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I think it’s interesting to see how God Himself provided that the poor be cared for.
If you go, for instance, to the OT book of Ruth, you find a wealthy man there named Boaz who had a lot of land, crops, and employees. The Law of God provided that when a field was harvested they were not to pick it clean. They were to leave some good sheaves of grain and the corners of the fields for the poor. They were not required to reap it for them, nor deliver it to them, nor were they required to give them a bigger percentage than that. The poor knew that God had provided that they had the right to glean the leftovers at the end of the day. They had to “wait their turn” and go do it themselves though. In the NT we hear the apostle Paul directing the young church, that if there were any among them who would not work they would not eat.

feed the pig

feed the pig

The Law also extracted a 10% tax rate–no more, no less. Some of that was earmarked for the poor. That didn’t mean, however, that that was all God hoped His people would do and give. He wants us to have big hearts for Him, expressed to others. That has always remained “free will” in God’s directives–not to be coerced at the end of a weapon wielded by any government or individual. Not to be demanded by some tyrannical arm of government, (even if those behind it were a majority of voters who “meant well.”) Boaz freely favored the young woman Ruth. It was his prerogative as the one who was able to freely give.

2 Corinthians 9:7“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

The “good” man Boaz was wealthy. Abraham and Solomon were fabulously wealthy. So was Joseph and David and many other “righteous men”. Yet there were still poor among them. They were free to dispose of their wealth as they saw fit to whomever they saw fit. Only God was and is their judge.

Jesus had much to say to us about our personal, individual, responsibility before Him to “help the poor!” So people of all persuasions talk about this wholesome enterprise. We seem to disagree about how best to do it—what best helps people? None of us, however,  are absolved PERSONALLY by depending on somebody else to do it.

And government is almost always a poor steward of what they extract from us. Fact is, our Founders knew this. If you give government an inch, it will take a mile. It has to be carefully restrained. We act as though only corporations are corrupt, and corruptible, and in need of restraint—and seem to think that government is and always will be benign–no matter how much power and personal responsibility we abrogate and relinquish to it.

Our brilliant Constitution and consequent system of government has permitted us the privilege of seeking to secure “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Equality was not on that list. Karl Marx was not correct. And though God loves all people regardless of anything, He too did not call for absolute equality and never provided for it. In fact, in the parables of Jesus some servants were given 10 times what other servants were given (based on discharge of their responsibilities)! Then, based on how they dealt what what was entrusted to them, the Master sometimes came back and even took the little bit they had and gave it to the one who had the most! (e.g. Matt. 25:28) He shelled out His gifts and favors as He saw fit.

In the early church there was much love and care being expressed for those in need. We’re told that the wealthier would, from time to time, sell some of their property and give it for distribution to the poor.
Ananias and his wife Sapphira had sold a piece of their property. They brought some of the money from the sale of the property but lied about it and said it was ALL the money. God was not happy with them (to say the least) because of their lie. But it’s interesting to see what Peter says to them before they are dealt with by God:

Acts 5:4a “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?”

It was not demanded. It was not coerced. The rest of the believers were not at liberty to require it be given.

I would LOVE to see some leader (from any party) actually propose a viable plan whereby people could get self-respect and retain dignity and work to earn all assistance given. It would be good for them, and good for all of us.

Yes, we are very definitely responsible to help the poor. Let each one see to it. Sometimes people just can’t help themselves. Let us deal responsibly with what we have –be it great or small. There’s so much of the loving heart of God expressed in this. God wants us to give even for our own sakes—so that money and greed will not own us! He told a certain rich young ruler to sell EVERYTHING and give it to the poor. Though the young man went away sad, I sometimes wonder if he thought better of it and did exactly what Jesus said,  some time later? He was, however, free to make that decision. Palestine in the first century was “dirt poor.” There was no social welfare system. If God’s people didn’t help the poor, who would? Perhaps we have government taking over the role that the Church did not stay faithful to discharge? Perhaps too, we have created “a monster” heretofore unknown in human history, whereby such a significant percentage of the able-bodied population lives on the means provided by others, and often are able to have a smart phone, cable TV, and a late-model automobile.

