Thursday, June 21, 2012

War and Peace


I know, you are probably thinking from the title this is going to be a long chapter.  Not to worry, it's just that the last week has brought both war and peace to my heart and mind.
First, the war.....
Syria is in turmoil, some say they are close to civil war. President al Assad has cracked down on dissidents, killing thousands who rebel. Nations are taking sides, even Russia and the US and it can get ugly in a hurry there.  Egypt has a new president that is pro-Islamic and anti-west but the army may not let him have much power. Their former president is dead, then alive, then nearly dead. War there could close the Suez canal and cut off oil to the west. Greece is broker than broke and other broke European nations are trying to bail them and themselves out of horrific financial trouble. The US is in moral free-fall. It's hard to even get a debate over same-sex marriage or abortion or nearly any morality based issue. We talk more about money woes and economic recession than nearly anything else. But the NBA finals are highly rated on television and technology promises to connect us and cure us from cancer and even depression. In all the turmoil, pain, and confusion it seems too few are even asking 'where is God?' For the truth of the matter is He is right where we left Him: out.

It has happened before. Israel, then Judah from Old Testament times were going right along with their history, culture, and lives. They forgot God, His love, His mercy, His precepts, and His right to be loved and followed supremely. They sought after military power, economic power, worship for all "gods", perverted justice and morals for personal power and pleasure. Then bit by bit, generation by generation they left the One, True God out of their lives and nation. Lip service was given but God doesn't accept "lip" worship.

In reading in Jeremiah last week, I noticed a couple of things. Judah, and Israel before, with all the strife and turmoil that was going on in their nation was at war with God. One, they didn't know this and denied it when the prophets told them. Two, you don't win a war with God but you don't know you've lost until after the fact. I read one of the saddest scriptures I've ever read in the Bible. It is found in Jeremiah 52, verse 3: "It was because of the Lord's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end He thrust them from His presence."

"I will never leave you nor forsake you" is the promise in Hebrews 13:5. That promise to each believer is stated similarly in John 10:28-29, " I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them from my one can snatch them from my Father's hand." I believe in the perseverance of the saints. Eternal life is secure for all believers in Christ. But our nation is at war with God. We don't even know it. We will lose this war unless we repent and turn in faith to Jesus. Please pray for spiritual awakening or in the end, He will thrust us from His presence.

Now the peace....
I piddled last Saturday. I piddled in the garage for two or three hours. I piddled around my workbench. Piddled in the closet with the lawn chemicals and golf equipment. I piddled about the large shelf of miscellaneous stuff that's got to go somewhere but not in the kitchen, bath, or inside closets. I sat and listened to country music and then contemporary Christian music coming from a twenty year old radio on the workbench. I brought the dogs into the garage and watched them sleep and noted which songs made their tails wag. Hallie likes Chris Tomlin. I thought some on piddlin'. There is an art to it. I'm probably not that good at it. My dad didn't teach me. He was  a work-a-holic farmer and he didn't know how to piddle. As one of nine boys raised in the depression on a small farm, that figures. My grandfather on my mom's side, Pop, he could piddle a bit. I learned some from him.  Pop had more fun, Dad had more success. I guess you have to pick your balance.

 There are probably rules for piddlin' but surely one of the rules is that you can't write down the rules for piddlin'. That would be too methodical, too logical, and too organized for piddlin'. Piddlin' has to be done alone for the most part, but small grand kids could probably be acceptable occasionally.  It seems to me that piddlin' can't intent to get much work done either. It can get some things done but it has to be kinda accidental. Case in point: I was sorting through the little bins of washers, nuts, and bolts on the workbench Saturday. I noticed that I had only one of those little wrenches for adjusting sprinkler heads. I wondered where the other one was. Oh, I think I laid it on the shelf. I go to the shelf. I start taking stuff off looking for the little tool. Before I knew it, I piddled my way to throwing junk away from the shelf and straightening it out. Looked good. I didn't intend to clean the shelf. Just happened. Didn't find the sprinkler tool. Went back to the workbench. Started sorting and arranging. Found the tool in the next drawer and found I'd organized and cleaned the bench. Didn't intend to, just happened. I sat down with a Gatorade from the garage 'fridge and listened to Third Day and wondered if God piddled. He must have piddled some. How else would we get duck-bill platypuses, kangaroos, walking sticks(bug), cuscuses, and aye-aye's? See, God's piddlin' led to Australia. Not bad...

