Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Others ARE Jumping Off the Cliff...Are You?

Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-16; I Peter 2:21b-25; John 10:11-16

We've all been privy to (or maybe been an active participant) in a scenario that pits a tween or teen against a parent over something that is, in the mind of the kiddo, the most important purchase, event, or opportunity known to man. This purchase, event, or opportunity is, in the mind of the parent, out of the question. Predictably, next  comes the retort from the kiddo stating that "everyone else" is buying/doing/going. Then...here it comes...that great timeless parental zinger, "If everyone else jumped off a cliff, you would too?" 

In I Peter, the folks Peter encountered pretty much acted the same way and thought the same thoughts. As a result, things were not going well from a Christian point of view. He urged  them to "keep away from the evil pleasures of the world". Don't follow the others off that proverbial cliff. The words remind us also that we are truly just passing through this life on the eternal journey; this isn't it. Not even close. Keep on the straight and narrow--obey all the laws of the land--be good examples at all times. That's enough to drive even the most self-disciplined person over that edge.  Kind of like a rubber ball being squeezed on all sides until it pops out of the compressed space--Pop! We're out; we're over the edge of the cliff happily following all those other oblivious lemmings as they go.

Fortunately for us, we have a shepherd that is always there to watch over our more lemming-like moments. And not just any shepherd...the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd that will not only watch over us, but actually lay down his life for us. That's how important it is that we have our Shepherd guiding us and protecting us. A regular shepherd, a "hired man" as stated in John, will "run when he sees a wolf coming and will leave the sheep" because there's no bond--they're not his, after all. So, the wolf has free reign, attacks, and the flock is scattered to and fro. That analogy gives a perfect view of how Satan is always there, lying in wait, ready to attack. Thankfully, we sheep have a shepherd who is so caring of us that, even though he has sheep scattered here, there, and everywhere, He is constantly calling to us and bringing us back to His close protection. 

God reiterates this message to us in Ezekiel. "I will search and find my sheep. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places they were scattered in that dark and cloudy day." We are not only promised being rescued from dangers that surround us, but also being brought to lush pastures, and, if needed, having our wounds mended as well. We are indeed in good hands.

So, the message is clear, just as it is from a caring parent when we're acting our worst in wanting, needing, and grousing. Would we bail off the cliff lemming-like? From time to time--probably. Are we a being watched over, cared for, and sheltered even though we don't really deserve it?  Always.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I'm In Control Here---A Humorous Thought

Stand in line at any grocery store by the periodicals and we're instantly bombarded by the word "Control".  "Control your weight", "Control your life", "Control your children", "Control your work environment". Control, control, control...we do seem to love the idea of being in control.

Perhaps we need to be in control to assure power or dominance over a situation; the "master of our universe", so to speak. There are certainly a few folks out there that would nod their heads in certain agreement that it's not only good but necessary that they feel in power or in dominance of their environment. Think not? Check the self-help section the next time you're at a mega-bookstore--the selves are over-flowing with advice on gaining control.

Most of us, however, just want to feel the sense of peace and flow that comes from a controlled environment. We're not confrontational people; we like people to get along with one another and us, we like for the dog to behave, and we like for the kids to listen. We do have a certain amount of control over some of the more basic things of life. If we weigh too much to suit, we know if we eat the right combination of foods, not too much of said food, and move around enough to satisfy the requirement for exercise, we'll most definitely be in control of that issue. If we start raising our kids the day we bring them home from the hospital and not when they're 8 or 9 years old, and all goes well with no situations that become out of our range of skills as basic caregivers, we'll be pretty successful in that capacity as well. If we carefully choose our mate and work diligently at making a marriage and a home, we'll more than likely be happily married many years down the road.

However...in TOTAL control? Think again; it's just not going to happen. And WHY would we want to be in total control? To do so is to say that we have all the answers, can solve all the problems, and know all that is to be known. Nope. Not gonna happen. We have someone who takes care of that for us...thank God. 

I always liked the joke where the guy asked God how difficult could it be to run the universe, and God, in response, said the guy could run it for an hour--He'd be back. Think about that...even Hollywood made an attempt a few years back by making a movie about the enormity of such an endeavor. I don't remember how it ended--probably Hollywood-esque well. However, the reality is that it doesn't have to be our job. And truly...we DON'T want the gig.

In Job, God gives an earful to both Job and to us. Job 38 gives a riveting reply from God to Job concerning all the glories of God and His universe. Verse 12, for example, "Have you ever once commanded the morning to appear, and cause the dawn to rise in the east? Verse 16, "Have you ever explored the springs from which the seas come, or walked the sources of their depths?" Verse 31, "Can you hold back the stars? Can you restrain Orion or Pleiades?" Yes, indeed. An earful. 

We have been given one aspect of control in our lives--the challenge of having the faith of a child eliminating the need for constant control. Kids know, on any given date, that things just work. Remember when you were a kid? No worries about being in control. We had the occasional spat with our neighbor kids when we all wanted to be the one in charge, but we were quick to forgive...it wasn't fun to hold a grudge and not get to play, so forget the control business. Too overrated!  In the Gospels, when Jesus is asked what is necessary to gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, one of His replies is that we need to love our neighbors as ourselves...but without any grudges. So--want a control challenge? Try that. No grudges. Forget controlling all those around us; let's try controlling ourselves. We adults have trouble with those two things--we like to be in control and we do tend to harbor those grudges.

For this week, let's get a little taste of the true peace that passes understanding. Practice the idea of not having to be in control of everything and let God do what God does in running the universe quite well. Have the faith of a child that things are going to work out if we have faith and we let go of those nasty grudges. Try it for a week...better yet...give it up for Lent. Meditate and pray about it today, tomorrow, and Tuesday. Come Ash Wednesday--give it up. Think how much better we'll all feel and how much better we'll all look to our loving Father come Easter morning. 

Peace be with you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lightening the Load

I'm beginning to feel that wonderful familiar pull of the seasons changing from winter into glorious spring. The days are getting longer, minute by minute. The cooler days--when the sun is shining--have a tinge of warmth to them that hints at the coming season. 

As I tossed my now longer hair up in a ponytail the other day, I decided it was time to lighten the load, so to speak, for the coming season. Spring always gives that feel of airiness, and the weight of the hair on my head seemed out of character with the way the rest of me was feeling. So...out came the scissors and the razor and off came the hair with great gusto. And, while I'm at it, why not a color change? I think I remember what color my hair is naturally--close enough. In my spirit of lightening the load, I'm thinking when I gear the color down, I can eventually shed the color in favor of the "now" natural color...whatever that will be.

So the load has been lightened--a good feeling indeed. Little care, little trouble. Sounds a whole lot like how God tells us to remember to live our lives. He gives us that wonderful news in John: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I now give and bequeath to you" (14:27). Wonder why we don't shed our worries? Probably one of our greatest failures as humans.

Today start fresh--recognize the feel of spring in the breeze, the differing light,   the "lightening of the load" of sloughing off of the heaviness of winter. And, more importantly, let's take God at His word...let's take that glorious feeling of PEACE that He's freely offering and use that gift to the fullest. 

Peace be with you.