Friday, November 28, 2008

Anna and Jack on Thanksgiving, right before we headed out to Nan's

The Stone

Lately Anna has been collecting rocks. I know, that sounds like it could be very cool and in fact, some folks I’m sure have incredible rock collections filled with unique and highly interesting specimens, but that’s not what Anna’s doing… no, she just picks up regular old, random bits of gravel and gives them cool names like, “The Golden Stone.” I understand why she loves baby dolls and stuffed animals… I mean, they’re soft and cute, but why rocks?

Well, she may be onto something. Rocks may be cooler than I once thought. See, I have been thinking this week about the stone that rolled away from the entrance of the tomb where Jesus was buried. We don’t know a whole lot about that stone… Mark says that it was “very large,” while Matthew tells us it was “big” and that the guards posted at the tomb put a seal on it. We know that as evening approached on Friday, Joseph of Arimathea rolled it in front of the rock-hewn tomb after they laid Jesus’ body there, and that’s pretty much it until Sunday morning. I have been thinking about that Friday through Sunday morning… what dark days those must have been. I bet they were gloomy, soggy and gray days. The disciples were huddled up in secret wondering if they were next and for the first time since it was made, the world was without Christ.

I wonder what that stone was thinking… I know, I know, rocks aren’t alive. They don’t have brains and therefore cannot think, but suspend all that for just a minute and hang with me. Just a week before all this happened Jesus told some guys that if people stopped praising Him, the rocks would cry out. Was Jesus anthropomorphizing? Was He speaking figuratively, knowing that there would always be people praising Him? I don’t think so. I think He was serious. I think that if everyone on earth were to stop praising the Lord, rocks would start singing! If Jesus had obeyed the priests during the triumphal entry and told all the people to stop praising, I believe the limestone and granite of Jerusalem would have invented Rock n Roll long before Elvis ever entered the building.

So, what was that stone thinking as it sat there all sealed up, flanked by guards from Friday night through Sunday morning? Just about everyone who loved Jesus spent those days cowering in fear instead of lifting up praise… was every tongue on earth silent? What if that stone was getting ready to sing? What if it was champing at the bit to declare the praises of the One who came and died? What if that stone started shaking and creaking a little bit by Saturday afternoon? What if, in the middle of the night it just started moving a little and straining at its seal as dawn approached? Matthew 28 says that, “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

Matthew tells us that the guards were so afraid that they passed out as if they were dead. Of course they did! They had been standing there with that freaky stone creaking and shifting all night long! Matthew says the angel rolled the stone back and then sat on it. I bet he didn’t have to push very hard. In fact, I bet he sat on it to keep it from rolling away at a break-neck speed, coursing through every little town to sing out, “Death is done and Christ has won!” While everyone was crying and full of despair, a stone said it first. It sat beside an empty tomb. The tomb wasn’t really even a tomb anymore. The death was gone, the seal was broken and the light was shining in. I want to be like that stone! I want to be the first one to declare it today! I want to be different than I was… Don’t you?

Friday, November 21, 2008

He Knows

Do you know what it’s like to try and wake up in the middle of the night when you’re absolutely worn out? Do you know what it’s like to be so tired that you would gladly endure tortures upon waking if you could only sleep a bit more? Do you know what it feels like to have eyelids that aren’t merely heavy, but wrought of barbed steel, oppressive in both weight and pain? Do you know how sweet it feels to close eyes like that and simply go back to sleep? If you’ve ever had a newborn baby, you know what I’m talking about. You know what it’s like to hear a little choke in the middle of the night, fly out of the covers and try to hustle over to the bassinet while you stumble and sway in delirious confusion because your equilibrium is nowhere to be found. You know it’s like to be so tired that you honestly believe death is next. Well, that’s where we are right now with our new baby, and if you think I’m being overly dramatic, it’s because I am exhausted!