Yet it’s interesting to note in the end, that not even God will help someone who demands it or who will not give an effort to help themselves.

See what Dave Ramsay has said that touches on this issue and the angst and anger being expressed by OWS

dropOnce upon a time there were some people who grew weary of living under the ideals of other people. They decided to set up a new social order governed by different ideas. Since “ideas have consequences”, they thought it best to found this new community on written principles that they called a “Constitution.”

We the People…

We the People…

Their Constitution was premised on the belief that not all beliefs are equal. Some things are true and some things are false. Some ideas produce good results while others do not. The beliefs we arrive at and agree upon are necessarily exclusive of the ones we rejected. All people do this whether they’re writing a constitution or not. People make laws that reflect their own ideals—not someone else’s. From the “He-Man-Woman-Haters” club of Spanky and Our Gang to the Kiwanis, we make our own policies. Why would anybody do otherwise?

In our country, under our Constitution, we have what we call a Republic.  In such a marvelous system we may—rather, we should—participate in making policy. We cast votes and elect leaders whom we expect will govern as a reflection of our corporate will. The idea is, that if they do not, we the people will replace them with someone who will. So, naturally, we participate, we make our will known, we cast our votes according to our consciences to the end of enjoying a social order we have agreed upon. It’s true that such a system (great as it is) can produce something that I believe Emile Durkheim called “the tyranny of the majority.” In other words, 51% may make policy for themselves and the 49% who disagreed.

Because of this, I suppose, somewhere along the line there has arisen a peculiar idea that we should not so construct our social order. Strangely, we are seeing a time where it is expected that men and women abrogate this great privilege of participating in creating and sustaining their “social contract”. We live in a time where 98% may be tyrannized by the 2%. Though, for instance, a huge majority may wish to protect a citizen’s right to something, we want now to say that a small minority may prevent them from doing so. If an overwhelming majority believe that, for instance, the social order and its institutions be defined a certain way, we are now expected to define our morals and ethics according to a smaller minority view. That minority is free to believe what they want to believe and convey their ideas publicly, but the majority is not thereby compelled to let their will be overruled. Nevertheless, it is expected, in the name of love and tolerance, that the many step aside and let the few define and redefine our social contract however they please. This is not the freedom and responsibility our fathers toiled and died to ensure.

If we come to a point in our history where a majority want to redefine freedom of religion as “freedom from religion”; if the time comes when we the people want a marriage to be defined as three men, a cat, and a coffee table—well then that is what will happen. If we the people decide to re-write the Constitution and prohibit the owning of guns, well then, that is what we the people will do. If we agree that it would be a great world if everyone could walk around in the bus station buck naked and shout “Fire!” in a crowded  theatre, then that will be the rule of the land.  But whatever we do, it will have been defined by a substantial agreement among citizens.

While I am free and while I am an American I will vote my conscience that has been shaped and molded by a Biblical worldview. This is non other than what our fathers unapologetically did in 1776. Over 90% of them were Bible believing Christians. It has been shown that over 90% of the content of our founding documents and system of jurisprudence have been informed either directly or indirectly from the Bible. They did not consult a Koran. As one stands in the majestic Lincoln Memorial and looks up, there inscribed in granite are the words of scripture flowing from the heart and mind of a man who knew them and depended upon them. Will the day arrive that we see fit to have them removed?

I don’t want to have to sadly explain to my great-grandchildren some day that we used to be free to pray—even at school, that it used to be okay to meet and worship God, that we once defined marriage as between a man and a woman, that I used to be free to tell others about the Savior of the world without threat, that people used to be able to protect themselves and speak their mind, and participate in government. But an even greater dread I have–to be compelled to explain to them that the only reason we don’t still possess these things is that I and millions like me withdrew from the public sphere and simply let others make a new country, founded on their differing ideals and principles, wielding the power of a way-of-life abhorrent to our fathers.

 

Hmmmm

Hmmmm

dropHaving lived in Southern California I gained some experience with earth-moving events. Temblors. Earthquakes.

