Which do you reach for when you face danger? What do you think about Christians raising the sword? As a nation? For protecting your family?
What does it mean to love your enemies as you follow the Prince of Peace?
I’m feeling acutely aware of how short our time on earth really is. Millions have walked these streets before I have and, if the Lord don’t come back soon, millions more will after I pass. Feeling this way, I ache for my time to mean something great for His Kingdom.
I can’t bring anything with me from this world to the next, so, while I still feel want, I try to fight my love of material things. I treasure my family, and spend as much time as possible with them. This time is meaningful, something that carries on after me in my children and on to their children’s children. (WARNING: The bad stuff goes with them too! Be good!)
I hope to do great things for my God and His Kingdom. I ache for meaning and purpose beyond serving my own desires. Maybe this is pride. I wish I had more direction, and clearer vision. The one I have is too vague, too ambiguous: just love people. Too many days that’s a challenge, again due to my pride.
And because of that pride I wonder if I’d do better to work less on serving God and more on simply listening and obeying Him.
For now I wait, not always patiently, and try to listen.
I see my hypocrisy best in others. I see their faults, and – when I’m lucky – catch a glimpse of me in the mirror. The hard part is staying aware that it’s all the same shit – that their faults aren’t worse than mine, just different. Pride tends to let me excuse my own.
I’m furious with a friend right now. I care about this person, which is why their deception hurts as deeply as it does. Naturally, I feel my anger is just. I have reason to be angry.
Until I stop and look at the bigger picture. Until I even up the ledger with my own debts, faults and weakness. Then I don’t have quite as much maneuvering room for my slick and shiny prosecution. Reminds me of that passage about pointing out a speck in a brothers eye while a log sticks out of my own. (Mt 7:1-5)
Now I have to consider forgiveness. I don’t want to do that. My anger is far too justified…except that I need to be forgiven too. Maybe not now, but trust me, I’ll need it soon enough. If I haven’t screwed up yet, the day ain’t done.
That same passage talks about how God judges us the same way we judge others. I better slow down and look at that again, maybe even pray about what that means. Taken at face value, I’d say that a whole lot of people are crying “Lord, Lord” but aren’t doing the work of our Father in Heaven. (Mt 7:21-23)
I’d also say that I better be forgiving.
Cold wind cut across the park. Hungry people shoved their hands deeper into their pockets and tucked their chins into their collars. Numb feet were stomped to bring feeling back. The hot coffee quickly ran out.
The prince walked to his carriage and pulled out a thick, coarse shirt for a young man wearing nothing but a simple light shirt. When he returned to the park, he found the man standing in line for warm food. It had been a few months since they had last spoken.
A small smile was all the prince received when he warmly greeted the man. They briefly exchanged pleasantries, and the prince asked where the man had been. “Back in jail?” he joked.
“The hospital” came the reply.
The prince was not surprised. “Epilepsy or diabetes?” he asked.
The prince started to check in on the man regularly. He went out of his way to find him. If there was rain or high winds the prince would be up early the next day to go find the man. Soon the prince was picking the man up and bringing him to his home.
The days became colder, and the cold lasted longer. The man stayed at the prince’s house longer each visit. Then came the 13th of December.
The prince’s family baked a cake. His youngest daughter went with him to find the man. But the man was not to be found. The prince called the jailer and the physician. Neither had the man. They went all over town asking for the man. He was gone.
Unable to find him after hours of searching, the prince and his daughter went home and gave the cake to a sickly young mother – alone – caring for her sickly young child.
As darkness fell the prince build a fire and prepared to host his closest friends and family for dinner and study. However his youngest daughter insisted they travel once more to look for the man. The prince could not deny her.
After more searching on foot and by carriage – and already late for dinner – they gave up. Suddenly the prince stopped and jumped from the carriage. The man was sitting on the side of the road, sipping from a paper sack – alone.
Rushing home, the prince lit the fire while his wife went to buy a cake. Dinner was served, the Words of Life were contemplated and – with great love – cake was forced upon the diabetic man.
But the evening was complete when the youngest daughter spoke to the prince with grave concern.
“Daddy, can the man spend the night with us? No one should be alone on their birthday.”
Since the retail world has turned mind to Christmas, I suppose it’s not to early for me to start in. Jenifer actually convinced me to play Christmas music (I went with Weezer) BEFORE Thanksgiving – which I resolutely refuse to do – while we schemed our family Christmas celebration.
The core of our discussion was how we would keep Christ in the center of all our plans. Also involved were questions of how much is OK to spend on ourselves as a family. Not so much of what can we afford as what should we afford. What’s needed is the next consideration.
