Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 7 August 2017

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  Hebrews 11, verses 13-14.

I’m a wanderer.   I learned it as a kid.   We first moved in 1969, when I was three, moving from Bloomington to Minneapolis, Minnesota.   That isn’t very far, but it’s a quantum leap for a family from the suburbs.  I went two years to an old elementary school before they tore it down in 1974.   That year, I spent a year in private school in east Minneapolis.   1975-1976 saw me attend two different third grade classes, one in Iowa and the other in Pennsylvania.  From 1976 to 1978 we lived in Pennsylvania, 1978-1980 in Oklahoma, 1980-1983 back in Iowa, and 1983-1985 in southern Indiana, which I refer to now as ‘home.’  After that, I joined the Air Force, and spent 1985 in Texas, then 1986-1989 in Texas, Maryland, and TDY (on temporary duty) around the world.   From 1989 to 1992, I lived in Italy (living in two different towns during that stay).   From 1992 until 2004, I lived in Colorado, residing in six different places in twelve years.  2004-2005 found me in Montana, then 2005 back in Colorado before moving to Texas.   Since 2005, I have lived full time in Texas, but have traveled all over the country (and the planet), and have lived in three different houses in two towns.  After fifty years of wandering, I’m finally in a home I’ve always dreamed of.   Wouldn’t you know that even my time here may be short, in jeopardy, and that there could be more wandering just up ahead.

Sometimes I feel like I’m looking for a country of my own.

I wish I could say that my story is one of deep public faith, but it isn’t.  In fact, more times than I care to admit, my faith has wandered too and has been weak with my practice of it weaker.  I’ve been rightfully accused of being a hypocrite, and Billy Joel could have once described me as “a man with so much tension and far too many sins to mention.”  I’ve tried, but in following Jesus, trying isn’t enough.   You have to “do” to be believeable to other people, and sometimes what I’ve done has been quite opposite of what I believe.

You know what?  I’m in good company.   Abraham was a wanderer and God did wonderful things through Him.   Jacob was a deceitful wanderer and God led him to live an amazing life.  Moses, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and finally Jesus Himself were all wanderers who did incredible, great things in the lead-up to the time of their Messiah.  After Jesus, all twelve of His disciples wandered, going from place to place to spread the Good News of the friend-Savior they knew.  Some of them were murdered for it; only one lived into old age.

I bet all those people were looking for a country of their own.   I wonder, then, if the country mentioned by the writer of Hebrews isn’t actually the nation of Heaven.   Shakespeare called death “the undiscovered country.”  Hamlet lamented that his life was all sorrow and he longed to journey into the undiscovered country of what lay beyond.   Don’t we all, yet here and now are all we know.   This is where we make our bones, discover what it means to live.   And the longer any of us live – and wander – the more we find that the only real meaning in the fallen world is found in Jesus Christ.  In Christ there is no more wandering.   In Christ, the discovery is amazement and it is continuous.   In Jesus Christ there is fulfillment of all of life’s desires, answers to every question, and peace to settle all restlessness.   In Christ, we no longer need to wander.

Christ is the undiscovered country I wish to explore, yet isn’t it wonderful to be able to do so now, as best we can, in this place that’s rife with both life and imperfection?  Until my prayers are answered and I meet Him face to face, I guess I’ll continue to wander, awaiting my endless time in the country of my own that I know in hope is only a short time away.

For further reading:  Matthew 13:17, Genesis 23:4, Leviticus 25:23, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:17.

My Lord and Savior, abide with me as I wander here.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 19 November 2015

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Mark 13, verses 1-2.

I grew up near the city.   We were always ‘townies’ whether the town was large or small.   Until just this past March, I never lived in the country even though I always wanted to.   Now, my house in the country is nothing fancy.   My wife and I specifically rented it because we wanted to live in a temporary place where we could decide if this was the place where we wanted to live.   It’s my hope that we’re close to being able to buy that land, to build up our business, to plant a vineyard where we’ll grow wine grapes, and, most of all, to establish a new means where we can carry to a new level the ‘second chance’ ministry that has been put on our hearts.

And, at the end of all things, none of it will be left standing.   Jesus said so.

