The Little Red-Headed Girl

We wrapped up a really nice Thanksgiving by taking our granddaughter to see the Peanuts movie. It was a fun movie. There is a new red-headed girl in Charlie Brown’s class and Charlie Brown is in love. He wants to get the attention of the new red-headed girl. Of course, his attempts to impress are met with extreme frustration. It turns out that the new girl is perceptive enough to recognize Charlie Brown’s good qualities through his bumbling attempts to impress.

The dreams and desires of our youth don’t just slip away. I’m still trying to impress the little red-headed girl. I’ve met with varying success over the years. As the little red-headed girl gets older she’s tougher to impress.

Our lives become more complicated with age. Our motivations seem more complex and our goals more advanced. However, at some level we never really grow up. We are still at sixty-six chasing the dreams of our youth. Those dreams may be fame or fortune. We may want to be sports heroes or to make great financial success. Or maybe we just want to impress the cute little red-head we’ve loved for years.

Hard Thanksgiving

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s face it. Thanksgiving is a pretty easy holiday. For most of us it’s eating, watching football and reading the newspaper circulars as we pray we don’t find anything we really feel a need to fight the Black Friday crowd to buy. Even the purpose of the holiday is pretty easy. Most of us, most of the time, have no trouble finding things we are thankful for. We have family, a bit of money in the bank, a job we can sort of count on, relatively good health and a few years left to do something.

There are times for a few of us that Thanksgiving is a bit hard. Some years everyone we want to have around our table can’t make it. Health gets to be a concern as we age. The wallet is not as fat as we would like as we approach retirement. The years we have left to “make something of ourselves” are distressingly fewer. If the forecast isn’t exactly stormy, it’s not necessarily bright blue skies either. Sometimes Thanksgiving is a little work. We have to dig a bit to be upbeat and to find things to be thankful for. There is always our Savior, family and such, but we don’t always feel their presence at such times.  There is sometimes a touch of the blues.

It’s for those years we need to dig a little to find our gratitude. It’s then that we need to consider the lives of those whom God used greatly. We need to remember that Moses was eighty years old and tending sheep in the desert for his father-in-law when the burning bush thing happened. Daniel’s best moment was in captivity in a lion’s den. Joseph was sold into slavery. Paul was struck blind and knocked off his horse while on a murderous spree against the followers of Jesus. The rest of his life consisted of beatings and being ship wrecked.  Noah had to put up with ridicule while building a boat with not a cloud in the sky. Peter has to be remembered for denying his Lord three times.

The Lord isn’t most obviously with us on mountain tops. What need have we of him when the blessings seem to be rolling in? When we are mourning those we have lost, when we seem a bit lost ourselves. When our road seems headed into a dark and deep valley, when darkness blots out the sun. It’s then that we can expect a miraculous intervention. It’s then that the presence of God is deepest. Cloudy days are no reason for despair. It’s time to give thanks, even if we have to dig a bit for it.

Voting

I voted this morning. I usually vote in every election. This was not my favorite experience. In fact, it reminded me of the awful choice we had when Edwin Edwards and David Duke were our choices for governor. I don’t like either of the remaining candidates for governor or for Sheriff of Lafayette Parish for that matter. These races have featured disgusting mud-slinging on all sides. I ended up voting by holding my nose and selecting the least offensive, to me, candidate. If the polls are to be believed, no one I voted for will win anyway.

I guess this is the way it really should be. We can’t expect politicians to solve the problems we face or to lead us to the promised land. We don’t seem to select from our best and brightest when we go to the polls. I can see the same situation next year for the Presidential election. I have a favorite whom I would be proud to vote for. I just doubt he will still be in the race when November rolls around.  The system seems to chew up and spit out any good guys who dare to participate.

I hope if you are reading this you will go vote. I wish I could say more to motivate you to do so. We can’t just give up on the system just because it isn’t working as well as we would like. It’s not a great system, but still the best we have.

Let me suggest that when you are in the voting booth that you pray for the candidates as you pull the levers. I wouldn’t pray that your candidate wins, but that he, or she, has a God encounter that changes his life and gives us a chance for something good from government for a change. The good news is that the political advertisements should be over for now, at least for  while.

 

Syrian Refugees

I am greatly saddened by the entire Syrian refugee situation. Not only is the situation in Syria awful, but our reaction to it hasn’t been sterling.  I don’t have solutions, but I do have some observations.

