Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Back in the day, (in my day, know, the age of antiquity), young newspaper boys in the big cities would yell out the message, "Extra, extra, read all about it!" and hold up the newspaper so people could see the headlines in large print. Their announcement was designed to draw attention to the news of the day and to create in the hearers a desire to read more of the news. Not much different today is how we hear small sound bites of news on the TV designed to grab our attention. Usually in the middle of commercial breaks we hear these spoken headlines that end with the promise of More at 11! Yesterday's newspapers would print an additional copy of the daily news so a late-breaking story could get more attention. Thus the name extra, or additional copy. Lately I have been pondering the meaning of these two words. I have begun to think about them at fast food drive-thrus. Let's explore this leftover thought today. I have to get this one out of my head.
At one of my favorite places to eat, I can ask for an additional honey mustard sauce to be added to my order. This particular chain has several restaurants in my area. They have their own brand of dipping sauce and without fail, at every one of these locations, they offer to replace their sauce with the honey mustard. I know they are only trying to save me money. You have to pay 25 cents for each additional sauce. But it seems like they never hear the word additional or heed its meaning. I usually have to explain that I want both, their own special sauce and the honey mustard. But lately, I think I've gotten a breakthrough. Instead of saying the word additional at the drive thru speaker, I have begun to use the word extra. I've tried it at two different locations. So far, we have communicated exceptionally well. They add the honey mustard, I pay 'em the quarter and it is almost like heaven...almost...but not quite. Sorry...that experience is not even close to heaven.
If you ask someone if they would like to go to heaven, most people will say yes. That is, if they believe there's a heaven. And even if some don't, some will hedge their bets and opt for heaven just in case it might be a reality. Now if heaven is real, there may be an alternative location some folks would reason. And here's where I really want to go with today's leftover thought. Most people want to go to heaven. It gets interesting when they tell you why. Some will say that they would rather go to heaven than hell. I can see the wisdom in that. Then there are those that say they want to go to heaven to see their loved ones. Now they have to make assumptions that the loved ones will be there when they get there...which is another assumption altogether! Some want to go where there is no pain and suffering. Who wouldn't want that? Some are waiting to occupy a mansion that they say will be given title to. Some want to claim their rewards for the good lives they have lived while on earth. Then there are those who think their pets who died will be there. All these things make good theological discussions. But occasionally you will hear someone say they want to go to heaven to be with their God. I think these are folks who have had a significant breakthrough in their understanding of life and death and life after death. They want to be with their God, the One who has been with them. You see, folks may not always understand things that are additional. Additional things are things that are added. But extra is extra! We understand extra. Extra says that I am receiving more than I thought I would. More than I earned. More than I expected. The extra is what God has done to get me to heaven. It is not what I have done. Extra is when God grants more to us when we deserve less. Extra is what grace is all about. Extra is heaven when hell is deserved. Being in Heaven with God is extra enough. But when other things are added in, it is more than extra. God has made a way for me to spend eternity with Him. He has done through Jesus what we cannot do for ourselves. That is EXTRA, EXTRA good news!!!
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21)
Extra, Extra, Read All About It. Take the time, some extra time today to read in the Bible about what God has done and what God is doing and what God will do. Heaven is all about marvelling at the awesome work of an awesome God forever and ever. Heaven is more about a Person than a place. And anything else that heaven may be is over-the-top and out-of-this world extra.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Life's Puzzle

Lately I've found a great mental diversion in putting together on-line jigsaw puzzles. I was never one that spent a lot of time putting together one of those 500 or 1,000 piece puzzles. You need a lot of patience to master a puzzle. It was too frustrating for me because I always seemed to misplace a piece or two that was critical at the end stages. Just as I could see the picture finally come together, sometimes the missing pieces became the focus of the search and changed the purpose. No longer was the goal to finish the picture. Being unable to find the pieces changed it all.
My grandchildren help me with this new endeavor. On the computer, we don't have to keep up with the pieces. We drag them around with the mouse on the laptop and assemble the straight-edged pieces to frame up the picture that the puzzle will reveal. This is the easy part. Then we labor over the rest. The children (OK, and me included) often take a piece that we want to put into the puzzle but it just doesn't fit. Around and around we go inside the framed puzzle until I finally say, "I guess the puzzle's not quite ready for this piece." So we work as we wait until more of the puzzle comes together. And then we see it. We see the place for the piece. Everything fits. It all comes together.
Life is so much like a jigsaw puzzle. We work at getting our life framed up, considering our choices and selecting our options. We identify our borders, sometimes by trial and error, and we live out our existence within the boundaries. Some of life makes a lot of sense as the puzzle fits together very nicely. Then some things happen that do not fit within our frame. Our lives can be impacted with such grievous losses or we can be wounded so wickedly that the focus changes to the piece that doesn't fit the puzzle. It is time-consuming and even paralyzing. Whether it is disease or death or divorce or any of many life-altering tragedies, as we move through the sorrow of it all, we wonder what we will do with this piece that has our attention. The puzzle does not seem ready for the piece. Life does not seem ready for the loss. This painful piece does not fit.
In my younger days, I knew someone who was proficient at putting puzzles together and had this uncanny ability to "see" the places where the pieces fit before the rest of us could. We often called this person "Puzzle Master". Puzzles did not seem so challenging to the Puzzle Master.
When we don't understand the timing of events in our life and are bewildered at how it's all going to come together, we can take great comfort that we have Someone who knows what the completed picture will look like.
He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11)
God is an excellent Puzzle Master. Surrender that piece that doesn't fit or ask Him to help you find pieces that are missing. Trust me, the Lord can be trusted with the picture. He designed it. And it will come together in time.