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not a clue, as usual


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…And they are me

 Image    I have a friend who is a realist . She is very practical and serious. I have another friend who is an idealist. he loves to watch the clouds sail by and waves roll in and she doesn’t have serious bone in her body. Getting the two of them in one room results in hilarious conversations with the realist angrily defending her position and the idealist looking confused until she turns her head and gets lost in her next daydream. They are my friends and I love them both.

On a recent road trip the realist was busy calculating gas mileage and figuring out if we should schedule the next oil change as soon as we got home. She had printed out the directions to the hotel and was watching the speedometer to gauge our arrival time. The trip would not have succeeded without her. My idealist friend was also busy. She was gazing out the window trying to count all the colors of green in the grass and trying to sketch the tree branches as they stretched out against an impossibly blue sky. I needed her there to help me appreciate the beauty of the highway. Without her it would have been me and that unending ribbon of asphalt before me.

When I took my dog to the vet for an annual visit, I was glad to have my friends both right there beside me. The realist had made a list of all the concerns that we had. The dog was getting older and having troubles climbing stairs. He had many fatty cysts on his body but the one on his right front shoulder seemed to have gotten very large lately. These were things that I was worried about and was glad to have my friends to lean upon. That list was so helpful in talking with the vet and deciding on a plan of action as my dog entered old age. The idealist was captivated by his silky ears and rubbed under his chin. The dog was amazingly calm as he cast trusting glances at her in between fearful flinching at the vet’s touch, gentle as he was. She was remembering summer walks through the park and how we had tried unsuccessfully to teach him how to catch a Frisbee. He was having so much fun running and jumping and I think he felt kind of sorry for us that we were so interested in the piece of flying plastic when there was fresh grass to run through. It was a rough veterinary visit and I needed both of my friends to help me through it.

Today is dark, gray and dreary. It’s raining and as winter draws to a close, the snow banks are crumbling under the onslaught of rain and slightly higher temperatures. Slush, mud and gray everywhere I look. Not only that, but  I have a sinus headache starting somewhere over my right eye and a dentist appointment to complete a root canal this afternoon. My realist friend says, “Come on now, we’ll just take some aspirin for that headache and the dentist… well, there’s nothing you can do about that except just get it over with.” She count out the aspirin, pours a cup of water and makes out a check for the dentist. A great combination of caring and practical all at once. Where’s the idealist? She is here too. She is fascinated by the tiny rivulets of water that are swirling around the melting snowpiles in the driveway. She can find the very spot where the first crocuses will peek through in  just a few weeks. She thinks a headache is a great excuse to close your eyes and let your mind wander down paths that are warm and sunshiny and where practicality has no place. She is a great comfort to me and helps me to focus on positives while the realist confronts the negatives.

I do not know how I would cope without my friends for I am the realist and I am the idealist and they are me.

 

 

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a different look at hunger

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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” Matt5:6

     We know the first 12 verses of the book of Matthew as “The Beatitudes”. Taken as a whole these are astounding and  life-changing words. Even when you take it apart verse by verse, the words take aim at our weak spots and we have to stop cold in our tracks. Sometimes the words are thrown at you when you are not ready and you have to hold on and catch your breath. That’s what happened to me with verse six.

Blessed – meaning being characterized as having the qualities of God, having God’s nature inside you , having the kingdom of God within.

Righteousness – simply put, being in a right relationship with God.

       I wrestled with this a bit. Am I “blessed”? Well, yes. I do have the qualities of compassion and mercy and love within me. I think that a better question is whether or not these qualities are evident in my life. Then the answer would be… not really. And that is quite a splash of cold water in my face, but this verse isn’t through with me yet. Next question – Am I a righteous person? At the risk of sounding too familiar with the person of God – Am I in a good place with God these days? Yes, and then no. I’m struggling with these questions. Tough questions, good questions that we should wrestle with from time to time. But here’s the one that really got to me:

Do I hunger and thirst for God?

So simple, (and yet complex) but there it is. Am I hungry for God or am I too comfortable in a Christianity that doesn’t challenge me?

      The term “those who hunger” is more properly translated from the Greek as “the hungering ones”. It indicates a constant state of hunger for God’s righteousness. Even when we eat 3 square meals daily, we will still find ourselves waking up hungry the next morning. That is because we’ve used up the energy in the calories that we took in the previous day so we must take in more each day to meet that day’s demands. I ask myself, “Do I wake up hungry for God?”. Did I use up all the energy he gave me yesterday? Did I expend those calories on those around me doing His work so that by the next day I am empty again and ready for God’s constant replenishing? That’s what has been bothering me. I think I have lost some of that hunger that I once had.  

Last but not least, we read that final line “they shall be satisfied”. We think that it means God will fill us eternally and that is only partially true. As He pours into us, we must spill over onto those around us daily. Satisfied, but only on a day by day basis, like daily bread. 

Oh Lord, forgive me for forgetting my place in You. Forgive me for trying to run ahead of my need for You. Thank You for awakening a hunger in me . May I know that hunger daily and satisfaction only temporarily until that day that I can be with you eternally. Amen.


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The Invitation

(Or “Our God of Second Chances”)

The invitation was warm and sincere, handwritten on beautifully embossed cardstock. It read:

A Joyous Dinner Celebration

6pm tonight

Please come!