I find it curious what seismic scientists decided to call those places on the earth’s crust that aren’t too well put together. These are the meeting places for tectonic plates to grind on one another. They are fractures. They are cracks on the surface of a beautiful sphere. They called them faults. For all it’s many wonders, the earth is cracked. She has faults. She has episodes from time to time. She buckles, and heaves, and convulses in a very public way and her issue is not only her own. The ripples affect everyone in her sphere of influence. The experience and it’s results are alarming,…sometimes catastrophic.

This flawed earth upon which we live is populated with beings much like her. We are beautiful and wondrous. We are uniquely possessed of powers and intricate function. But we also have our faults. We too are cracked in one way or another. We too, as we live together here, are often—both within and without—apt to run up against the obstacles of others like us. The longer I have lived the more convinced I have become that no one of us is in any kind of position to get self-righteous. We are dealing with conditions that are common to all of us. For if we do not possess that particular fault, we most certainly have our own.

I submit then that we ready ourselves to give up a lot of grace. To throw around a lot of mercy. To extend patience till it hurts, expend for others like irresponsible spendthrifts, and serve the most cracked among us as those deserving the same respect and dignity we’d like to receive. To love without finding fault as we have been so loved by the one who made us. We keep needing help to remember to keep doing this. And perhaps we need the most grace and patience of all for the ones who seem totally disinterested and uncooperative in joining us in this mutually beneficial endeavor. With the gaining of a little clarity and perspective I might discover, to my dismay, that it was me who had been the uncooperative one.

We don’t celebrate the faults. We’re not happy about them. We’d like to have them fixed. But if most of us looked critically at our own issues first, we might likely take more humility to the evaluation of the issues of others. As Donald Miller has pointed out, there is very little to be gained wondering what’s wrong with those other people, until first we consider what’s wrong with that person in the mirror.

 

 

“You shall love I Am your God with all your heart…”

“He came unto His own, but His own received Him not…”

©Copyright 2012, Timothy Pack | Pack Graphics, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TheLambIAM-232x300I Am that I Am
I Am I Am
I Am The Great I Am

That Great I Am!
That Great I Am!
I do not love that Great I Am!

Do you love
His Son, The Lamb?

I do not love Him, Great I Am.
I do not love
Your Son, the Lamb.

Would you love Him here or there?

I would not love Him here or there.
I would not love Him anywhere.
I don’t believe
in Great I Am.
I do not love His Son the Lamb.

Would you thank Him
in your house?
Or would you be quiet as a mouse?

I do not love Him
in my house.
Yes, I’d be silent
like a mouse.
I do not love Him
here or there.
I do not love Him anywhere.
I do not love the Great I Am.
I do not love His Son, the Lamb.

Would you call His love a hoax?
Would you make fun of Him in jokes?
Yes, He’s a hoax.
Object of jokes.
Not in MY house.
Let me announce!
I would not love Him here or there.
I would not love Him anywhere.
I would not love His Son the Lamb
I do not love the, Great I Am,

Would you? Could you?
if He healed?
See Him! See Him!
His love is real!.
I would not, could not,
if He healed

You may love Him.  You will see.
What if you found He
made you free!?

I would not, could not be made free.
Could not be healed! You let me be.

I do not love Him—He’s a hoax.
I do prefer to laugh and joke,
He did not give to me a house
I do not love Him, I announce!
I do not love Him here or there.
I do not love Him anywhere.
I do not love the Great I Am.
I do not love His Son, the Lamb..

The rain! The rain!
The rain! The rain!
Could you, thank Him
for the rain?

Not for the rain! Not to be free!
Not to be healed! God let me be!
I would not, could not, He’s a hoax.
I could not, cause my friends would joke.
Yes, I’ll be quiet as a mouse
I will not thank Him in my house.
I will not love Him here or there.
I will not love Him anywhere.
I do not love This Great I Am,
I do not love His Son, the Lamb!

Say!   If He would shine
to light your dark!
Would you, thank Him for that spark?

He would not, could not,
Light the dark.

Would you, let Him,
cleanse your stain?

I would not, so my stain remains.
I like it dark. No thanks for rain,
I can’t be healed, No I’m not free.
I do not love your God, you see.
Not in my house. Yes He’s a hoax.
If not a louse. Then He’s a joke.
I will not love Him here or there.
I do not love Him anywhere!

