Nothing Bad to Say

It is not living that matters, but living rightly. ~Socrates

Governor Festus had taken over Felix’s office, and he was confounded about what to do with the prisoner, Paul. King Agrippa and his wife Bernice stopped for a visit and the king offered to hear Paul’s defense.

Festus brought Paul before the royals and explained that the Jews were ready to tear Paul limb from limb, but he, Festus, had been unable to find anything wrong with the man. He had committed no crime, said nothing deserving of death. In fact, if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar he could have been released.

That had to have been music to Paul’s ears.

Paul and Peter were brothers in Christ, apostles sent to different communities but with one purpose. They met on several occasions. I imagine they compared notes, prayed together; we’re told that they confronted and instructed each other.

Their camaraderie must have at one time included a conversation like this:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:12-15 NIV

Paul had lived his life doing good. He submitted to the authorities, and he received commendations to the king.

How are you living?

Have you given your money to the poor, fed the hungry, and been condemned by brothers and sisters as ‘holier-than-thou’?

Do you tell your children no, screen their emails and chat rooms, and refuse to have cable in the house only to have your children slander you, your friends question your integrity as a parent?

Do you care for your elderly parents, putting off cruises with your own friends, to make sure Mom walks every day and Dad gets to have coffee with his buddies? It’s the right thing to do, but you cringe under the half-concealed anger your friends display.

Paul would understand. He went on to Rome and experienced several years of imprisonment all for doing the right thing.

Take heart; you’re in good company.

Stay strong and do what’s right.

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 1 Peter 2:19 NIV

Riding the Roller coaster

I’m not sure I always feel like I’m in the seat. Sometimes I’m only holding on by one hand and flying out behind the roller coaster. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t feel that way. ~David Morse

My aunt and uncle took me to an amusement park when I was about ten years old. I had been to a few parks in my short life, but this was the big league. They had huge roller coasters.

My aunt wasn’t up for the thrill, but my uncle was Full-steam Ahead Charlie. Until we made it to the stand-on-your-feet-while-turning-every-direction-but-right-side-up coaster.

I was glad he didn’t take that one on. I didn’t want to have to be the party-pooper, but no way was I riding that.

Paul and Barnabas knew all about roller coasters, even though they weren’t invented yet.

The first century apostles traveled through what is now south-central Turkey teaching Gentiles about Jesus. They also taught some of the Jews who were living in that area. Sometimes it went well, and other times it didn’t.

In Acts 14 alone they barely escaped stoning, were believed to be gods and had sacrifices brought to them, and then they were back to being stoned- this time successfully. And that’s only one chapter.

But through it all, Paul and Barnabas continued to preach Jesus Christ . . . Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, Friend, and Roller Coaster Companion.

Sometimes life feels like a roller coaster. Days slowly drift one after another and then suddenly you’re tossed downhill at the speed of light.

The kitchen ceiling falls in, the dog dies, and the kids get the flu, complaining loudly that they will never take the vaccine again. Or your husband loses his job, your insurance is cut, and now there’s a pink stripe on the pregnancy test. Or how about your son is caught drinking and driving, your father with dementia gets lost while driving, and your teen-aged daughter is just plain driving you crazy?


You aren’t sure when it’s going to be over, but you really want to yell for your mommy. You wonder what your parents were thinking letting you out with these crazy relatives. And then it all straightens out and you realize you’re loved and protected with nothing to worry about. You were safe all along.

Then Jesus grins and raises his arms for the next loop-the-loop.

Where can I go to escape your spirit?
Where can I flee to escape your presence?
If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there.
If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be.
If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn,
and settle down on the other side of the sea,
even there your hand would guide me,
your right hand would grab hold of me. Psalm 139:7-10 NET

Where to?

Christians are not limited to any church. ~Billy Graham



I was just nineteen and out of my element. The woman I worked for as a nanny needed someone to take over a business trip for her private company. She asked me, and in my youthful naivete, I thought of it as an adventure.

It was my first plane ride, and my first experience with a taxi. The doorman at the airport, seeing my dazed look, helped me hail a cab. He loaded my things in the trunk and gave me some directions and advice.

I thanked him and climbed in the cab. It was too late when I realized that his frown was because I didn’t tip him.

The three-day conference didn’t get any better. Money was stolen from my wallet. The speaker- whom I was representing- was a drunk. And I didn’t get to eat often.

My problem was that I didn’t know where to go for help.

Herod was trying to make some friends and discovered that killing Christians was a popularity booster. He threw Peter in jail intending to have him executed.

God had other plans and sent an angel to rescue Peter from prison. The angel lead Peter out of the city, but instead of running for his life, Peter headed to Mary’s house, the mother of a disciple named John Mark.

Everyone was there praying for Peter.

Peter knew where to go.

He knew who would pray. He knew where friends would gather. He knew where safety, encouragement, and food would be found.

That’s what the church does for its members.

