, a graceful doe — let her breasts always satisfy you; be lost in her love forever (5:18-19).

Can a man embrace fire and his clothes not be burned? Can a man walk on burning coals without scorching his feet? So it is with the one who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished (6:27-29).

A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel person brings ruin on himself (11:17).

But the book of Proverbs is not just for boys/men; it’s for girls/women. It was written in a different cultural setting, but what it says about wives can be applied more broadly — working hard, providing food, making business transactions, using her physical strength, investing well, speaking wisely, and supervising her household.

Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands (14:1).

Who can find a wife [woman] of noble character? She is far more precious than jewels (31:10).

She [a woman of noble character] is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions for her female servants. She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings. She draws on her strength and reveals that her arms are strong. She sees that her profits are good, and her lamp never goes out at night (31:14-18).

Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. Her mouth speaks wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also praises her (31:25-28).

And there are truths in Proverbs that apply to everyone.

Good things: fear (respect) of the Lord, wisdom, discipline, integrity, promoting justice and righteousness, right use of possessions, honesty, work, and gentleness.

Bad things: dishonesty, laziness, plotting evil, arrogance, hurting the innocent, stirring up trouble, perverse speech, ill-gotten gain, and a hot temper.

Lots of us have not learned these truths and others of us are not applying them in our day-to-day lives.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline (1:7).

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity so that he may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of his faithful followers. Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity—every good path (2:6-9).

Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest; then your barns will be completely filled, and your vats will overflow with new wine (3:9-10).

Don’t let your mouth speak dishonestly, and don’t let your lips talk deviously. Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil (4:24-27).

Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. Without leader, administrator, or ruler, it prepares its provisions in summer; it gathers its food during harvest (6:6-8).

A worthless person, a wicked man goes around speaking dishonestly, winking his eyes, signaling with his feet, and gesturing with his fingers. He always plots evil with perversity in his heart; he stirs up trouble. Therefore calamity will strike him suddenly; he will be shattered instantly, beyond recovery (6:12-15).

The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers (6:16-19).

To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I [wisdom] hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech (8:13).

Ill-gotten gains do not profit anyone, but righteousness rescues from death (10:2).

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but one slow to anger calms strife (15:18).

There are 31 chapters of such foundational wisdom for living life well. Proverbs, as with all of Scripture, should not just be read once. It needs return visits. Only then does it have a good chance of reshaping our sinful thoughts and actions.

We surely need God’s grace for forgiveness, but we also need God’s wisdom to help head off some sins before they happen. Sin hurts people. It is great to have forgiveness; it is better to avoid a sin that will need forgiving.

Note: Feel free to add a favorite passage from Proverbs in the discussion.