Monday, August 13, 2012

If Heaven was Like American Idol

Last week, we went to see American Idol here in Charleston as a family. It was our first concert together, and I enjoyed the production and the young people who sang their hearts out. I especially loved the range of ages I saw in the audience from 6 to 96!

So it got me thinking about all those fans. What if I spent more time watching and voting for American Idol than I did with God? What it I felt like I knew Randy and Stephen and J.Lo better than I felt like I knew God--how might that skew my theology and understanding of God and Heaven? So here goes. A quick cartoon.



“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."  - Matthew 7:13-14

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ - Matthew 7:22
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. - Matthew7:21

So I realize the cartoon is a little goofy (or a lot), but I think it speaks the truth. Whether we like it or not, getting into Heaven is very different than getting on American Idol. The one the world cheers for most tends to get on American Idol, but the one scorned by the world, the one who chooses the narrow gate - Jesus -  gets into Heaven. There's nothing "popular" about this. It offends many. It ilicits many "boos" from the crowd.

But the Bible is clear. Only children of God will enter the gates of Heaven. To God, "family" means everything, and everyone is invited to choose to be a part of that family.

My son and husband went to the PGA golf tournament this weekend, and when my husband was showing me photos on the PGA web site of Tiger teeing off, he pointed out my son...or who he thought to be my son. Yes, the person did have a white and blue striped shirt on, a hat, and was about the same size as my son. But it wasn't my son.

"He wasn't wearing sunglasses, was he?" I said.
"I think that's just a shadow."
"And I think that's just a man on his knees."

Admittedly, I have much better eyesight than my husband, so he did his best, but I said, "That's not my son. I know my son." Then I looked around the photo, saw only the leg and part of the upper body of a boy behind Tiger and said, "THAT is my son." It was obvious.

"Oh yeah," my husband said. It was easy to recognize our son even with his face covered up. Why? A parent knows his/her child. Intimately. That love relationship is a KNOWing relationship. A parent KNOWs his child and the child KNOWs the parent. How? They spend time together, invest in one another.

So ask yourself: DO YOU KNOW GOD? The Bible says the way to know God is to know and love his son, Jesus, who died for our sins. WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW HIM MORE? There are many places to start. Here's a pretty cool one.

Grab a Bible. Find a loving church that teaches the Bible. Pray every day, never ceasing, or as my grandmother used to say, "Always go First Class!"

Blessings on your journey!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

DO Diligence

Sometimes I like being lazy.

Some of my best memories from this summer are the quiet, lazy moments I've had with my family...lying on the couch doing nothing but watching Sponge Bob with my son...listening to the quiet as I stand outside my daughter's door and watch her sleeping late...sitting still so my cat can purr on my lap and rest.

Don't get me wrong, we had excitement, went on trips and drove and played hard, went to the movies, gave birthday parties, shopped and swam. But the lazy times--and the fact that I was so conscious of the fact that I was being lazy--are what I'll hold on to when the vigor of school life and teaching kick up again in the next few weeks.

Sometimes lazy is exactly what you need. Rest. Respite. Deep breaths of nothingness.

But sometimes, laziness can become a way of life. I know, because I used to be very lazy in my former days, and still, I have days when the temptation is there in the form of procrastination. But there is much to do, I know this now, "and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep."

Lately, I'm learning endurance. Lately, I'm learning that you can't take shortcuts to greatness or great achievements. I'm learning it the hard way, the only way...through enduring. I'll just admit to the world that I'm training again for a big race--bigger than I've ever run. This race is so big, it's God-big for me, and I need a big God to see me through. I just began training two days ago, and although I've run 1.5-3 miles regularly this summer in this amazing heat, things are heating up. I'm waking up early (for me) and being diligent to eat and drink properly, to have the right clothing and shoes, to get my mp3 player loaded and ready. And when I open the door and the humidity is so thick you could spread it like butter, I head out and take step after step because I have to do my due diligence in this training. There are no easy steps. There are no shortcuts. I have to do this right. Knowing this gets me out of bed when the alarm goes off and my head tells me to hit snooze again.

Why am I training again? After all, I ran my first half-marathon in January. For a non-runner like me, isn't that enough? Isn't it enough to have run a half-marathon and check that off my bucket list? Once upon a time, I would have told you yes. But now, something else has taken over. This learning endurance has changed the way I do things. I don't just like having run the race, I like Running.