It cries out to God. It gathers and encourages. It rejoices and supports.

Whom do you call when your child is injured 1500 miles from home and family? Whom do you depend on to watch over your aging mother? Who brings you food when you’re too weak from the flu to cook?

And where do you go to sing and rejoice and dance when you discover you’re pregnant after seven years? Who hugs you and laughs and cries when you finally finish your degree? Who meets you with cupcakes and balloons to help you celebrate that thing you’ve been waiting for?

Do you know where to go?

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:10-16 NIV

Passion

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. ~Martha Graham

When my boys were little all they talked about was Pokémon.

They knew the names of all the creatures and what each one could transform into if given the right circumstances. They had pretend Pokémon battles, hiding behind the sofa and jumping out to put the Pokémon into their special balls.

They even talked their grandmothers into playing Pokémon cards. None of us ever understood what we were doing, but being with Jonathan and Amos while they tried to explain was exciting. Their eyes shone, their words gushed forth like a Squirtle under pressure, and they couldn’t sit still.

They talked Pokémon, dreamed Pokémon, and played Pokémon.

Most people’s first thought in the morning is about work. The second most common thought upon rising is what errands need to be completed that day. Health and hygiene come to mind third most often. Women will likely think of friends and family next, while the men will think about food.

Many people turn to their phones for the weather, the news, a quick social media check. Some people head for the coffee pot. And all of us are made aware of our bladders.

Where does Christ fall in your line-up of the day’s thoughts?

The early church was being persecuted and ostracized. They were making a name for themselves by their good works.

But what did they do beyond that?

They never stopped talking.

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 5:42 NIV

Day after day, every place they went, the apostles and disciples kept talking. They just couldn’t help themselves.

They had found their passion.

What occupies your every thought?


Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

I Don’t Like This Road

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought. ~Matsuo Basho

My mother gets terribly carsick. She has lived all of her life in curvy, mountainous West Virginia, and the sickness has never left her.

There are roads that she refuses to use because experience has taught her that she will have lunch twice, maybe three times. It seems unfair that she should never have relief.

It also seems unfair that she should have beautiful vistas at her every turn when others don’t have such sights. Their rear view mirror reflects dumpsters and street lights. They peer through windshields to see smoggy valleys and graffiti-filled alleys.

Everyone travels their own road.

Maybe that seems harsh to you.

You cry out to God, “WHY!?”

Why do I have to be deaf? Why is my child autistic?  Why does my husband look at other women? Why can’t I have a baby? Why don’t I get a good job? Why am I short, tall, black, brown, too thin, too fat . . .

But what if it is only the road that is making you sick? If you stop the car for a minute, do you see a beautiful vista on the horizon? Is there a sunset glowing over top of the smog?

Jesus asks us to walk down the Via Dolorosa with him, a road that leads to death. Will you go?

People will throw stones. There will be sweat, spit, and blood. Angry curses will be hurled your way. The rest of your life will be affected. Your friends may even turn their backs on you.

But you get to walk beside the Savior of the World. He knows your name and his eyes look into your soul.

It’s worth it, isn’t it?

What if the road you are on now is the one Jesus has asked you to travel? Your deafness makes you notice things that hearing people don’t. Your autistic son amazes you with his insight. You counsel other women, adopt a homeless child, learn to be content, even generous. Do you still want off? Will you still beg for another route?

Or will you idle the motor a bit and see what beauty surrounds you?


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 NIV

 

Searching for Treasure

shopping cartThere was a time when I was a coupon queen. A few years ago I gave up my throne, which took a lot of my time and energy, to become a lowly citizen of an Aldi store. They take no coupons, have fewer options, and make my life easier. Besides that, they have super great prices.

There are a few peculiarities of an Aldi store. You have to put a deposit on a grocery cart. You bag your own groceries, meaning you also bring your own bag. And they do not deal with credit. They are a “cash only” store, which means you can use a debit card, check, or folding money.

Except for one day last week. On Wednesday I made my weekly stop by the store only to find a sign on the door that read, “Cash only today.” That meant the machines were down and folding money was the only acceptable form of currency.

I don’t keep cash on me, so I had to drive across town to the bank, take out cash, drive back across town, and do my shopping. I passed three groceries on my way. One of the groceries is in the same lot as my bank.

So why would I drive so far, pass up so much, be so devoted to one store? Because I know where the treasure is.

Some may think that living the life of a Christian means giving up a lot. Why would I go to church on Sundays when I live so close to the beach? Why would I give my money to other people when I have so many other things I could buy? Why would I follow “old traditions” when I am an adult and can live the way I want?

All of these and many more questions can be answered with one response: I know where the treasure is.

Sure it has some requirements. I made a deposit on my cart. I have to bag a lot of my own groceries. And the options aren’t as plentiful. But why would I shop anywhere else? The price has already been paid and I have the receipt.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44 NIV