You do not love
the Great I Am?

I do not love Him,…
nor the Lamb.

Could you, would you,
for a Prize?

I would not, could not.
for a Prize!

Would you, please,
open your eyes?

I could not, would not, for a Prize.
I cannot see with blinded eyes.
I will not love Him just for rain.
Cause in my life I’ve lots of pain..
No light in dark! No cleansing free!
I can’t be healed! You let me be!
I do not love Him, He’s a hoax.
I much prefer a dirty joke.
I will not praise Him for my house.
Yes, I’ll stay quiet as a mouse.
I do not love Him here or there.
I do not love Him ANYWHERE!

I do not love
this Great I Am!

I do not love His Son, the Lamb!

You do not love Him.
SO you say.  Try Him! Try Him!
And you may.
Try Him and you may I say.

Jesus!  If you will let me be,
I will try you. You will see.

Because for me You
suffered loss.
And died for Me upon
on a cross?
Say!  I do love You, the Lamb!
I do!! I love the Great  I Am!

And I would love you, You’re the Prize!
And I would see with opened eyes…
And I will thank you for the rain.
For Light in dark. For joy in pain.
For healing me. For feeling free.
You are so good so good to me!

So I will love You! You’re no hoax..
To turn to God, well, that’s no joke!.
And I will love You in my house.
And I will serve you, sins renounced!
And I will love You here and there.
Say! I will love You ANYWHERE!

I do so love
the Great I Am!
Thank you!
Jesus Christ, the Lamb!

“Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.”

 

Where did this come from and why does it move?

Where did this come from and why does it move?

dropIt’s comforting to those who have rejected faith to clothe themselves in the notion that they are a “clean slate”—”above the fray” of conflicting claims and debates of religious belief systems. They fancy themselves to be in the self-assured line of Ulysses Everett McGill of “O Brother Where Art Thou?”They, while the ignorant, superstitious claims of religious “hayseeds” fly about, are the “neutral” ones who proudly claim ” I guess I’m the only one that remains unaffiliated.”

The problem is that the idea of neutrality in matters of faith is a myth.

What I mean is, by the very nature of all there is and all that may be known (but is mostly unknown), all people choose what they want to believe. We imagine we do it because we are smarter or better educated than the next guy. Or that we are simply holding back from making ANY claim we can’t prove. But in reality, we take our choices because we want to and for no other reason.

In reality, all people adopt a set of beliefs called “presuppositions”. To pre-suppose something means that, in advance of considering the options, or in the absence of certainty, we have chosen a particular point-of-view. Example: Consider something as simple as motion. Newton’s First Law clearly states that nothing moves unless it is moved. We know from physics that an object at rest remains so unless something acts upon it—energy is expended. Then and only then may it move. So when we look at the universe everything is moving. How did it begin moving? Thomas Aquinas reasoned that going back far enough we are forced to conclude that there was a Prime Mover—the original movement that set all other things into motion. Aquinas understood that as God. The “unaffiliated” one rejects such “nonsense” and presupposes a different “nonsense.” His statement of faith is, stuff moved itself—a notion unsupported by science.

The same “faith” exercise is performed by the atheist to even explain the “stuff” itself. “Matter is neither created nor destroyed” is the scientific maxim. But where did stuff come from, then? The belief system of the unbeliever is that matter is eternal, or somehow must have created itself—a thoroughly unscientific unprovable presupposition.

And the list of such presuppositions is long. Fact is, there are a host of “unprovable” things skeptics nevertheless CHOOSE to believe anyway. When Carl Sagan proclaimed “the Universe is all there is or ever will be” He was espousing an unscientific statement of faith. What He said, was demonstrably unprovable—a presupposition he preferred and chose among other truth claims.

The distasteful thing about a choice is that it excludes all other potential choices. So some will pretend that they make no choice at all, or perhaps they imagine they choose everything. They have, nevertheless, taken an option—they’ve made a choice.