Meet ED and ING

I used to spend a lot of time with ED. You know him. He's the guy that tells you what you've done before. How you livED in such and such house that was bigger than the one you're in now. How you lookED much younger ten years ago. How you lovED the way you felt when you were dating your soon-to-be-spouse. How he treatED you differently. Yes, ED can keep you mired in the past. Spending time with ED prompts sighs and oh wells and discontentment with your current situation.

Alternately, ED can make you feel better about yourself than you really should. ED can promote laziness and cutting corners, if you don't keep an eye on him. I remember several years ago, I was working with my very talented and patient out-of-house editor, Rachelle Gardner. I think we'd come to a sticky spot in a manuscript I was working on, when I felt like I didn't have any choices. I attempted to do the easiest thing to fix said problem when Rachelle saw right through it and set me in my place. Sure, I had published three or four novels at the time and thought I had it going on, but as she put it, You can never rest on your laurels. You have to keep challenging yourself to get better and better. Or something to that effect. At first it felt like a bee sting, but the more I rubbed it, the truer it rang.

I was quite pleased to have written. I WROTE several novels. Those were the laurels I was resting on. What I've come to understand fully these days it that it doesn't mean a hill of beans what I did in the past. Big deal. The past is where ED lives and where he wants to keep me.

Now, meet ING. She's young and hip and the future. She has momentum and good ideas. She picks me up and keeps me going. What matters is what I am doING now. What am I doing now? I am writING. I am runnING, trainING, lovING, livING, constantly movING forward, growING in my faith, learnING, listenING, waitING, wantING, laughING, blessING, honorING, hopING, expectING good things.

Who cares if I did all these things in the past? That was then and this is now.

So how about you? Who were you before? Did you like that person? Yes? No? Did you do things you were proud or ashamed of? What matters is what you DO from this moment on. Are you likING the person you are now?

I listened to a sermon by Christine Caine not long ago and she said something to this effect: Some people get mired in what God once did in their lives. I've done this. I watched God do mighty things with my marriage, my children, and my career. I told everyone about these things. I couldn't help it. Look what God did! But Caine said something that perked up my ears. She said it is wonderful what God has done in your life, but don't get stuck there. Look around you. What is God doING now?

I don't know about you, but I want to see God movING in my life all the time. Sometimes, when it seems life has stallED like an old stubborn car, it takes doING the small things again, the diligent things, to start seeING God's presence. Little things that may not seem like much. Reading scripture every day like brushing your teeth. Hugging your children. Smiling at your spouse. Washing the dishes. Cleaning the house. Lacing up your shoes and heading out the door to get some exercise. When ED seems to have deceived you into thinking that God once movED in your life and never will again--don't believe it. Start being diligent in the little things and watch how sometimes the little things are more important than you think.

Final Illustration
I've been thinking about this topic for a while, but I read an article in the Post and Courier today about a man who was a disgruntled employee at a dialysis clinic in West Columbia. He had been suspended for luring elderly people into the clinic and supplying them with narcotics. Upset that he had been asked to leave the facility, he allegedly sneaked back in that Saturday night and poured bleach into the water tank that was to be used for the dialysis machines.

"We believe that this individual, with full knowledge and intent to harm or kill these clients coming in for dialysis, that he knew what he was doing and that this would kill the patients who would receive this contaminated water while they underwent dialysis treatment in the clinic," (Sherriff) Metts said.

Apparently there were 20 patients scheduled for treatment on Monday. Twenty lives about to be taken.

"Thank goodness, his plan failed due to the fact that the technicians, even though they had checked the water on Saturday afternoon after they finished all of their clients for the day and took no clients on Sunday and was going to begin back on Monday, they went through their checks and found the high contamination of the chlorine in the water," Metts said.

Thank goodness, indeed. It seems that God worked in a mighty way that day, sparing the lives of those 20 people and thwarting such an evil plot. And how did he work? Through diligence. The technicians could have cut one little corner and not tested the water. They'd probably done it a thousand times with no issue. But they decided to take the time and do it one more time.

"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Timothy 4:15-16

What is it that you are so tired of doing? Did you do something great once and now you're tired and ready to pack it in? Are you not seeing results quickly enough in your diet or exercise, in your prayer life, in your love life, in your walk with God? It doesn't have to be so difficult. The tortoise really does win the race because he moves along diligently and doesn't give up.

I'll remember my own words in a couple days when I set out for my next run in this Lowcountry heat. The old me would have given up long ago, I assure you, but the new me knows I have an all-Powerful God ever-present in my life, livING, and lovING, and coachING me to the finish line.