Thinking Out Loud

November 21, 2017

“Who Is Jesus Christ in Your Life?”

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:46 am

I knew Ron well enough to say hello, but nothing more. At 92 — twice my age — he was one of the older seniors in the seniors group, but he still drove his own car, seemed to have a youthful outlook, and raised his hands with exuberance during a worship time comprised of another generation’s music. I often wondered what his secret was.

So when I heard him talking about having to call a plumber for a stopped drain in the bathtub of his town home, I butted into the conversation and said, “I could come over this afternoon and have a look at it.”

He looked me up and down. I’m not exactly known for my technical or mechanical skills. “I’ve already tried a plunger, liquid drain cleaner and a sewer snake;” he began.

“I have a secret weapon;” I declared.

After a post-church lunch, I rang his doorbell. He opened the door and looked at what was in my right hand. “A Shop-Vac? I have one of those;” and the asked, “The water doesn’t damage them?”

“This is actually part of a carpet cleaning thing;” I told him. “It works for us.”

I’d brought two rags, one to seal around the hose and one to plug the relief drain to get maximum suction. I ran just a bit of water, then turned it on. For ten seconds there was nothing but the noise of the machine, but then the vacuum hose lurched violently and I knew we’d had a measure of success. I turned the thing off, ran some water which drained perfectly and turned to him and announced, “My fee is $200.”

At first he didn’t laugh. “Actually;” I said, “There is something you might be able to help me with. How would you like to go out for coffee?”

“I have a perfectly good coffee machine here; though I prefer hot tea.”

“Let’s make it two hot teas then, and I’ll dump the contents of this in the back of your garden if that’s okay.”

I put the carpet vac in my car and came back in and washed my hands in the same bathroom we’d been in, running the bathtub water once more to make sure everything was truly fixed.

I took a deep breath; “So here’s my question. I really want to learn. Who is Jesus Christ in your life?”

All was silent as I sat down at his kitchen table except for the kettle on the stove approaching a boil. He seemed lost deep in thought and then smiling he said, “You are wise in the way you asked that question, like someone only allowed one so they have to make it count. You didn’t ask me ‘Who is Jesus’ because you’ve settled the answer to that with decades attending church. No, you added in ‘in your life’ because you want to know how it all plays out, right?”

I nodded. He had one of those boxes with a choice of tea flavors; a selection was made, water was added, and some shortbread biscuits were offered, which I declined since eating one on my part would necessitate eating all of them.

“He’s here now.” Then more silence. “He’s watched you fix my drain and he’s watched me make the tea. He liked the part where you threatened to charge me $200, but he especially liked your willingness to drop by for a visit. He’s beside me when at 92 I’m driving my car and he’s beside me when at 92 I’m trying to figure out my email account. I’m a widower now, but I’m not alone. I have a friend. I find him absolutely fascinating. At various points in the day, it’s almost like I hear his voice. Several times each week I go out and spend time with other people who know him, too. Some of them seem to know him differently than I do. Some say they know him but I wonder to what degree. I talk to him several times a day. Perhaps hourly. I don’t really hang up the call if you know what I mean; the line is always open.”

Then another long pause followed by, “So, how is Jesus Christ in your life?”

My turn to be silent. Did he realize he’d changed who to how? Same number of letters. Actually one is an anagram of the other.

“I certainly know about him;” I began. “I know the timelines, the locations, the people with whom he interacted. I know the doctrines he taught, the miracles he did, the new standard of behavior he implemented. I can explain atonement theory. I know I was a sinner and I asked that the covering he provided for sin cover me also. I endeavor to make him Lord; to run everything I do by him to counter-check me if I’m making a wrong decision or deviating from the path. And I get that the incarnate Christ I know so much about sits at the right hand of God. And I am to share this with others.”

My voice trailed off.

Ron took a long, long sip of tea; swallowed and just said, “And?”

I could only repeat what he’d said with the same interrogative tone, “And?”

He smiled and decided two could play that game; “And then what happened?”

“You seem to radiate a connection to Jesus that I don’t feel I have.”

“Some of that;” Ron replied, “Comes with time. Here, let me show you something.”

He walked into another room and emerged seconds later holding a beautiful Ovation guitar. “You play;” as he handed it to me, “Give it a go.”

I’m really not all that good — it’s not my main instrument — but I played a G chord and then a G7. There was no denying this was an expensive instrument. He was staring intently at my right hand fingers on the fret-board. “What’s a G5?” he asked in complete sincerity.

“How do you know about that? It’s a called a power chord. It’s not a group of leaders who meet in Europe.” I’d let that last one slip out before realizing it was a bit condescending.

“No, that would be G7. But wait, there’s more;” he said getting up and returned from the same room with a large folio titled Modern Worship Collection.