I always want to be the most involved and helpful dad I can, which means that I try so hard to wake up and help Christy in the middle of the night when Jack is awake to eat or be changed. Sometimes I’m right there when she needs me, ready with a diaper or ready to swaddle him back up for sleep, but many times Christy looks over and sees me dead on my pillow while she looks after our boy. Well, the thing she doesn’t know is that even though I appear to be peacefully sleeping, I am actually waging a war inside my head. Part of me is screaming, “Come on! Get up!” While the rest of me is saying, “You don’t know the power of the dark side!” I try so hard to get up, but sometimes it seems like I just can’t. Christy could be dead to the world and if Jack breathes too heavily she’s fully awake, but there are times I wouldn’t wake up if Jack were wielding a chainsaw in the middle of a circus. Christy is always super sweet about it of course and encourages me to just stop fighting it and go to sleep, but still the battle rages on.

Yesterday I was reading about the night of our Lord’s betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane in a book by a guy called G. Campbell Morgan who was one of the most awesome preachers and thinkers around the turn of the twentieth century. He was talking about how Jesus kept finding His best friends asleep in the moments of His greatest agony and sorrow and the way in which He dealt with them. If you read Mark 14 in the NIV, you get the feeling Jesus is chewing them out for sleeping. He says, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough!” But Campbell Morgan says there may be more to the story. You see, the Greek text didn’t have all those question marks and exclamation points. He said it could be read, (and in fact reads this way in the KJV) “Sleep on now and take your rest: it is enough…”

Wanting to get to the bottom of this, I looked up that word ‘enough’ in the Greek and it’s a word that means ‘to have’ or ‘to receive.’ It’s used in Matthew 6:5 when Jesus says that people who pray in public to be seen by men “have” their reward in full. So, Jesus wasn’t really saying, “You’re still sleeping? Enough!” as in, “Stop it already!” He was probably saying, “You’re still sleeping? It’s okay… have it… receive that rest.” It was like He was saying, “You can’t watch with me for one hour? That’s okay. Rest up. I know you want to, but your body is weak and tired. It’s okay; Judas isn’t here yet. I’ll stay up and watch.”

When I realized this, I burst into tears! How many nights has Christy taken care of Jack while I furiously wrestled my own heavy eyes and gave in to sleep?! Oh the number of times she has looked at me with that motherly calm and said, “Just go to sleep, baby.” Campbell Morgan said that in this scene we see the motherly affections of our Lord. Wow. This is what I love about Jesus… that even in the moment of His deepest distress when He was staring down the barrel of the wrath of God, He’s motherly in tenderness and care. When I’m sleepy and ought to be awake, He knows. He knows we are but dust and He cares for us even still.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One Smile

A month ago my baby boy was born and not only was this an awesome event in its own right, but it also meant that I had a legitimate reason for missing my 10 year high school reunion… Whew! That was a close one. Old acquaintances were like, “Lee, are you going to the reunion?” And I was all, “Oh no… I can’t. We just had a baby… man, hate I missed that!” It saved me from having to give the real reason, which is that I just really didn’t want to go! Look, it’s not that I’m hateful or that I look back on high school as a terrible experience or anything… it’s just that high school reunions seem to me like a big race or contest. I mean, high school was a big enough race on its own, right? Who’s the coolest? Who’s the most beautiful? Who’s going to get the best grades or into the best school? Who gets the most girls? Who can lift the most weight or run the fastest mile?

Then college comes and you get to start all over in a world where no one’s really competing… everyone’s just trying to make it. Then you graduate and get a job and before you know it, ten years have flown by and you’re supposed to go back home and hang out with all those old people you used to compete against or were mean to. The only difference is that now everyone can legally drink a beer. I just imagined this awkward evening filled with conversations about important mergers and innovative manufacturing techniques with guys pretending to like the taste of champagne. I wondered if anyone would jump to their feet in the middle of it all and suggest that everyone grab a slushy from Kenjo and carpool out to laser tag (because that’s what everyone really wanted to be doing).

The thing is, I’m sure no one did that, and I bet the reason has something to do with the fact that we’re all still trying to impress each other. We’re all still in high school trying to have the best outfit or the coolest car. And I’m not just talking about my peeps from the class of ’98… everyone is like this to some degree. We’re all trying to please someone and some of us are trying to please everyone. This of course is impossible and often leads us to do or say the things we hate the most about ourselves.