The faithless insists that believers have no answer for “the problem of evil.” The faithful may retort that the unbeliever has no answer for the problem of good. If there is no god and all that there is is material causes and effects, then we cannot say we have any more meaning or value than a cockroach. And if the “survival of the fittest” is our ethic, then no man could judge if in order to secure better grades and a coveted career option a man should choose to kill his competition.

And when at last we each come to die, all people have settled on something to believe about that passage. They have adopted some kind of faith about it. Even critical-thinking religious skeptics end up espousing some form of faith. “We all just cease to exist.” We all “go to a better place.” Perhaps they may even cling to a sense of neutrality in this final case as well, and say “I don’t know what will happen to me.” But that too was their presuppositional choice. They have chosen not to fear what awaits them yet have no idea whether they should or should not have done that.

There is, in fact, evidence—if you care to accept it—that one has come back from the dead and can advise us knowledgeably about this issue. The following true story is a comparison of two men; one who chose to believe that evidence and another who chose not to.

In the year 1899 two famous men died in America. One was an unbeliever who had made a career of debunking the Bible and arguing against Christian doctrines. The other was a Christian. Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, after whom the famous Ingersoll lectures on immortality at Harvard University are named, was the unbeliever. He died suddenly, his death coming as an unmitigated shock to his family. The body was kept in the home for several days because Ingersoll’s wife could not bear to part with it. It was finally removed because the corpse was decaying and the health of the family required it. At length the reamins were cremated, and the display at the crematorium was so dismal that some of the scene was even picked up by the newspapers. Ingersoll had used his great intellect to deny the resurrection, but when death came there was no hope. His departure was received by his relatives and friends as an unmitigated tragedy.

In the same year the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody died. But his death was triumphant both for himself and for his family. Moody had been declining for some time, and the family had taken turns being with him. On the morning of his death, his son, who was standing by his bedside, heard him exclaim, “Earth is receding; heaven is opening; God is calling.”
“You are dreaming, Father.” the son said.
Moody answered. “No. Will, this is no dream. I have been within the gates. I have seen the children’s faces.” For a while it seemed as if Moody was reviving, but he began to slip away again. He said, “Is this death? This is not bad. There is no valley. This is bliss! This is glorious!”

dropDescarte concluded that literally everything was open to doubt. It may, at first, seem silly, but really,…how can we say for certain that we know anything for sure? Opinions can be strong—even militant—over certain ideas. Yet, with just as much fervency there are as many others who oppose. Given practically any topic, there will be a wide disparity in points-of view concerning that topic. The conflict emerges, really, over the question of “truth.” What is truth?

Many have concluded, given the conflict and the uncertainty—that there is no such thing as truth—or that, even if there were, we would have no way of knowing it.

Al Yankovic (one of my favorite philosophers) comically sang, “Every thing you know is wrong.”  I get a kick out of the absurdity of…

“Everything you know is wrong
Black is white up is down and short is long
And everything you used to think was so important
Doesn’t really matter anymore
Because the simple fact remains that
Everything you know is wrong…”

Given the differences we all have, it’s doubtless that were the truth incontrovertibly established a lot of people would be surprised (if not all of us) by how little we really knew, and how badly wrong we were about some things.

If we think reason will bring us to truth, there is scant evidence of that. Religious belief is literally “all over the map” regarding what is true. Education will lead us only to learn things others have learned and are passing on to us—which may or may not be true at all.

Then there are those who satisfy themselves with the notion that lots of things are true and what really matters is “what is true for you.” The suggestion here, of course, is that truth is not absolute and applicable to all—rather truth is relative only to the individual. Kinda like “corned beef is delicious!” a statement of “my” truth to which many others will not concur.  Somehow, though, we did sit down and agree to go when the light turns green and require people to stop when it’s red. We set aside the relativism in that case at least so we could safely drive our cars.

JesusBirthI know that I don’t know much. However, I have become convinced of something nevertheless. I have come to believe that the Bible is true and that even though interpreting it is sometimes difficult—it is not impossible, and it’s well worth the effort. I’m more and more amazed by how what it says bears out in real life. How prophecies spoken hundreds of years ago come to pass today. How, for instance, the Bible would tell of a star that men saw in the east, a portent of the birth of a king. How, from where they were they could see the king star Regulus and king planet Jupiter brightly meeting in the sky at the foot of the constellation Leo. A rendezvous set into clockwork motion from the very beginning of this solar system. www.bethlehemstar.net.