But I’ll confess:   I still enjoy the city.   I grew up in Minneapolis where, in the early 1970s, the IDS corporation (which no longer even exists, I believe) built its headquarters building downtown.   I once thought it was the biggest building in the world, but it obviously wasn’t. Anyway, not long ago I walked by the front of the building and looked up at the top.   It’s impressive to see something so tall and magnificent rise up to the sky.   I’ve done the same thing at the Empire State Building, the Bank of America building in San Francisco, the (former) Sears Tower in Chicago, and even the old World Trade Center buildings before Osama took them down on 9/11.

At the end of all things, none of them will be left standing.   Jesus said so.

Cities are mankind’s monuments to commerce, community, and hubris yet they pale in comparison to even the words spoken by the Son of Man.   He who spoke the universe into existence and created us from dust still has dominion and power over the same creation.   I’m sure even Jesus is impressed by the Burj Khalifa but even that building is nothing compared to the simple power of Him.   Everything was under His control from the beginning; everything still is.

I find that thought comforting as the world around us seems to be spinning out of control.   War in the Middle East, a country (even a world) divided like never before, hard times that don’t ever seem to end; you name the crisis.   If you let it, worry about these things can overwhelm you, especially if you’re alone in the big city.   So I find it comforting, especially when my wife and I are “porching” in our rocking chairs near Paris, that Jesus is still Lord of Lords even over the most magnificent and imposing of human creations.   No matter where you are, no matter where you’re from, all you see around you there and now is still under the control of the same Jesus who was there at the start.

And He has big plans for it all.

Lord, You are so much more magnificent than anything else I can imagine.   Thank You for your grace, mercy and peace.

Read Mark 12, verses 13-17.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 30 July 2015

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9, verses 36-37.

I’ve been blessed to spend most of the last four years working in my hometown, Minneapolis.   In that time, I’ve gotten to know much of the city, learn my way around, and visit with some of the family left here.   My immediate family moved away from here in 1975; it’s hard for me to believe that actually was forty years ago last month. Only a few people I knew here are left, and I don’t know where any of my boyhood friends live.   Occasionally, I drive by places I remember from my childhood (I once toured our old home when it was posted for sale) and it takes me back to a very long time ago.

My childhood wasn’t a bad one but it wasn’t spectacular either.   An overbearing mother, a less than assertive father, constant moving around, teenage identity crises, being bullied a lot, not fashionable or even attractive, insecurities and an inability (sometimes unwillingness) to make friends:   these were the measures of my youth. I visit the places I remember from forty years ago and sometimes the memories of way back then start to flood back.   Those memories are sometimes good, but not always.

I suppose that all this means I’m getting older.   People say you reflect more the older that you get.   In my case, that’s true.   I was born in the 1960s and, to me, that world seems so ancient, so long ago. The places I knew in childhood look different today, and I sometimes find it hard to bridge the gap between what I knew back when and what ‘back when’ is today.   I’ve always prided myself on living in the here and now, so this is uncomfortable turf.   It has taken many years of faith-walking to let go of grudges, reconcile the past to now, and to accept my ability to make today into something better than yesterday.   Don’t get me wrong:   my yesterday’s weren’t all bad; most weren’t bad at all.   Still, even the best of us hold onto a few regrets and I’m no exception.

So I sometimes find it difficult to swallow that Jesus tells us to come to him like children.   My time here at ‘home’ has taught me that this isn’t my home any more, that home is wherever Jesus leads me.   And wherever He leads me, He tells me that He’s got His arm wrapped around me and that He wants me to take my very inner self to Him in the innocent way a child would.   Trust Him, listen to Him, obey Him, accept Him, love Him, enjoy Him.   In return, He wants me to enjoy myself, to find joy in simple things, to be open to love and being loved, to serve, and to not clutter my faith with nonsense. Jesus gives us the picture of welcoming Him in the way we welcome children, that we are in fact welcoming Him when we accept others the way they are.

My time in Minneapolis is coming to an end.   In a few months, it will be on to someplace else; maybe it will be closer to my home and Hunnie in Paris.

Lord, thank You for childhood, for everything that happens in it.   Thank You for memories and second chances.

Read Mark 9, verses 38-40.