The plans are exciting. So far they involve going to Katie’s performance of The Nutcracker (she’s an Archangel), caroling at a retirement home, making ornaments and gifts, doing Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Advent and spending Christmas Eve together in a cabin. We’re also bringing Tique back.
All you revolutionaries out there, what are your plans to celebrate Christ and not commercialism and consumerism??
The prince did not accept that he was a prince. He was blind, and had decided the world was beautiful and he was ugly. He did not act like a prince, unable to believe that anyone as flawed as himself could be royalty.
Soon enough he walked away from the Kingdom in search of a place where he might hide his imperfections. The prince tried to fit in here and there, with these people and with those. He hid his identity from everyone until he forgot it himself.
One day he heard a story about his father the king. The storyteller told of his great love and kindness, and the humility he showed in dealing with his subjects. The young prince listened to the tale of his father’s bravery and sacrifice, and came to understood the kingdom in a new way.
The prince decided to be a good and loyal subject. He would start by following the rules his father had enacted. As if for the first time, he studied the laws of his father’s kingdom. The prince was surprised to find he enjoyed his life more than ever he had.
In fact, the very first time he went to the public square to serve his village, he met an extraordinary friend -although he didn’t know it at the time. The prince came across a homeless man, both epileptic and diabetic, and neither had slowed his drinking. He was planning to kill himself.
The young prince did all he could for the poor man, he listened and offered a plate of warm eggs as a last meal. The man declined, he was in great despair and wanted no comfort. He would take all of his insulin that night and walk until he fell over dead.
The man dismissed the prince. “You don’t understand” he said, “I’m calling it quits.”
The prince replied, “You’re right. I do not understand. But I will listen if you’ll tell me.”
As his tale was told, the man’s tears dried and his eyes cleared. The prince offered food again, and the man again refused. “I can’t see.” The prince stood and extended his hand, which the man took. They crossed the street together.
When the plates had been cleaned and the cups emptied, the man stood to leave. Before turning away he said, “If you should ever want to know how many of the poor live, come walk an evening with me.”
“Would I find you alive if I did?”
One warm evening a few weeks later the prince went again to the park. He found the man sitting under a tree, listening to musicians play and sipping from a bag. The prince greeted the man, who spoke with him hesitantly.
The prince noted the simple, sharp knife laying close at hand, and understood that his new friend lived under laws of a different sort. The man was small and sickly – he would stab first and avoid a fight he could not win.
Over the next few years the prince and the man would cross paths and speak pleasantly. From time to time the man would disappear, and the prince came to expect this. The man explained he had been at times under a physicians care, others he had been under the jailers lock.
I’d like to tell you a story if you’ll allow. It will take some time, but I do enjoy telling a story. My mom says I’m good at it. I learned it from my dad.
He would tell exorbitantly long tales ending in the most terrible puns you’ve ever heard. But when I was a kid, he turned the kitchen table into the campfire and tell tall tales and silly stories to make my brother and I laugh. Ask me about the Rabbi and some Tridds…
One of my favorite stories is about falling out of a helicopter. It’s funny, and I tell it with action and movement, but it tends to lose something on the flat screen. Maybe one day I’ll get to tell you in person. Maybe you’ll even laugh.
But this story is going to be messy. I’m not going for fancy, and my editing will be, well…raw at points, but I hope you’ll find yourself drawn into my little tale.
But I have to warn you, if the Greeks are correct and there’s only two kinds of stories – either comedy or tragedy – you should treasure the few laughs along the way.
It starts, as many stories do, with a death…
The little boy was scared. He hated hospitals and sick people and all the noise. He didn’t understand them. Mamma had been crying all day, and then he found himself standing at the end of a hospital bed, looking at a lump of coal. They told him it was his father.
The ground is still unused and toxic, polluted, even today. Probably forever. The explosion soaked the ground, contaminated it. His father had been working in the field of gas tanks with a cigarette clenched between his teeth. The boy never touched the things.
His brothers were all older, so he hung around with the older kids. The nicer ones let him tag along as they drank beer and fixed cars. He learned his trade looking over the big kids shoulders. Some of his closest friends have been cars.
Life in that part of town was hard. There were no tar roads, all gravel and dirt. It had always been that way. When he was little, his daddy had shot a man right through the front window for pulling the fire-box and calling the fire brigade as a prank once too often. Had warned him, then shot him.
Years later he was standing on his buddies porch when his friends momma walked out, slapped the glasses off his daddy’s face, then shot him straight through the heart. He has lots of stories like those. Too many.
Then the family curse took effect – diabetes killing his brothers and sisters. When his mother died, he was the one who found her. That severed his last mooring. He drifted away, responsibility and hope always floated nearby, but just out of reach.