All You Can Eat

Buffet Receipt

We stopped for lunch at a popular all-you-can-eat buffet. We paid at the door after a nice conversation with the hostess and then found ourselves a booth near one of the big windows. Our plates were soon filled with all the foods we liked best, and after giving the Lord thanks, dug right in!

While Daniel intrigued us with his knowledge of the word hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, I looked at our receipt sitting on the table. To my surprise my wife and I had each been given the senior citizen discount price! Neither of us is even close to the senior age. I suggested that to the very young lady working at the register, everyone over the age of 20 must look old.

Back in 1860, George Eliot coined the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

William Shakespeare wrote, “All that glitters is not gold.”

God says it best, The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

The Claim

Shaking hands

This was the most important interview Martin Johansson would have in a long time, and it began promptly at 10 am.

Martin prepped all night, reading reports, sifting through thick files, and scanning the pile of books that never left the side of his favorite chair. He wanted each of his questions to be couched in proper and meaningful terms, but more importantly, his final observations had to be perfectly stated.

Today was his first day on the job. Today would determine whether or not all the years of education would pay off … or he’d be standing behind the counter at McDonald’s selling Big Macs and Mc Flurries to people half his age.

He glanced at the clock. Time was flying faster than he was. He’d already created two faint water stains on his grey slacks by wiping the sweat from his hands. His interview with the president today would either make or break his career.

Promptly at 10 o’clock there was a knock at Martin’s office door. He stood from behind his desk and in walked the president of the United States of America. The president extended his hand to Martin and smiled. One more time, Martin wiped his hands on his damp slacks and took the president’s hand. The two introduced themselves and took their respective chairs.

The 50 minute interview passed by faster than expected, but Martin felt he had more than an adequate idea of what to write. He walked the president to the door where two guards quickly assumed their positions on either side of the exiting guest.

Martin returned to his desk and flipped the page on his yellow legal pad. Picking up his pen, he pressed it against the paper.

“Dr Martin Johansson, Psychaitrist. It is my professional opinion that patient Sidney Cramer suffers from acute delusions caused by schizophrenia, believing himself to be the president of the United States of America.”

He set the pen to the side of his face and remembered something he learned the first day in medical school: Mental hospitals are full of people who think they are things which they are not. Reality is grounded, not in what a person professes, but in truth.

Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Sword and Spear – 1st Samuel

book

It took eight minutes to walk from the apartment building to the library. That is, it only took eight minutes for everyone but David. It wasn’t that David dawdled; he was waylaid. He had a hard time getting past the group of bigger boys who thought the bench outside the old Fotomat store was their personal perch.

David was different. His loose, curly red hair spouted from his scalp and down over his forehead like jungle vines. He was five sizes smaller than everyone else in his class and light as a feather. Oh, it was a proven fact. Just last week Gavin McGowen had bench pressed him in gym class in front of everyone … even the girls. The other boys didn’t understand the kid who was either singing or reading, and they did everything possible to make his simple existence difficult.

He stopped outside the apartment and waited on the stoop. Thoughtfully he plotted his pathway to the library, then noticed that the boys were preoccupied wagering on a few pigeons fighting over a piece of hamburger bun in the street. David slung his heavy denim book bag over his right shoulder and headed for the street corner. “I can make it today if I’m careful,” he convinced himself.

As David reached the final step to the sidewalk, his book bag snagged on the wrought-iron handrail. The loud rip caught his attention, while his books thudding to the ground caught the attention of the other boys. He was dead meat. He could leave his books on the street and go inside or he could snatch them up and run for the library. He had only a moment to decide his afternoon fate.

Mister Blandy was sweeping the walk outside his building. He laid his broom against the “no parking” sign and stepped into the street. His wide shoulders blocked the sun from reaching David’s books, his big brown hands opening David’s torn book bag. David slid the books into what remained of the bag. “Here son, let’s take a walk down to the library. I need some new reading.”

Gavin McGowen and his crew sat back down on the bench and looked the other way.

The Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands (1 Samuel 17:47).

Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Sins of My Youth

Joe Namath

I turned on the evening news just as a reporter was being introduced for the first time. It was a guy a few years younger than myself with whom I’d gone to school. A hometown boy making it in the big city! I was impressed.

Then I remembered his sister. Trina had been in my class.