At the end of all this piddlin' I was refreshed, not tired. (That's got to be one of the rules, you can't tell your wife piddlin' doesn't make you tired). Piddlin' keeps your hands busy but your mind free. Piddlin' slows the pace so your spirit notices and enjoys even small blessings like a well-made old school chair to sit on, a cold drink to sip on, two old dogs to show you how to handle the stress in the world, and an old radio playing an old hymn sung in a new way by a modern band. I realized what I had after all that piddlin' were deep and profound thoughts that would bring world peace if I could remember them. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for lower blood pressure, contentment, an accidentally clean garage, and a promise to piddle again really soon. I'd invite you over to show you how but I think that's against the rules.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nobody Gets Saved 'Round Here No More

Uncle Bill had to be visited. I had to do it. I wasn't even sure how he was related to me. He wasn't my mother's or my dad's brother. But around those two, four, and six hundred acre family farms where I was raised he was in the mix and he was Uncle Bill. He was somewhere around eighty-two, maybe eighty-five now. He still lived on his place eight miles out from "town." "Town'' had only nine hundred people. No one had heard from him in a long while so I guessed I had better check on him. I had saved the last two days of my vacation for recuperation from the first six days so I had the time to make the hour drive out to his farm. Might be a nice relaxing drive and visit to nostalgia. So I went.

Down the interstate to a state highway and then down the farm-to-market road and then onto the gravel road and then the part gravel, part grass, part mud lane that led to his old farmhouse. There he was, weeding his garden on the side of the barn. It looked like a good wind would blow that old barn over, but it had looked like that for thirty years. "Hey, Uncle Bill, howyoudoing?" (it's one word in the country) "Not bad for an old fossil, howyoudoing, Squirt?" He called all of us "Squirt." He would figure out my real name sooner or later. I took no offense.

We headed up to the porch. Uncle Bill went in to get coffee. Starbucks may have learned about strong coffee from Uncle Bill and Aunt Martha. Dad joked that Bill's coffee killed Martha twenty years ago but it kept Bill going. I asked for ice water.

"What brings you out here, Squirt? You know I ain't got no money."
"I don't need any money Uncle Bill. Some of us cousins were visiting and none of us had heard from you or seen you in a while so I thought I'd run out and see what's going on. So, what's been happening with you?"
"Nothing much.You don't think this old world would listen to an old dried up farmer from nowhere, do you? I don't even recognize this world anymore. It's like a foreign place to me."
"Do you mean because of the modern technology and electronic or the....
About that time an alarm went off in his pocket. He reached in the chest pocket of his overalls and pulled out an iphone. "S'cuse me a moment." Uncle Bill fired off a text and set his phone down on the old recliner he kept on the porch for sitting in the morning and evening. It was then I noticed he set it down next to an ipad.

"No, its not the technology. That's just a matter of desire and practice. Heck, it's all touch screen. If you want something hard try fixin' a Farmall planter box from 1955. No, the problem with this world is that no body gets saved around here no more."

"What do you mean Uncle Bill?"
"How long you been preaching, "Squirt?" (at least he remembered what I did) Must be thirty or more years now. You can't tell me you haven't noticed the change in people. You baptizing as many as you did twenty years ago? I didn't think so. So did you quit telling them about salvation in Jesus or did the world around you quit listening?"
"But Uncle Bill, more people come to Christ as Savior in the world now than at any time in church history."
"I said no body gets saved 'round here no more. Lots of folks in Asia, South America, Africa, and even Muslims are coming to Christ but not so much in Europe or the good old USA."
"How do you know all those stats Uncle Bill?"
"That's nothing. I'm connected. The problem is we've gotten so tolerant we even tolerate our own sin in our nation. We've gotten to the point where we think the government, Wall Street,  M.D. Anderson, Edward Jones, Tony Romo, Lebron James, Tim Tebow,  Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, the Kardashians, Snoop Dog or Ophra will fix our problems as if our problems were all just physical, emotional, financial or mental. We look to celebrities for wisdom and reality shows for adventure."
"Uncle Bill you kinda went off like a preacher there. I see people every week that really love Jesus and serve Him."
"You work in a church, Preacher! Don't be so naive, Squirt. Nobody gets saved 'round here no more cause they admire Jesus like all those other celebrities. There's a big difference between admiration and committed love. I "loved" Rita Hayworth as a young man. What an actress, what a beauty! I never held her, kissed her, made love to her. I never fed her, nursed her when she was sick, told her a certain movie was wrong for her, listened to her complain, or comforted her when she grieved. I never prayed with her or worshipped with her. I didn't love Rita, I loved your Aunt Martha. Nobody gets saved 'round here no more 'cause they don't think they got anything to be saved from. As long as they are eating, drinking, working, paying bills and entertaining themselves modern people think they are doing fine. They will go right on admiring Jesus to hell."

"Uncle Bill, that's depressing. What do you do with all that, that negativity? How do you cope with such a gloomy assessment? Do you just gripe about it?"
"Oh, no. I started a web site and blog. I have over five hundred regular readers and a couple of hundred guests each week. I do a question and answer session each week on Facebook and have over 1700 friends. The avg. age of the people reading and interacting with me is 23. They get mad, even belligerent, but they keep asking and talking. A few dozen have told me they have come to faith in Christ. I just keep telling them one way or another they need to be gloriously, radically, marvelously, miraculously saved. And some are."

The drive home was horrible. My mind was aching. I gave myself a headache. My wife met me in the kitchen. "How was your visit with Uncle Bill?... Hey, you don't look so good? Is something wrong?"

"Yeah, nobody gets save around here no more..................."

Squirt Cos