Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Earth Groans Under My Feet

FEMA_-_264_-_Photograph_by_FEMA_News_Photo_taken_on_10-01-1989_in_CaliforniaLast night I was sitting in a home group and listening to a Bible lesson about Christ our coming king. One of the Scriptures we examined was Romans 8:22, which tells us that all of creation groans in anticipation of being restored after Christ returns. And I kid you not, a few minutes later we had an earthquake. One of the ladies said: “Hey, we’re having an earthquake.” (At first, I didn’t notice the earth was moving because queasiness and disorientation are part of my normal condition.) But once the earthquake was pointed out by the lady who noticed it, I felt it too. We later learned that, fortunately, it was only a 5.7 earthquake centered about a hundred miles to the northeast and there was little damage.

Coincidence? Maybe. I like to think that God occasionally emphasizes lessons with real compelling examples. That earthquake made our Scripture lesson VERY real to me. We have a tendency to talk and think in abstract ways about life, faith, God, and the interconnectedness of spiritual things with the natural world. But when the earth moves under your feet (no disrespect to Carole King intended), well, it hits home in a profound way. The earth, the universe, and all living things indeed groan because they crave restoration to the way they were supposed to be—a harmony of perfection instead of chaos and mortality.

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Bickering Like Crows: The Value of Argument in Marriage

MC900030492Did you know that crows often bicker like married couples? (I admit my propensity to spend too much time observing the antics of crows is rather odd, but we all have hobbies.) Yep, just drop a half-eaten bag of French fries in a vacant city parking lot and watch the fun begin. One crow will swoop down and go to town on the fries. Soon another crow will appear, then another, then another. Before the French fries appeared, the crows were all buddies hanging out in the trees. But now they are bitter rivals. They flap their open wings at each other while lunging in and out to grab French fries. And their language is obscene. Still, I suspect that if there were no crows we’d be up to our necks in discarded French fries and other fast-food refuse. Makes you appreciate these black-feathered janitors of the skies, don’t it?

I sometimes wonder if crows mate for life (or if they are promiscuous). And where do crows raise their young? You see thousands of adult crows in my part of the country, but you rarely see where they nest. Given the ill-tempered nature of crows, I am certain married crows argue a lot.

Humans are a bit like crows. For instance, I saw an article recently that listed the most common things that rankled married couples. Here is a sample:

He leaves the toilet seat up.
He won’t look for food in the back of the refrigerator.
He puts dirty dishes in the sink instead of in the dishwasher.
After showering, he leaves the damp towel on the floor or on the bed.
He leaves dirty clothes next to the laundry hamper instead of putting them in the hamper.
He puts the garbage on the kitchen counter right next to the garbage can.
She leaves kitchen drawers open.
It takes her weeks to unpack from a business trip.
She doesn’t hang the towel back where it belongs after showering. (Perhaps that is why he leaves his damp towel on the bed.)
She takes too long in the shower.
She worries too much.
She has poor communication skills.
She constantly loses her car keys. (My personal favorite.)

Many years ago, an older pastor looked me in the eye and said he never argued with his wife. (And here I thought lying was frowned on in the pastorate.) Even if a tiny fraction of married folks don’t bicker, I wonder if something is amiss in those bickerless relationships. The Bible says that a man and woman who marry will become one flesh. That process of becoming one flesh can be uncomfortable. A man I recently met said he occasionally argued with his wife over trivial stuff because it somehow helped him feel like HE was still there. In other words, husbands and wives can, at times, feel like they are losing their individual self within marriage. But committed couples learn to compromise and adjust. And a funny, almost counterintuitive, thing happens as the years pass: we become one flesh with each other while at the same time our individual self matures. That’s cool! And maybe it’s akin to what Jesus meant when he said if we lose our life for his sake we will find our life.

Crows can bicker all day over French fries and it won’t help them become better crows. Human couples can bicker and become better people or bitter people. It’s a choice.

You Say “Immature” Like It’s a Bad Thing

Fans in Stadium CelebratingI’ve been to a few men’s retreats in my life. (The ladies are so intolerant when I try to sign up for theirs.) I recall one men’s retreat in particular. We were well into the retreat when a contingent of men shared their disappointment about the theme and lessons presented by the speakers. The theme was fairly mainstream for a group of Christian men, so I was a bit surprised by their discontent. Granted, the speakers encouraged men to confront some of their deepest emotional injuries and disappointments in order for the Lord to bring healing (an endeavor akin to asking ladies at a women’s retreat to participate in bare-skin paintball battles).

After decades in the church ecosystem, I have learned many things. Here is one definitely worth sharing: not every sermon, men’s retreat theme, conference speaker, Bible study lesson, worship song or worship team will move me spiritually, speak to me in a profound way, or have anything to do with me. It is OK to feel a little disappointed when this happens. But simply put, sometimes the message is from God to others and our role is that of a witness to support and affirm what God is doing in the lives of the people for whom the message is meant. When we are able to do this, I believe it is a milestone in our journey of maturity in the faith. Oddly enough, I receive a blessing when I accept that the message is not for me and I pray for and encourage those to whom God is speaking.

God’s Tattoo

Tattooing LegI sometimes wish I had a cool name like those you read about in history class, names like:

Alexander the Great
Agustus the Strong
Alfonso the Wise
Saint Brendan the Bold
Grady the Not-so-pious

In childhood, I didn’t like my name. I wanted a more common name like: Dave, Mike, Eric, Clark, or Lee. The name “Grady” seemed too different and odd. Now that I am a little more mature, I appreciate the uniqueness of my name. My father named me after his brother. Unfortunately, uncle Grady passed away before I got to meet him, but I think it safe to assume he and my father were close. It can be an honor to bear someone else’s name.

The Bible tells us that God knew us before he opened the book of time, before we ever walked on the green grass in the light of day, God knew our name. He knew it before our parents picked it. Names are like tattoos, you want one you can live with for a long time. God also allows us to know him and bear his name. Micah 4:5 says:

“For all the peoples walk
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
forever and ever.”

In a spiritual sense, God’s name is tattooed permanently on our life. I bet that’s the coolest tattoo ever!