First let’s recognize the facts. The war in Syria has no good guys. This isn’t a cowboys and indians situation. The parties involved are many and the history is complicated. It has been made worse by America’s failure to adequately respond. Our inconsistent and confusing policy toward Syria has just made things worse and has allowed the conflict to escalate and expand. As a nation, we bear some responsibility for the mess.

There are real refugee victims. Let’s not forget that there are innocent victims to the conflict, many are women and children. Syria is an unsafe place to live. The victims include Christians and muslims. The government has used chemical weapons against their own citizens and ISIS has committed untold atrocities as well. Many need safe places to live and restart their lives.

It’s not that the world doesn’t recognize the problem and the need. It is also likely that among the refugees will be those who will seek to take advantage of the situation to migrate to the west and carry out jihad against freedom loving “infidels.” That would be us. It’s also a certainty that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to vet these refugees to weed out the trouble-makers. So what’s to be done?

I think as Christians we have options. The first go-to option as always should be to pray. The situation like so many others in this last days world is fixable only by God. We should be seeking His help often for those caught up in the war in Syria and in other areas as well.

We shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Just because it will be difficult to weed out the needy refugees from the jihadists, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Blanket refusals to offer aid to anyone or to accept any refugees is certainly not the loving response, Jesus expects from His people. It’s difficult to know how to be part of the solution in this situation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

It seems logical that priority should be given to Christian refugees if for no other reason than they are most unlikely to include people who want to kill us. A higher vetting standard should apply to muslims and to young able-bodied men over women and children. If we aren’t willing to take refugees, we should at least be willing to supply support. Some good agencies working in the situation include Doctors without Borders and Rescue. Consider supporting these or other groups working in the area.

The need is great so the opportunities are endless.

Experience Not Belief

Most everyone I know believes in God. That really doesn’t mean very much. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.” James 2:19. It’s not that big a deal because Jesus came not to establish a new religion but to facilitate relationship. Frankly, I don’t understand how anyone could take a long hard look at this creation and not conclude that there was a creator. That alone doesn’t establish much about that creator. Whether He is still involved in His creation, whether He is a good and loving creator.

What we need is not belief but experience. No one who has experienced God denies His existence. That experience, and even relationship, is made possible by the life and death of Jesus. Consider how important the “experience” reality is. It changes the whole nature of the great commission. We are called to “make disciples.” That doesn’t mean to teach facts, explain history or explore theology. It means to introduce as many as possible to God, most easily in the form of the Son, Jesus.

It also means that the Great Commission is not as difficult as it may at first appear. Our task is not to convince or cajole. We don’t need to be attorneys; we need to be witnesses. We testify about our experience with Jesus. That can’t be denied or argued against. It’s both deeply personal, yet sublimely universal. The experience I have had, you can have. It won’t be exactly the same, because our salvation and our Savior are deeply personal. The experience will be the same in the ways that count. It will be life changing and life-giving.

Let’s worry much less about what we and others believe. Let’s focus on what we have experienced and let us be eternally grateful.

 

Desert

Last week we had more water in our back yard than we’ve seen in years. During a major rain event, our back yard floods and will hold water for a few days. Last week there was a lot more than usual. It was strange, because while the outside was wet, I was in the middle of the driest spiritual desert I can recall for some time.

I haven’t posted for days because there has been nothing in my head or heart worth repeating. The desert isn’t a pleasant place. I don’t know why anyone would go there intentionally, yet Jesus did. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1. He not only went voluntarily; he was led by the Spirit. He had a purpose “to be tempted.” Why would anyone seek a desert temptation experience?

The desert is full of temptation. There is a temptation to hopeless abandon. There is a temptation to think God isn’t around, if He exists at all. Even if He is around He has no interest in me or my life. There is a temptation to give into loneliness: the conclusion that I’m all on my own and there is no one else, least of all God, on whom I can depend. There is a temptation to act alone. After all, if it’s just me, then if anything is going to happen, it’s up to me.

I think, after all, that the purpose of the desert experience is just the opposite of the God-doesn’t-care.-I’m-all-on-own-temptation. I think it’s in the desert where apparently alone with our thoughts and detached from the world that we encounter God. In the desert there is no distraction, at least no pleasant distraction. It’s in the desert where we can find some clarity, direction and, yes, maybe even some hope.

It’s not like the mountain top. It’s not pleasant or fun, but maybe it’s necessary. Maybe we need some time wrestling with Satan. If it was good enough for Jesus…