We were playing football in PE class when Mr Denley blew his whistle and yelled for everyone to bring the balls back to be put away. I threw the ball like mighty Joe Namath toward the pile of other balls. Instead of hitting the pile of balls, I hit Trina in the back of the head … hard.

She fell to the ground crying and turned to see who had thrown the ball. I spun around to face the group of other kids standing nearby me. No big deal, huh? That’s why I still remember it more than 40 years later.

Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord (Psalm 25:7).

** Okay! Okay! Okay! Yes, I could really throw a football like Joe Namath … if he was blindfolded, passing left handed, and in a full body cast.

An Honest Answer

underwear

We were at a high school speech event, and as the young lady stood to address the crowd, I could see that the back of her dress was tucked into her underwear. The backs of her legs and posterior were exposed to everyone in the room.

I quickly and anonymously jotted a note and had a page discreetly deliver it across the room to her. She left the room and when she returned, gave her speech.

In July of last year, I called the Wyoming State Circuit Court to pay a speeding ticket received while on vacation the month prior (see story here). I’d tried to pay the fine online, but Wyoming’s computer system kept telling me that I didn’t have an outstanding fine.

The kind woman at the other end of the phone did some searching and found the problem: my date of birth had been entered incorrectly into the computer. The result was that my ticket had been “lost.” It would have never been found had I not called to say I owed money.

Two, seemingly unrelated stories, but they are connected. Honesty is always the best policy, but sometimes the way we are honest must be different. There are times to be forthright and times to be discreet and diplomatic. There are times to be anonymous and times to stand up and be counted. Rightly distinguishing between these times is a sign of wisdom.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips (Proverbs 24:26, NIV).

Beethoven’s Fifth and Affliction

Beethoven

Sunday afternoon we went to hear the Oregon Symphony Orchestra perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. While the entirety of this masterful work of Beethoven isn’t readily recognized, the first four notes are probably the most recognized in all the Western world (here).

Little did we know that Beethoven’s Fifth would occupy only the last 30 minutes of the two hour program. We sat through some excruciatingly painful music waiting for Mr Beethoven to arrive. Let me tell you how awful part of the performance really was. The violinist introduced a particular piece with phrases like “demonic,” alien-like,” and “the piano and violin don’t work together and aren’t supposed to.” It was so bad that I couldn’t fall asleep despite trying really hard.

I have a writer friend in Georgia who is a cancer survivor. Now Bernie is experiencing on-going severe pain in another portion of his body. He wrote a wonderful article the other day about God’s purpose in our afflictions (here). It’s important for Christians to know that everything in our lives happens for a purpose and that His purpose is to our eternal benefit.

That’s hard medicine to swallow. No sane person enjoys or invites suffering, but there is some comfort to the child of God knowing that He has a beneficial purpose in it. I told Bernie that it would still be nice for God to help us envision the finished product of God’s work. Yes, God is working, but to get a glimpse of what we’ll look like would be helpful.

Then I remembered this little portion from Hebrews 12. Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus certainly knew the final outcome of His suffering, but I don’t think that’s the point in Hebrews. The author doesn’t list or explain fully what the final glory of Christ’s time on the cross looked like, instead he points merely to the “joy.”

Sunday we sat through an hour and a-half of awful music. Why? Because of the “joy” of hearing those familiar opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that were set before us. Can you hear them? What followed the opening “dum-dum-dum-dum!” only added to the anticipated and unseen joy that was to follow.

Memories

memories

Grandpa Sam was a truck driver, moving freight between Seattle and Sacramento. Sometimes in the summer, he’d take me with him for a few days. High from my perch in the cab overlooking the highway, I’d listen as he sang with the Oak Ridge Boys on the 8-track player, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now” and “Daddy sang bass. Momma sang tenor.” 

They were endless days dreaming about the people driving in the cars on the road next to us. I imagined being the businessman in the Lincoln, headed into the big city to meet with the President. Stretches through the desert became opportunities to fly my rocketship over the terrain of far-off planets in search of alien life. The pig-tailed girl playing with her Barbie doll and who waved from the back of the green station wagon was my friend, communicating with me by ESP.

Every truck stop was like a visit to the zoo where I could see strange people unlike the ordinary folk we had in our small country town. Between the smell of stale cigarettes and burnt coffee it was usually more than a 10-year old boy could handle, but there was always one saving grace: a cup of steaming hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. My drink always seemed to be delivered by an old pink-haired woman in a short pink dress who called me “honey.” It was okay. I thought I was someone special to each of those waitresses.