It seems to me that a God who would claim to love us, would also speak to us. It seems reasonable, furthermore, that were He to speak He would speak truly. I believe He has.

One of the things He says to us is that “there is a way that seems right to us” —but it’s not, it doesn’t end well. He tells us that the so-called “wisdom” of men is foolishness to Him. Could it be that so much of what we come to believe will be found to be a lie? God doesn’t want us to believe lies. He tells us the truth. He IS the truth. That truth has dwelt among us and provided for us. My money’s on God and the reliability of His word. That’s why I fully intend to have—and wish with all my heart for you—a very Merry Christmas!

 

dropBack in the stone age when I was going to school we used to have these little contests at school known as Spelling Bees. Periodically we would even be tested (gasp!) to see if we could spell stuff. My sophomore English teacher (who in a previous career may have been a member of the Gestapo) would mark my answer wrong if I misspelled what I wrote. Heck, she’d even mark it incorrect if you failed to dot your “i” or cross your “t.”

Fortunately for all of us, we now live in the (Post)modern era and we no longer have need of such archaic and useless pastimes. Now we have the little miracle called “spell-checker” which completely eliminates the need to spell anything.  Nwo sceince hes prevod thit yew den’t niid too splle thigs corictly two bea undnestode. And now, of course, we know that it would be insensitive and callous to actually expect anybody to spell actual words.

Welcome to the age of sensitivity, understanding and enlightenment!

In the spirit of the celebration I submit a photo tribute to our collective achievement.…

I give you,… “Rodecide Retale”  Please notice what is being “markited”. “You’re selling WHAT?!”

Rodecide Retale

Rodecide Retale

 

Caricature of a some young friends of ours who recently married.

Caricature of a some young friends of ours who recently married.

dropIlike to try to capture the essence of a subject in a humorous way, using exaggeration of certain prominent features. It’s what we call a “caricature.” We all know it doesn’t really look like the subject, but you can tell who it is nonetheless—and in the recognition perhaps enjoy a smile.

I’ve observed too, that we all do this sort of thing, if not with pictures, with words. We “characterize” a subject or person in a particular way in a particular light. People know what we’re referring to because there’s a lot of “truth” and “likeness” to our characterizations. However, they remain only a caricature—highlighting certain features, but not really a true likeness. We do this in debate and argument all the time. Our “caricature” of the subject under discussion often tells our listener more about us than it does about our subject. In debate we call this fallacy a “straw man.” A verbal effigy of our target set up before our counterpart and decimated with our superior wit and intelligence. Of course we have really only destroyed our own creation.

I’ve found that subjects and ideas and philosophies and people are all far more complex than the little caricatures we make of them. I’m not disparaging having ideals and convictions—I’ve got a bunch of those myself. I am, however, suggesting that we recognize this tendency we all have, and back off from some of the divisive intensity we start generating in all our zeal to be “right.” The other guy thinks he’s right too. For all we know, neither of us are. Perhaps we both have a cherished caricatured picture of what we oppose that really isn’t all that accurate. We’ll need real dialogue and willingness to redraw the thing if we’re to get to the truth.

Oh, now I’ve done it! I’ve suggested there is in fact something called “truth.” People define that term in so many ways. More caricatures I suppose. In all our groping for the light—to find what’s right, I like to keep in mind what Jesus said to Pilate:

“For this reason I came into the world—to testify to the truth.”

Surely One Who called Himself “God with Us” would not draw us a caricature.

dropThe lyrics from Gary Jules’ rendition of Mad World are eerily haunting. The second verse sadly intones the plight of “worn out faces” of people “going nowhere”—of “children waiting for [their birthdays]—the day they feel good…”. This lamentation resonates with so many. Who hasn’t often declared, “I can’t wait till…”, or “just a couple more days, then…”? We can’t wait to be 16 and get our driver’s licenses. 10 more minutes till break. 47 days till Christmas. We long for the workday to be over. We eagerly anticipate the “special” event. We would forfeit this particular measure of our lives to “fast forward” to something better. Why? Because the present tends to be tedious. Even in an unprecedented age of electronic, digital entertainment and a proliferation of countless pastimes and amusements, “boredom” seems to be a disease that is epidemic—especially among the young.