I’d seen this book before. His was well-used. The best I could muster was, “Really?”

He just smiled.

I had to press him on this one, “What’s the deal?”

“I could probably hold my own on about half of the songs we sing Sunday mornings, but they’re never going to ask me on that stage. Never…”

I made a mental note to email the worship director with a bizarre suggestion.

“…But you can be up there. You can do the things you do. I heard you spoke to the youth group last Sunday night. Do that while you can. They certainly don’t want to hear me…”

I made a mental note to email the youth director with an out-of-the-box suggestion.

“…But you get caught up in the doing of things and then…” he paused as if deciding which of several directions to take the conversation, “…Well you know about Mary and Martha, right?”

“Yes.”

“Good, then I don’t need to say it. I’m guessing Mary knew she could be helping in the kitchen. I’m sure she heard the background sounds of the pots and pans or whatever they had back then. She had to make a choice. These people had heard Jesus teach before. Some of it was probably repetition. How many times have you heard a sermon on The Prodigal Son?”

“Lots.”

“But there’s always something new, right? You want to hear it over and over like a song you can’t stop playing. You just keep the CD on repeat.”

“For someone who is 92, you seem to navigate technology quite well.”

He ignored that. “You just want to drink it in; hear it all one more time. Because he’s your friend. You want to spend hours together. Yes you can learn from him, but it’s also just spending time. You never quite get enough. But it also just so happens that you know he’s much wiser than you, and it also just so happens that he’s someone to whom you owe a great deal. You come to love him, but always knowing he loves you more in a way you’ll never be able to match.”

“My wife and I do that ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you more’ thing.”

“Yeah but he wins each time. He loves you more.”

I didn’t know where to go next. I did the proverbial checking the time on my phone thing and pushed the mug away from me and started to get up.

But he had one thing more to add, “Oh and just so I’m clear, there’s times he really ticks me off.”

“Wait, what?”

“It’s a friendship. Friends poke and prod each other. Friends don’t always agree. But he’s always looking out for my best. Why don’t we pray together before you leave?”

“I’d like that;” I said and sat down again.

Father God, we love you;” he began and then he continued for several minutes saying some personal things that clearly applied to my life which I’m not sure are necessary to add here. It was like he knew me really well.

Or maybe it was just that he knew Jesus and Jesus had let him in on a few things.

 

 

 

 

 

October 21, 2016

Emotional Adulting

emotionally-healthy-series

Despite a rather hectic last couple of weeks, I managed to finish reading a book I have long been curious about. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero has a long subtitle but it sums up the book really well: It’s Impossible to be Spiritually Mature while Remaining Emotionally Immature.  (Zondervan, paperback.)

My curiosity was fueled somewhat by the fact the book is part of a brand which includes other Emotionally Healthy… titles, all of which have done well; and also a number of courses. Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in New York City, a racially diverse congregation that he has served for nearly 30 years.

The book touches on a number of practical areas where we can blend emotional and spiritual maturity; some from the author’s personal experiences, from the lives of others, and some borrowing from a broad range of spiritual disciplines forged throughout church history.

If you assess books, as I do, in terms of value, then there are insights on every page. This is a book you will want to read with pen in hand, as you will want to underline it throughout. I think it’s also a book you will want to read, at least parts of it anyway, more than once. Like the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend, this blends the best of the Christian Living type of books with the self-help genre, and hopefully will be around for a long time.

I had a number of pages flagged as potential excerpts, but going back decided on this one for today, where he talks about a la St. Benedict about the “elements of a Rule of Life.”

emotionally-healthy-spiritualityDevout Jews today have numerous customs related to their Friday Shabbat meal as a family. They maintain various traditions, from the lighting of candles to the reading of psalms to the blessing of children to the eating of the meal to the giving of thanks to God. Each is designed to keep God at the center of their Sabbath.

There are an amazing variety of Sabbath possibilities before you. It is vitally important you keep in mind your unique life situation as you work out these four principles of Sabbath keeping into your life. Experiment. Make a plan. Follow it for one to two months. Then reflect back on what changes you would like to make. There is no one right way that works for every person.

Sabbath is like receiving the gift of a heavy snow day every week. Stores are closed. Roads are impassible. Suddenly you have the gift of a day to do whatever you want. You don’t have any obligations, pressures or responsibilities. You have permission to play, be with friends, take a nap, read a good book. Few of us would give ourselves a “no obligation day” very often.

God gives you one – every seventh day.

Think about it. He gives you over seven weeks (fifty-two days in all) of snow days every year! And if you begin to practice stopping, resting, delighting and contemplating for one twenty-four-hour period each week, you will soon find your other six days becoming infused with those same qualities. I suspect that has always been God’s plan.


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