Thursday, January 30, 2014
Squeezing the Life Out of It
People feel squeezed this time of year around here. It may be everywhere but I know the circle of my knowing often feels they have been caught by a boa constrictor.
What's squeezing everybody? The usual pythons of money, family, time pressures, expectations- both and real and unreal- plus the ongoing search for meaning in this messy world. It seems that right after Christmas, folks have to pay their real estate taxes, a new set of tires is needed, the water heater breaks, the truck dies, and the furnace goes out--all these literally happening within a half mile of my front door.
And if it is not breaking things needing the attention of money then it is something else out-of-balance and whomperjawed (a west Texas term). Maybe someone's kids made it through Christmas but they and you knew their marriage was in trouble and they split. Your heart breaks and is squeezed. Now someone else has kids whose marriage is okay but their kids started back to school after the Christmas holiday and have gotten the flu. "Could you come and stay with them so we can go to work?" Translated: would you bring yourselves over to catch the flu for us so we can take care of those bills squeezing us in paragraph two? You don't want to get the flu but you go, it's grand kids. Some kids move home, borrow money or just struggle and their squeezing squeezes you. Other people are being squeezed by other health issues from arthritis to knee replacement to valve replacement to cedar fever to cancer treatments. They feel with every breath their life is squeezed out a little more as the snake tightens its' grip with every exhalation. How am I going to get the next breath?
And frankly, God seems to sit there and let the squeezing go on and on 'til you can hardly breathe. I can't know all the whys and wherefores of pain and squeezings, and I hate cutesy little sayings like 'when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.' Really, in light of the tremendous pain, suffering and honest questions of God and life we give that kind of answer? Tip-toe up to the bed of a cancer patient burning with chemo induced fever or chills and tell them that. No, I don't pretend to know all the answers. But I have seen some amazing things from God's children being squeezed. They get the Life squeezed out of them.
Because all along God hasn't just been sitting there doing nothing. He has been working from the moment He was invited into your heart to put into your life all the character and qualities of a child of the King. Now this doesn't change the pain of being squeezed, it doesn't dismiss the hell that you or loved ones feel, but may I ask a question: what comes out of you when you are squeezed? The answer is whatever has been put in or allowed in. At squeezing time, attitudes come out we wish weren't there. At other times anger, selfishness, manipulation and a host of unChrist-like junk leaks out. But as a person submits to His Lordship, learns to trust, leans into Jesus to walk and learn, a wonderful thing begins to happen over the course of living life. No, the squeezing doesn't stop but as life squeezes Life come out. I have seen joy come out of the squeezing of trials. I have seen forgiveness come out of a life squeezed by betrayal. I have watched anger and bitterness squeeze a life, a marriage, a wandering child and love ooze out like a balm to soothe, comfort, and heal. This may not make the pressure easy, but it lends to it a meaning, a dignity, a purpose. The Apostle Paul tackled the issue in II Corinthians 4:7-18, keeping his eyes on an eternal glory that far out weighed the weight of squeezing.
I picture Jesus on the cross, His very life being squeezed out of Him but there issues from Him not just drops of physical blood but the forgiving, healing and loving drops of grace. It's what was in Him.
What does your world around you get when life squeezes you? What is there will be revealed--when the pressure comes, let them see Jesus.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
I have realized I need to be more civic minded. Not living in a "city" per se and out in the rural regions has its advantages but it can lull you to sleep about some important matters. I need to work on helping my region grow and develop well.
But how? I have no skill or hardly any experience in these areas. I have ideas. So I put forward this idea that I think would help our area attract more citizens and maybe even more businesses, at least of a certain mindset. Imagine if the Whitney city fathers would pass an ordinance and outlaw fast food restaurants from offering their "upsize" and extra sales pitches for extra food or drink at their drive-thrus. They could, by local law, only say something like, '' welcome, how may I serve you?"
I guess as I work toward my curmudgeon degree some stuff annoys me more. This drive-thru "up-selling" is one of them. A person has picked one drive-in over four others in a two block area because they have an idea of what they want from that restaurant. I have never been influenced by the uber friendly voice wanting me to try the new mango-lime-chipotle shake. I know no one who has. But you get the recording or the sixteen year old kid trying to win a sales contest trying to sell you more. I have no idea what twenty-five year old with a new MBA talked these huge corporations into thinking that delaying and annoying customers was a good idea but we have all suffered through the sales pitches before we can order our Diet Dr Pepper. I hope when that person gets to heaven, if he makes it, that St. Peter asks him when he gets to the Pearly Gates, "you want wings with that robe? for ten more good deeds you get a halo.'' before he lets him in.