Mile after mile I’d ride with the widow rolled down, the warm night air working it’s best to blow the sleep from my eyes. I’d stare with wonder into the expanse of the night sky. Was it possible that each of the stars might be angels winking at me from Heaven? Soon I’d be asleep, preparing for a new adventure.

The older I get, the more often I think back to those distant days of childhood. Life couldn’t get any better back then, and I was sure I knew everything there was to know about the world, life, and my future. Now each memory grows more fond with every passing year, yet the freedom to imagine tomorrow seems like listening to a far-fetched dream being told by my own grandson. Days without cares and worries, toys and adventures, they’ve all drifted far behind me, but the child-like faith I had in God is something I’ve never outgrown. Eternity is in view.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. But now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known  (1 Corinthians 13:11-12).

Under Your Wing – Ruth

flickerhivemind.net

The snow stopped falling as Ruth’s hand slipped slowly into the deep pocket of Bruce’s leather jacket. He rolled his hand to take hold of hers, interlacing his fingers with her own. Together they stood on the weather-worn pier at the edge of Lake Erie. It was a moment lifted from a picture postcard.

When she was five years old, Ruth’s mother had read her the story of King Arthur and his magical kingdom of Camelot. Each night for three weeks she lay under her My Little Pony quilt, eyes closed, imagining herself as the beautiful Guinevere being swept off her feet by her own prince charming.

Her mind drifted through the years before her parents died. She shivered despite the lack of a breeze and gripped Bruce’s hand all the tighter. Shuffled between foster families, Ruth spent her teenage years longing for a redeemer from her pain. She was sure today was the start of something new.

The boat pulled up next to the dock and the captain thew the nylon double braid rope to the young deckhand who cinched up the boat. Ruth steadied herself with the boat’s railing as Bruce helped her step aboard the boat.  She let go of her knight’s arm, but Bruce held her hand tight.

A gray tugboat skimmed past roiling a wave toward the small boat.  The boat rocked and the black glass of the deep lake stared into Ruth’s frightened eyes, but Bruce’s strong arm held her firm. He was not only her knight in shining armor, he was her anchor in the storm.

Bruce smiled and hopped onto the boat next to Ruth. He opened his jacket, wrapped it around her shoulders, and held her close. She pressed herself safely into her saviour’s warm frame. Under his wing, she would never be alone again.

I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a near kinsman (Ruth 3:9).

For You

Jesus Loves You

The next time you feel like God doesn’t love you, remember this Biblical truth:

Jesus died for you.

He didn’t just save you. Nor did He risk His life for you. He died in your place so that you could live. That’s love’s greatest expression.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us: that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).

Toothbrush in the Toilet

Homer Simpson

Have you ever discovered that the problem you made wasn’t a problem to God?

Sitting through 3 cycles of the traffic signal when it usually only takes one. Mis-setting your alarm clock by only one digit – but the difference between 6:59 and 6:00 is huge! Dropping your toothbrush in the toilet. Your left shoe is missing Monday morning … and you don’t have a child or a dog.

Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear!

We were running late, which isn’t good for the pastor on Sunday morning. I pulled the car into the street and realized I’d forgotten to grab my check for the offering. I always write out my check to the church each payday so I don’t forget, but that week I totally spaced it. I ran back into the house, ripped a blank check from the book, shoved it into my pants pocket, and rushed back out the door.

We arrived at the church building and headed inside. Climbing the stairs I passed John. “How are you this morning Pastor?”

“Oh, it’s one of those days,” I answered sarcastically.

“I know. This week our van stopped working and it’s in the repair shop. I have a job interview tomorrow and no way to get there.”

John went his way and I went mine. Soon I remembered the blank check in my pocket. I unwrinkled it, wrote in the tenth of my paycheck, and then made it payable to John. I went downstairs to where I knew I’d find him, put it into his hand, and rushed back to where I needed to be.

A few minutes later John was standing next to me. “You didn’t need to do this,” and returned my check. I pressed it back into his hand and explained there was a reason I’d left home with a blank check, that I’d met him on the stairs, and that he’d told me about his need.

John thanked me. “The check is the amount I need to pay for the van.”

There is a peace that comes from knowing  that God has a divine plan and purpose for everything in our lives. If only we’d learn that He doesn’t make mistakes, even in the midst of what we perceive as problems.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).