It seemed harmless enough and the words “joyous” and “celebration” intrigued me. I didn’t know the host very well, but I had heard of him. He was said to be a learned scholar as well as a very accomplished artist. By all I heard, he seemed absolutely fascinating and it might just be in my best interests to meet him. Even so, I must admit, I got so wrapped up in my day, that by late afternoon I had forgotten about the dinner party. I didn’t have time to shower or even change my clothes. I just barreled up his driveway, half an hour late and in my haste nearly slammed into the back of his car. As I entered his home, I stopped in the entryway to look around. I had expected to be dazzled by his undoubtedly exotic taste, but was surprised to find things rather simple. The décor was not impressive, a bland color palette that did not impress or inspire. Nevertheless, he greeted me with an enthusiastic hug and though he didn’t speak much English, I was able to understand the warm tone of his welcoming words. We entered the dining room and, again, the humble wooden table wasn’t what I had expected. As he served the dinner, I picked cautiously at my plate. With genuine concern, he asked if the food was to my liking. Without thinking, I blurted out my disappointment. You see, the sumptuous feast I had expected turned out to be just some bread and water served with a flat unappealing glass of wine.

It wasn’t that I purposely tried to hurt the gentleman, but I wasn’t finding anything joyous or celebratory at this rather odd dinner party. I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying and as I became more and more irritated, his accent seemed to become thicker. Finally I placed my napkin on the table and pushed back my chair. In doing so, I spilled my wineglass and the dark burgundy liquid seeped into the carpeting. I really didn’t care anymore. I felt that I had been deceived, invited to an exciting dinner party only the find that I was the only guest and my host was as incomprehensible to me as the stars must seem to a firefly. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I even ran over a prize rose bush and knocked down his mailbox as I backed out of his driveway, vowing never to return.

I had not been a very good dinner guest and my host would have been perfectly within his rights to rescind any future invitations. Strangely enough, he kept his invitation to me open. He kept calling and would softly whisper “Come to me”. Sometimes he would add strange phrases like, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened” and “you will find rest for your soul”.

It would be twenty years before I would attend another if his dinner parties. This time, I knew that I wouldn’t understand much of it, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore. He had been so patient and gentle with me and my soul definitely needed some rest. I approached the front door cautiously. I’d behaved so badly the last time that I had been here. I had ruined his landscaping, insulted his decorating taste, laughed at his culinary attempts and spilled wine on his rug. Timidly, I rang the doorbell. To my great surprise, his greeting was still warm and kind. He could see how sorry I was before I even apologized. He didn’t hesitate to forgive me and assure me that he was over it and therefore I should be to. I still found the evening to be a confusing blur, but his kind manner was irresistible. I found that as I spent more and more time with him, his accent faded and I began to understand his words. The simple furnishings were warm and honest and allowed me to focus on him rather than constantly distracting me. the dinner menu was still just bread and water, but such fulfilling, satisfying bread and water like nothing I’d ever tasted before. And that wine , which I had so carelessly spilled, he told me not to worry. He had spilled something for more precious just for me. I still didn’t quite understand, but now I found myself willing to sit at his feet and listen, maybe even learn.

As time passes I find that I love entering his house. I think what surprised me the most was his complete forgiveness. If I had acted so horribly in anyone else’s home, they would never ask me back – and rightly so! Yet, he welcomes me every Sunday morning and all points in between. Now I know that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Ps 23:6) I am welcome there and so are you!


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Just the Basics

Hope, peace, joy and love. Just the basics things that we all crave in our daily grind. I did a little word search in the Bible to see what I could find and was overwhelmed with the results. Here’s a small sampling of what I found:

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…” Isaiah 40:31

We hope for peace. We hope for joy. We hope for love. We hope for the sunrise after an impossibly long night. We hope for good health, a pay raise and that the next Visa bill will be miraculously paid. But our hope is in the wrong places and we are hoping for the wrong things.

Faith is being certain of what we hope for…” Hebrews 11:1

If our hope is based in faith, then we are moving in the right direction. That faith must be in the God “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Now, that is a hope that we can be certain of.

Yet still we hope for peace – peace of mind, peace within our homes and families, peace in our country, worldwide peace. But again, our hope is misplaced. The only peace we are responsible for is peace within our own hearts and even that comes from God.

“the fruit of righteousness will be peace.” Isaiah 32:17

Being a righteous person sounds so pretentious, but it just means a person who is in a “right relationship” with God. Not a perfect relationship but being able to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in your life. We are promised that trying to live a righteous life will result in personal peace, peace with God and yourself.

“The prospect of the righteous is joy” Proverbs 10:28

Being righteous also results in joy. I always thought that I had to create my own happiness. Then I started to read the Bible and realized that most of my ideas were in direct contrast to what God wanted for me. Funny, isn’t it? When I turned to the Bible for answers to my questions, the answers that I found turned my questions upside down. There is joy (and hope and peace) in a life devoted to God. Who knew?!?

“Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love…” 1 Corn. 13:13

Ah, love. That all too human, never ending quest for love. It is God’s greatest gift to us. It is given freely even though we cannot reciprocate and often don’t even notice the offer, sadly enough. Once again, it is found in righteousness.

Love and faithfulness meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Psalm 85:10.

We try to be faithful. We strive to be righteous. We will often fail. Yet God will still be love (1John4:16). It is His nature to love us. He will still grant us the right to be called His child (1John 3:1). And in that promise we will find a righteousness along with hope, peace and joy all wrapped up in love.