Thoreau said that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” If this be true, what is it that makes us so desperate? Is life so unappealing and meaningless that we feel compelled to hasten through it to moments of pleasure that can make us feel, and give our lives some measure of significance?

It has been said that people live their lives as either a tourist, or a traveler. It appears to me that most are tourists. A tourist is not interested in the space and time between where they are and their destination. Vacation hasn’t begun till they’re there. The trip there is only a necessary evil. The potential destinations along the way hold no interest.

The traveler, on the other hand, also looks forward to the “main event” destination—but they are also interested in the process of getting there. These might steer clear of the airport non-stop in favor of a many-stop trek over an old state road, populated with diners, old town squares, gravel roads, and regular people. These are more likely to notice things and people that others miss because the rest are in a hurry to “get there.”

The same observations may be made about life in general. We seek for something yet to come. To live in the moment is insufferable. Because the quality, reward, stimulation, and meaning of our days is so wanting, we yearn for the “specialness” of vacations, holidays, events, and the like. Nothing makes product fly off the shelves better than the accompanying promise: “New and Improved!” We want that. We like that—and we’re willing to pay for it. Discontent in the present and longing for better days sells lottery tickets and attracts people to countless religions and “self-help” gimmicks.

I am learning how to be a traveler. I don’t want to “wish my life away.” “Now” is where I want to be. If, as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”, we’re really not engaged with our lives. This “disagreeable” thing may contain a priceless value and we won’t see it because we were anxiously looking past it to a future we really can’t know and over which we have little to no control.

It isn’t only in the “sweet-bye-and-bye-apple-pie-in-the-sky” that a person may experience the longed-for joys. Jesus Christ told us that “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” —Luke 17:21b

What is necessary is the change, not of circumstance, but of us. To have the eyes to see and the ears to hear what has been near all along.

Some years ago I created this art as an expression of this lesson applied.

A Tangled Wood Something beautiful to me, that I almost missed!

A Tangled Wood
Something beautiful to me, that I almost missed!

Tangled

I walked along a shrouded path
remote from all my pain.
‘Neath canopies of verdant green
washed clean by recent rains.

I almost missed a tangled mass
of wildly groping wood.
Whose aimless chaos well bespoke
confusion where I stood.

Yet, looking closer through the veil,
a beauty there I see.
The tangled wood emerged in time
a work of art to me!

—T.A.Pack

dropwe spend so much time in our developing years in efforts to lose our innocence. It’s believed, apparently, that maturity and sophistication requires it. We must never—at any cost—be perceived as being naïve and gullible. This is a social stigma we rarely live down. So we rush to the gathering of “the cool” hoping that we don’t fall out of favor with these hipsters by displaying the slightest

Josiah and the horse he rode in on

vestige of innocence before their judging eyes.

Strangely, however, once our “eyes have been opened” and we have “arrived” in spiffy chic company, we find a deep longing for what we were so eager to rid ourselves of. The producer and singer, Steve Taylor, once wrote the lyric:

“Innocence, innocence, innocence lost. All souls want it back, some uncover the cost.”

Perhaps this longing—this desire to return to the simplicity of the garden—accounts for the peace we often feel in the presence of the yet-unspoiled purity of children. Perhaps it accounts in some way for the fact that something in the sweet strains of music has the capacity to charm even “the savage breast.” Why were we so eager to lose our innocence?

“…prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…”  from Paul’s letter to the Philippian believers—2:15

As a father, I remember so fondly the intimate sweetness of my innocent little boys. There were countless delights in the presence of their sincere, unsuspicious, and unabashed love. Wide-eyed and guileless, they gave me eyes to see things I had become blind to. No wonder the Messiah told us that unless we become (again) like children, we will never even perceive the kingdom of God—much less enter it.  (Matthew 18:3)

I miss these little guys,…though I love the young men they’ve become! May they never despise innocence.

This Week’s Message from God’s Word