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.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 28 April 2015

Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. Mark 6, verses 51-52

Tough love time: do you harden your heart when you are amazed?

As I mentioned yesterday, my wife and I drove across the US this month; it’s why I didn’t write in this blog for about 10 days. I don’t know where you live, but I’m guessing there are things about it that you really like and some that also leave you lukewarm.   Me, I love East Texas though every time I travel somewhere else I see places that make me think “I’d like to live here.” I loved DC; lived near there for three years and love the Maryland Bay area.   The Smoky Mountains are beautiful; in fact, most of Tennessee is gorgeous and I’d love to spend a lot more time there.   I adore south-central Pennsylvania, and southern Indiana, the Wisconsin Dells, the Twin Cities, and pretty much all of Missouri from Kansas City south. And these are just the places we saw on this trip.   From other trips I could name many more.

Can you say I’m easily amazed? It’s just geography on a fallen rock. After you’ve seen so many different places, it all becomes overwhelming. By the end of each long day’s drive, both my wife and I were spent, just ready to find a warm bed in which to collapse. We had stopped paying attention to the beauty – and to miracle of Jesus keeping us safe throughout an improbable, quick trek across some very long distances – and the amazing became boring. Call me Peter, or maybe James, John, or Matthew. Throw me in that boat with the Disciples and I wouldn’t have understood about the loaves either. In fact, I sometimes wonder if I truly understand much of anything.

Ditto the disciples. They had been with Jesus and had watched – had participated – in how He fed 5000 men with five loaves and two fish.   They had ministered in His name to hundreds of people all over Galilee. You would think that, after all this, these twelve men would have understood that Jesus wasn’t just some priest or prophet. But the verse said “their hearts were hardened.”   Do you think they did that, or that it just happened to them? I think that, because their hearts were hardened, they were more easily amazed, and because they were amazed they were more easily hardened in the heart.   That would explain the seeming mood swings the Apostles seem to have, swinging from abject terror to spiritual fulfillment in the space of a few words.  In a way, it’s a gift from God that He gives us the ability to ‘shut down’ when we’re overwhelmed, but it can be a difficult thing to reconcile. In the Disciples’ case, they let their dull ignorance overcome them and give way to fear.   By the time Jesus climbed into the boat, they were terrified.

So maybe a little gut-check is in order for me now that I’m back home safe. Do I get dull and hardened when I’m overwhelmed or scared?   You bet I do.   That’s the time to stop in place, cry out to Jesus for a hand, and let Him right my ship.   No matter where I find myself, the best place is at His side.

Jesus, I need You to forgive my hard heart, my dull ignorance, and my arrogant self-reliance.   In Your name I ask this.

Read Mark 6, verses 45-56.