Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Best Effort?

My family recently undertook a project to tie-dye some T-shirts. With the material and the shirts there was a video to show us how to design them. I was a passive participant in all of this. I watched the video. But I didn't choose one of these unique designs. The video also encouraged someone to use their creative imagination. But to have a bulls eye, or a spiral, or a pleated design, it seemed like it would take a lot of work. More than I wanted to invest. And if you know me well, you would agree that I am less than creative in my imagination. There were shirts to pre-soak in some solution... and rubber bands to tie at strategic points... and colors to mix... and shirts to soak overnight... and washing and drying them the next day...Whew!! It was enough to wear me down!! So I took the easy way out. I used the excuse that colors didn't matter much to a color blind man and tied four knots in the shirt itself and told my granddaughters to decorate the shirts any way they liked. I promised that it would be the most attractive. The next day, the shirts of the rest of the family looked good enough to wear in public. But mine was only suitable for pajama wear!! I tried to justify the lackluster appearance to my oldest granddaughter. I told her that I did the best I could. This nine year old responded with some timeless wisdom. "Sometimes, people say they do the best they can when they really do the best they want to do," she said. Ouch!! I find it discomforting to have someone preach to the preacher. It reminds me that striving for excellence is something that pleases God.
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17)
Now does this mean that God frowns upon my sorry excuse for a tie-dyed T-shirt? I don't think He worries about that too much. But I do think that God is concerned when I say I do my best and it is evident that I didn't give it my best effort. Someone is always watching. It is not the best example that I set for my granddaughters. They need to see a man that strives for excellence because He has a God with an excellent name. Someone is also watching when other people never see us. Our lives are lived before the all-seeing eye of a most excellent God. It's amazing that a person can learn in nine years what it takes another one over fifty years to forget. Some times we only do what we really want to do. I'm glad God didn't stop halfway to the cross.
Blessings to you,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Looking Good, Seeing Clearly

I was reminded lately of an experience in an optical shop a few years ago. After an eye examination, I took the lens prescription to a local business that specialized in offering a large variety of eyeglass styles and boasted of custom fitting each customer. They took a lot of time measuring the distances between my different facial features, and promised to offer me the perfect fit of the frames that I had chosen for the lenses. When I returned to pick them up after a few days, I sat in a chair while the technician observed how the glasses fit my face.
"How do they feel?" the young man asked.
"They feel fine," I said, "But I can't see through them."
"Great!" he exclaimed. "And they look so good on you!"
"But I can't see through them," I responded.
"But they look good," he maintained.
"But I can't see," I repeated. It's like he can't hear me, I thought. Maybe he's a deaf man in an optical shop. I wondered if hearing and seeing are connected. Finally, I began to break through to this guy. Evidently, someone had misread the lens prescription. He seemed heartbroken as he sighed and told me that they would have to send them back. "And they really looked good on you," was the last thing I heard him say.
The memory of this experience was triggered after my recent eye surgery. A lens implant from a cataract surgery ten years ago had slipped out of place, causing me to see double images in one eye. I am so glad that the surgeon wasn't like the optical shop technician. They seemed to have radically different understandings of the ultimate purpose of their service. The technician focused on how my eyeglasses "looked" and not how well I saw. The surgeon wanted to correct my vision. I have learned that it's far more important to see clearly than to look good. God wants me to see clearly so that He looks good. Jesus had something similar to say to His disciples. He told them stories that helped people gain a greater understanding of God and His purposes. Some of the people didn't get it. They were more concerned with looking good than with seeing clearly. But for the ones who heard the word of God...their vision was corrected.
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it." (Matthew 13:16-17)
Hearing and seeing are connected. Ponder awhile on this leftover thought: Instead of asking myself, How do I look?, focus on the question, What do I see? The world looks radically different through the lens of God's word. If anyone has ears to hear...
Blessings to you,

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What's He Looking For?

One morning this week I had an opportunity to share spiritual truth with my granddaughters. While we were all sitting together in the living room, I was explaining that God was pleased when He found a broken and contrite heart within us. This led into the discussion about the meaning of the word contrite. I explained that it means crushed...more than just broken...broken beyond brokenness. In the middle of our informal lesson, helping them think through the concept of a broken and contrite heart as opposed to an arrogant and proud one, my daughter began to examine the hair and scalp of her daughters' heads. "Let me look at your head," she said to each one. They sat very still for this process, as their mother parted the hairs on their heads and looked closely at the scalp. "What are you looking for?" said one of the children. "This is the season for ticks and I'm looking to see if any of them have gotten into your hair," her mother said. All this went on while our spiritual discussion continued. I told them how sometimes the troubling experiences of life's circumstances could break our hearts. And in this time of brokenness, God is looking for contrite hearts. He is looking for those whose hearts are broken beyond brokenness. He is looking to help those who cannot find anyone else to help. It is in these times that God cares for us in ways that only He can. I thought the informal session went well. Some of God's greatest truths are learned in this way. So, a few minutes later, I decided to review. "OK, girls, tell me," I said. "What is it that God is looking for?" "TICKS!" said the youngest. Well, so much for the spiritual lesson, I thought. Until God began to teach me. A tick, you see, is a parasite. Left unnoticed and unchecked, a tick can do much damage. It can suck the lifeblood and vitality from us and leave us more broken than broke. So God is looking for much more than the broken and contrite heart. He not only comes to us in our brokenness, He comes looking for the source of the pain. He comes to destroy the parasitic infection within us, enabling us to overcome the affliction of sin's destruction. He comes to help us in areas that no one else can. Here's the leftover thought for today: The devil is like a tick. God is looking into our lives, parting the numbered hairs on our head, so to speak, looking for evidence of sin's attachment and the unauthorized parasitic usurping of a life that belongs to Him. The devil is a thief, who comes like a tick, stealing life from God's people. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) And furthermore, The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) So what is God looking for? Jesus comes to the heart that is broker than broke, bringing life that is larger than life. He is a spiritual tick's worst nightmare. And He's my Savior.