Anyway, if Whitney were to pass an ordinance forbidding this irksome habit, I'm sure hundreds if not a half-dozen people would flock to Whitney just to avoid the "you want fries with that?" (Really, lots of people dip fries into strawberry shakes?) Or "would you like to make that a value meal?'' (so your meal has no value as I ordered it?) Or "would you like to add some cheesecake bites to go with your diet Dr Pepper?" (Yes, I would, but do you think I'd be ordering a diet drink if I could eat cheesecake on a whim?)
I could imagine a drive-thru conversation happening at a local establishment....
"Ding-ding" (car going over electronic triggering device)
"Welcome to Burger Barn. Would you like to try our deluxe triple-decker with three cheeses extra-value meal with complementary napkins and 10% off coupons to litter your floorboard?"
"No, thank-you. Do you realize that I am 59 yeas old with a graduate degree and 35 years of experience in my profession and managed to drive a two ton vehicle to your restaurant and am capable of ordering a meal?"
"No, sir, but in that case we have a baby-boomer special with extra lettuce on the thawed out grilled chicken patty."
"No, thank-you and I realize you are probably only 16 years old doing exactly what you were trained to do by your manager who learned to teach you that in a seminar in Little Rock, but at my age, education, and socio-economic level did it ever occur to you that I may have a good idea of what I wanted before I picked this drive-thru over the others within a few blocks."
"No, sir. Sorry, sir. What may I get for you, sir?"
"I want a large diet Dr Pepper with lots of ice."
"Yes, sir. That will be $1.37. Would you like fries with that....opps, sorry. Pull to first window, please.....
Thirty seconds later from within the drive-in window was heard:
"Hey, dudes, look! Mr. Graduate Degree with 35 years experience paid for his drink at the first window, forgot his change and left his drink at the pick-up window as he drove off in his two ton vehicle. We should have asked if he wanted brains with that?"
On second thought, I think I will stick with Kingdom growth and let the town officials take care of city growth. In the Kingdom everything you need is free and already up-sized. In the Kingdom, the King is the special value.
I'll take that,
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
He had reached the age where there was more to see in the rear view mirror of life than the years that lie ahead. It wasn't a surprise and not depressing but it still crossed his mind as he went to have his eyes examined. How many more pair of glasses would he need in this life? Two, three, four at the most...He knew he would need a new pair of specs even if the prescription hadn't changed. The old ones were scratched and stretched. His bride of forty years pointed out they were out of style, too. He felt he could see just fine but eye health was important so he made his appointment.
He began to think about all he had seen in these old glasses--about seven years of sights, he recollected. Two grandchildren appeared through their lenses, two moves, a couple of used cars, a few dozen new friends, seven holiday seasons, 1000+ Sonic happy hour diet dr peppers, a thousand eyes looking back at him and over a hundred thousand miles of highways. These eyes had cried at a couple of dozen funerals of family and friends and watched faces add a line or two with the passing of days. It was kinda funny how the happy faces were still happy and the sad faces pretty much still sad. He had had the chance for 2456 sunrises and sunsets and he probably noticed half or less of them.
He did notice something else about his vision, something that was a bit disconcerting, a tad troublesome. Something he wasn't sure how to explain.
In mid-thought the doctor came in and began his exam. "Which is better, one or two? Two or three? Three or four?'' "Tell me when one set of lines crosses directly under another... ok.... and again. Now tell me which is better, one or two? Two or three? Very good. Your eyes have changed a little, consistent with a person of your age. Other than a slight change to your prescription, your eyes are healthy. I do suggest you get a new pair of glasses, I'm afraid these frames have had it.
"Yeah, Doc, I know. But I am a little worried about my vision.
"Really, what's bothering you? Your eyes are healthy......"
"Well, Doc, I see the past much better than the future. And even the past is clouded with nostalgia. Every thing I view with hindsight seems better, clearer. I know it wasn't but looking back the Cowboys won, my elected officials appeared more virtuous, my values were accepted by nearly everyone, and looking back it seems like everything was simpler, slower. I know it wasn't but it seems that way to me. Then when I look to the future it is so cloudy. It looks foreign, out-of-place. I can't make out where I fit in it. Everything goes by so quickly. I need to be able to see some hope, some meaning, some purpose, some virtue and nobility in my life. Can you help me see a future like that, Doc?"
"I don't have any glasses for that. If I did I buy the first pair and sell a hundred a day. I think for that prescription you had better go see your pastor."
"I am the pastor......................."
God grant us Your vision, may we see through the eyes of Jesus Your world, Your future, and our lives.