This week I was reading Mark 14, which opens up at a dinner party in Bethany where Jesus was the guest of honor. It was in the home of a guy called Simon the Leper, which is interesting because lepers didn’t usually throw parties, but maybe Simon used to be a leper and was healed by Jesus, so he showed his gratitude by having Jesus over and inviting all his friends. When I picture this atmosphere, I can’t help thinking about the reunion I missed. Maybe the place was filled with people Jesus had healed and who had not been together since before they were sick. Either way, it was a party; and wherever people are gathered together, everyone is watching and everyone is on stage…

Mark tells us that in the middle of the festivities a woman came in with a jar of perfume worth anywhere from 20 to 40 thousand dollars. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. The music stopped, the people gasped and the fragrance filled the air. It was uncool. It was awkward. It was humiliating for everyone. She was bowing down and worshiping Jesus in the middle of a crowded room! All the other guests had spent the night trying to be the coolest and she was making herself the lowest. She honored Jesus in front of everyone and she got made fun of. She got chewed out. People said she was stupid and irresponsible, but she didn’t care. Why? She wasn’t racing anyone. She wasn’t trying to please anyone but Him… her Lord. She was after One smile, and you know what? She got it. Jesus said, “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me… wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

What if you only cared about pleasing One person? What if you honestly didn’t care what anyone else thought about your life? What if you weren’t trying to please them, but would do anything to get the smile of Jesus? His is the One opinion that matters and as long as it’s the only one you want, it’s the One you can know you have.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Here are the girls with the Jack-o-lantern they designed. And here's Jack (not-so-lantern) as a bumblebee for trick-or-treating:

I think his first Halloween was a bit underwhelming... He slept the entire night and then didn't eat any candy on account of the lack of teeth and all.

A Life of Love

A couple days ago a sweet brother went home to be with our Lord. Mr. Wallace was 88 years old. His daughter Diane has been one of our family’s sweetest friends; and the more I learn about her dad in these days, the more I see why she’s so sweet. On Monday, as Di walked me to the elevator at the hospital, she told me that her daddy was her buddy and that he was always sweet and loving. His kids said that he was always singing… that his beautiful baritone voice was always lifting up Jesus. Diane said that she used to love to harmonize with him. They say he made every one of his kids feel like they were the only one in the world. They knew their daddy loved them.

The other day I was reading in Mark 13 where our Lord said that there are days coming where the sun will be darkened and stars will fall from the sky. He said that the universe is going to be shaken and that everyone is going to see the Son of Man coming with great power and glory. When I read it I realized two things: Number one, I can’t wait for that day! I’m so ready to go home and leave this old busted world to be with the One who loves me like nobody else! Number two, I don’t have too many days left! You see, Jesus went on in the next few verses to say that no one knows when this Day will come, therefore, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!”

We may not have very many days left! We may not have too many more chances to be sweet, loving and always singing praises. When that Great Day comes and everyone everywhere sees our Lord firsthand, don’t you want to be known for love? Don’t you want to be famous for being sweet? Don’t you want to have the reputation of one who just can’t help singing His praises? That’s the kind of guy Mr. Wallace was.

You know, there are so many people who have spent their whole adult lives recovering from their fathers… desperately clawing to get out from underneath the oppression of needing and not achieving his approval. Don’t you want to be like Mr. Wallace? Don’t you want the people in your life to know that you love them? It is no small thing to be sweet. It is no small thing to sing praises. It is no small thing to give love. In Ephesians 5 Paul says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

There is a Day coming that Jesus said to be on watch for. I don’t think that means grabbing your telescope every night and waiting for all the stars to fall with the shaking of the sky. I think watching for the Day is about being ready. In other words, whatever you want to be on that Day, start being that person today. You want to be known for singing? Sing! You want to be known for sweetness? Sweeten up! You want to be able to look your Savior in the face as one who is famous for love? Then go ahead and start loving! You may not have long to live a life of love.

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